Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 25, 2013

Five Tips to Help Get Your Email Read


This holiday illustration was sent in by Roger Motzkus. Roger work has received awards in many art shows, including “The Society of Illustrators West” exhibits in Los Angeles.  He’s been a guest instructor at many colleges in different States, including the Pasadena Art Center. His clients include MTV / Nickelodeon, Nintendo, Microsoft, Wham-O, Sega, Atari, Sony, Paramount Pictures, Miller Beer, Scholastic Books, Dreamworks, Hasbro, Snickers, NFL Properties, SEARS, Novell, Milton Bradley,  Intel, and Fox Television.


With people sending and receiving more than 100 billion emails every day, it’s no wonder so  many emails don’t get read. Writers and illustrators have to use email to communicate with agents, editors, art directors, and other industry professionals to further their careers. You may not get over 400 emails a day like I do, but people you want to read your emails might get that amount and more, so I thought I would provide some food for thought and bring up the subject of how to write emails that get noticed and read.

I totally agree with productivity expert Neen James that information overload is to blame.

“People are just so overwhelmed. Emails, Facebook messages, tweets, texts — all of this contributes to the problem,” she said. “It’s the information age, and that volume of information is increasing. People are inundated.”

I found the following tips over at INFORMATIONWEEK on how changing the way you compose your emails can increase the odds that your colleagues and clients not only read them, but act on them, too.

Here are five reasons recipients are skipping your messages, plus tips for changing that.

1. You forwarded a message Randy Dean, email and productivity expert, said emails that begin with FWD in the subject line tend to be ignored immediately. “Many people forward messages with headers like ‘Just thought you’d like to know,’ or ‘Can you please handle this?'” Dean said. “This is asking for people to skip over your message. There is no clarity or urgency in the message header or initial text.”

Instead, tweak the subject line so your recipient knows why the email is important. This can include what they need to know, what they need to do, and when they need to get it done, Randall said.

2. Your subject lines are vague Vague subject lines are just as bad as forwarded messages, according to James. To improve the chance of the recipient opening and reading your message, each email should contain an action-oriented subject line.

“People tweet in 140 characters or less to get a message across, and people should think of their subject line the same way,” she said. “Tell your recipient exactly what you need from them in the subject line.”

Another method: Develop a set of standards within your department — or better yet, your company. This could include placing keywords such as “invoice” or “meeting” in the subject line as the first word so your recipients know how to respond, she said.

3. Your emails are all about you “If you really want people to read your email, you need to make it about them and not you,” James said. Before you click send, count the number of times you wrote “I,” “me,” and “my.” If you notice the tally marks adding up, consider rewording your email, directing it more toward the recipient and what you want them to do.

4. Your emails are too long Long, detailed emails are sometimes necessary. Increase the likelihood of others reading them by making them easily digestible. James recommends adding an executive summary at the top, which lets the recipient quickly scan for basic information. Use bullet points to call out important details, and add bold or italics to emphasize certain parts.

5. Your email is unnecessary Before you click send, ask yourself: Do you really need to send that email? “The less you — and everyone around you — send unnecessary emails, the more likely they are to read your necessary ones,” Dean said. “Make sure your emails have a valid and necessary purpose and are task-based.”

What tips and tricks do you use to improve the quality of your emails?

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wow, what a gorgeous illustration! I don’t remember you featuring Roger (have you?), but maybe at some point? 😀

    And I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this post about emails and information overload. I know it’s my biggest problem, and when you’re an info-addict (as I am), it really is a problem. Now finally becoming truly active on social media in the ways I need to, it’s becoming an uncontrollable problem which I have to somehow discern how to handle. Wanting to connect with people takes time. I mean, real conversations take time. Reading takes time. Learning takes time. Blogging takes time. Emails take time. It’s all too much. And there’s always that fear of missing the gems of information that can change things in your life.

    It’s a matter of scaling down, and for sure, NOT clicking “send” unless it’s something that REALLY is worth your time writing it and someone else’s time reading it—is of the utmost importance. Great post, Kathy! Thank you 😀


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