Admit it: You were the one standing in the kitchen in the dark last night, finishing that carton of ice cream.
And you're the one feeling bloated this morning, sitting at your desk writing another long string of overweight emails.
It's time to stop the madness! Throw out that last bag of Halloween candy (and all the other carbs in your kitchen) and drag your flabby body out to a P90X or barre class.
And, on the email side, you can take action to get fit, too. Rather than continuing to create your stream-of-conscious manifestos, trim down your messages to make them leaner, stronger, and more powerful.
After all, email isn't going away anytime soon. According to a recent study by SendGrid, email is a staple of communication today, regardless of age or stage in life. And people actually like email; 74 percent chose it as their preferred communication method for companies or brands to interact with them.
But the reliance on email means there are a lot of messages coming and going. So your emails have to be agile and fast-moving. Here are 17 ways to get your messages in shape:
1. Decide on your objective. Before you begin writing, ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish?
2. Put your recipient first. Consider his/her beliefs, attitudes, values, and knowledge about the subject before you begin writing, then address his/her concerns and interests.
Pump up subject lines
At least one-third of recipients decide whether to open an email based solely on what's in the subject line. That's why smart emailers spend so much time crafting a subject line that promises a benefit--a reward to the recipient for spending time with the message.
3. Pique curiosity. The new way of thinking about subject lines is that you shouldn't try to summarize the message itself; you need to intrigue your recipient to open the email. Examples: "Build this essential skill to accomplish your goals" and "Don't open this mail...unless you want to learn award-winners' secrets."
4. Make an offer. Take a cue from retailers who create subject lines that emphasize a deal. Examples: "Download this valuable checklist for project management" and "Getting promoted can be just this simple."
5. Meet the needs of your audience. Appealing to self-interest is always a winning strategy. Examples: "Stop wasting your time on non-productive tasks" and "5 benefits that can save you money."
6. Create a sense of urgency. If an email doesn't seem timely, it quickly falls to the bottom of the inbox--and then is lost forever. That's why you using words like "limited," "urgent," and "special" encourage recipients to act fast.
Work out your (email) body
7. Include a title/headline in every message. You've written a great subject line and your recipient has opened it. What he/she should see now is another title that keeps drawing him/her in. That's called a title or a headline. Here's an example from online retailer The Grommet. The subject line: "The toothbrush people rave about!" The title: "Brush with greatness."
8. Use the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) method to ensure that the key message (and needed action step) is at the top of the email.
9. Follow the "Inverted Pyramid" format. This is a technique used by journalists that puts the most important information first, followed by increasingly less critical content. Immediately answer four critical questions for the reader: who, what, where, and when.
10. Consider the classic concept of "above the fold." In this context, that means everything that appears on a screen without having to scroll. While what's above the fold is different for every email system and on each device, the significance is simple: Put the most important stuff at the top of your email.
11. Make each email as short as possible. No longer than 150 words.
12. Use subheads to reinforce your message. Subheads are words or short phrases that help to group paragraphs together and introduce new pieces of information. They also visually break up large pieces of text, helping your reader digest information.
13. Write to a person. The best way to engage readers is to emphasize what's in it for them. Use "you" and a conversational tone.
14. Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words. Avoid buzzwords, jargon, and corporate speak. Write in a clear and conversational tone.
15. Use the active voice. Verbs are the strongest parts of speech because they can make your writing powerful and lively.
16. Use numbered lists to describe what the recipient needs to know or do. Lists make information easy to digest, so recipients can immediately take action.
17. Embrace white space. Heavy, dense text looks like hard work. So once you've drafted your copy, pay attention to how the email looks. Use short paragraphs with subheads to break up the text. And don't be afraid to add spacing to give your email breathing room.