How to: Writing e-mails

EmailGuideWriting e-mails seems the easiest thing in the world, but all of us have faced the issue of e-mails: that were not of interest for you, that did not clearly state what they’re about, that “bring you in the loop” of an 20 e-mail long ongoing conversation.

This is time consuming.

And time = money.

Remember: e-mails have goals

  • fast to read & easy to understand
  • transfer all tasks and information without misunderstandings
  • once archived easy to find again in case something needs to be looked up

There are a few easy things you should follow when you send / reply to / forward mails.

1. Subject line

Give in the subject line

  • a) the project the e-mail refers to
  • b) the kind of e-mail (FYI? / Task? / …)
  • c) the main topic and d a brief description.

Example Subject line

Project X | FYI | Community: Event for CW 51 (Christmas)

2. Recipients

Put all people you’re addressing directly in “to”, put all that need to be informed in “cc”. Don’t use bcc.

Don’t put people in the list that are neither addressed directly nor have to be informed.

Example Recipients

to: Community Managers
cc: Support, Teamleads

3. Content

In the e-mail should be included

  • a) a brief overview of the e-mail content
  • b) an urgency indicator
  • c) a due date (until when you need answer)
  • d) all information needed
  • e) clear statements about what you need.

And you should use a formatting that supports cross-reading and highlights the most important parts of your e-mail.

Example Content

Hello dear CMs,

this e-mail sums up all our event activity for Calendar Week 51 (Christmas).
I need you to confirm that you have set all required posts and updates for all languages before you leave to visit your families today.

Dear Supporters,

this e-mail is FYI in case you receive tickets related to these event activities. If you have questions don’t hesitate to ask

Dear Teamleads,

You can find the used budget and the forecast of community engagement and acquisition from these events at our file server path Community Management/Global/SoMeEvents/CW51.

Monday, 24th of December:

Scheduled posts at G+/Facebook/Twitter/YouTube, 5pm wishing all community members and their families great holidays.
Picture of KeyVisuals with Christmas Hats are attached.

YouTube only: Video showing the CM Team singing a Christmas carol, our key visuals were montaged in it, along with Christmas decoration.

Tuesday, 25th of December

Twitter riddle:

  • Scheduled Tweets at 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm, using hashtag #communitymas.
  • For solving the riddle all Tweets must be read.
  • Answers can be send with @ourtwitter and tag #communitymas.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly in CW 1 next year. Prices will be given out end of CW 1.

G+/Facebook: Scheduled Updates on how Christmas is celebrated in the worlds of our games.

Wednesday, 26th of December

Facebook/G+: announcing wrapping paper contest

  • Description of Contest: Community has to use wrapping paper to rebuild characters from our games.
  • End of Contest: First day of CW2.
  • Selection of Winners: Last day of CW2.
  • Announcement of Winners: Wednesday, CW 3.

Twitter: scheduled updates from content documents, 5x/day.

Thursday-Sunday, 30th of December

Twitter: 5x/day scheduled updates from content documents.

Facebook/G+: 1x/day scheduled update, Friday 2x from content documents.

I wish you and your families and friends wonderful Christmas!

Should you need a CM/SMM over the holidays, please contact / 0049 123 44 55 66 7, for emergencies please call and write an e-mail afterwards to

4. Signature

Typing “best regards” plus your name at the end of the e-mail might only take you 5 seconds. If you write 50 e-mails a week that’s 250 seconds, so 4:10 minutes, thats 16:40 minutes a month (if you think of a month = 28 days). Taken an average CM salary (Berlin, 2011) of 2.500€/month (2981,88€/month for employer if you’re 25 w/o children) that means you’d waste 5,18€/month for writing your regards (one hour is 18,64€ for your employer, taken 40hrs/week as base).

That is why you should have it in your signature. Plus you can’t forget this sign of politeness if you’re in a hurry.

And that’s not the only thing that should be included in your signature!

There should be your company address, phone number, e-mail contact, maybe additional links such as to the career page if you work in HR and legal information (which is not binding but useful in practice).

Example Signature

Best regards,

Communication Freak
0049 123 44 55 66 09
Gaming Company
Wonderland Street XY
01234 Down the Rabbit Hole

This message is confidential. It may also be privileged or otherwise protected by work product immunity or other legal rules. If you have received it by mistake, please let us know by e-mail reply and delete it from your system; you may not copy this message or disclose its contents to anyone.

5. Answering

If you answer an e-mail, you should

  • a) decide if you have to reply all or single reply
  • b) say to what you answer
  • c) don’t change the subject
  • d) add new content as described in point 3
  • e) keep your signature.

Example Answering

Hey Zesyra,

thanks for the summary of Community Events for CW 51. I hereby confirm that I have set all required updates and posts for week 51 for the german language, except YouTube on 24th, as we don’t have the german subtitles yet.

The subtitles will be ready from localisation dept. at 5pm, as I’ll be already ooO, I’ll upload them on Saturday, 22nd from home.


6. Forwarding

I can’t recall how often I received e-mails that said “FYI” and after that came an e-mail exchange from 5 colleagues that was 15 e-mails long.

I’ll not read these kind of e-mails. If you forward an e-mail, you should

  • a) give a reason why you forward
  • b) summarize what happened in the e-mails you’re forwarding
  • c) direct to e-mails that need attention of the person you’re forwarding to.

Example Forwarding

Subject: FWD: Project X | FYI | Community: Event for CW 51 (Christmas)

to: Teamlead Localization

Hey Exemplum,

I’m forwarding this e-mail as we already had several talks about delays in german translations. There just was another delay that came to my attention, the subtitle translation for the Community Christmas Carol for german was due two days ago, but will not be ready before 5pm today. Please talk to Germanicus, to figure out why these delays happen.

You can find the e-mail regarding this from Zesyra Alter Ego below.

Thank you in advance!


7. Getting someone in the loop

Adding someone to an e-mail conversation requires you a) to say that and b) to say why you take someone in the loop c) summarize what happened so far.

Example Getting someone in the loop

Subject: RE: Project X | FYI | Community: Event for CW 51 (Christmas)

to: Community Managers, CM agency lead
cc: Support, Teamleads

Hey Everyone,
I’m getting Exempla in the loop as I forgot to add her in the first place. My apologies.
Exempla, in the very first e-mail you can find a summary of the CM events that are taking place over the Christmas days.


Three reasons for e-mail guidelines

That sounds like a lot of work!

Getting e-mails in a company to be structured and comfortable to read might seem like a lot of work indeed.

It isn’t.

After just a few e-mails you’ll not even notice that you follow a guideline anymore.

It will result in:

  • an increase in finished tasks (in time)
  • a decrease of e-mail load
  • and therefore a maybe only small but noticeable increase in your companies revenue

This How to: Writing e-mails does not claim to be complete nor fitting for every company and every situation. Anyhow I find it of enormous importance to have clear structures for e-mails established early in a company.

Do the math

Taken the example of above, with average 2500€ salary for 50 employees:

  • not using signatures but writing 50 e-mails a week would cost you: 259€/month
  • 10 minutes (per employee) of reading e-mails without importance a week would cost you: 621,23€/month
  • having 30 minutes (per employee) of e-mail conversation for clarification of responsibilities and tasks per week: 1863,68€/month
  • all of the above: 2743,90€/month wasted for useless e-mail conversations
  • you could hire a new person for that money

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