You know what I didn’t expect to be such a huge part of my service as a coordinator?

Email.

I send a lot of emails.

Emails asking questions. Emails inviting people to various spaces, trainings, and gatherings. Emails sharing information. Emails clarifying the information that was already shared. Reminder emails. Encouraging emails.

I love meeting in person. I love visiting people, and talking on the phone.

But wow, is email ever useful.

It’s not a revolutionary new thing. It’s not fancy, and it’s not spiritually enriching or personally engrossing. It’s really not an exciting topic that makes everyone want to read your blog post. But it can be helpful if done right, and I feel like it’s something I’ve learned a lot about. So here it is: what I know about writing excellent emails.

Make your subject line obvious. If you’re writing marketing emails, you might want to be coy and try to make people curious enough to open the email and see what you’re selling. That kind of hidden agenda doesn’t work if you’re trying to build a culture of honesty and open consultation. If it’s about a prayer gathering on December 5, call it “December 5 Prayer Gathering,” perhaps with a “You’re invited!” as well. It’s not the best place for creativity.

If you’re asking for something, ask in the first paragraph, and repeat it towards the end. Things I often need to ask for are for people to register for an event, to fill out a survey, to attend a gathering, to respond to the email, to write a summary, or to gather and share some kind of data. If there’s a link that needs to be followed, make sure it’s repeated as well.

If something is important, make it stand out. I like to use bold type for dates and calls to action. Larger font size can be used sparingly as well. ALL CAPS DEFINITELY STANDS OUT BUT COMES ACROSS WITH A RUDE UNDERTONE THAT I’M NOT NORMALLY COMFORTABLE WITH IN EMAILS WHERE I CAN’T CLARIFY THAT I’M BEING FACETIOUS IN MY AGGRESSION. It’s easier to avoid.

Context is important, but it goes in the middle. The why of your request is important. Someone’s motivation for acting on your request is just as important as whether they do it, so give it some thought. But it’s incredibly frustrating to receive a pile of context before understanding what it’s supposed to be in relation to. Your high school English teacher was right when she said you needed an introduction with a thesis statement, a body, and a conclusion. If you find yourself becoming long-winded, write an outline. Most confusing communication could be vastly improved if people just took the time to outline their points in advance. (And I say this as someone who has coached a lot of people on their writing.)

Bullet points are your friend. On the other hand, that same English teacher probably also demanded full paragraphs with grammatically correct sentences. If you can say something in bullet points instead, it will probably be all of the following:

  • Easier to read.
  • More compelling.
  • Better organized.
  • Easier to write.

(See what I mean?)

And when you’re using bullet points, it’s generally understood that a subject and verb are not required.

Quote the guidance when you can, but do it briefly. It’s an email, not a deepening, but it’s always helpful to draw on the language we’ve been given. Look at how the Universal House of Justice quotes the Writings for excellent examples of how to quote beautifully in the middle of an explanation.

Always be encouraging. Always end on a positive note. Never miss an opportunity to share your appreciation and love. Even if you’re just shooting off a quick question about whether you need to print agendas for a meeting, a “Thanks for all your help!” can go such a long way. Accompaniment doesn’t stop just because you’re not meeting face to face.

Don’t abuse “reply all.” If it’s not necessary to bother everyone with your response to a chain, don’t. Make sure that you’re only writing to the people you really want to hear from you.

Bonus: If you’re offering an invitation and you have the time, people always respond better to beautiful images. Can it feel silly to design an invitation with photos of happy people engaged in a meaningful conversation when all the information is available in the body of the email? Yes. Do people respond more positively to beautiful images anyway? Absolutely. Just like a vase of flowers can make a gathering feel festive, a thoughtfully designed image makes an email feel important. If you’ve got even a little bit of skill (or can bumble your way around Canva), it can create a little oasis of beauty in someone’s inbox.

And that’s what I’ve got.

There’s nothing amazing here that hasn’t already been said by others, but if you’re looking to brush up on your online communication, this is a solid place to start. I hope it’s useful to somebody!

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