Summarise Long Emails At The Top To Communicate More Effectively

Summarise Long Emails At The Top To Communicate More Effectively

Here’s a productivity tip managers and workers would do well to incorporate into their every day email routine, courtesy of comedian and author Franchesca Ramsey from her days working at Upworthy: Summarize lengthy emails up top so your recipients know what they’re in for.

Photo: from Pexels

“[W]e’d always start long emails with a little summary at the top so you’d know if you needed to read the whole email,” she tweeted in a worthwhile thread about email etiquette. For example, “‘TLDR (too long didn’t read): people are getting sloppy with expenses, please use XYZ’ & then full email below.”

It’s a communication technique used by the military, where it’s known as a BLUF (bottom line up front), Kabir Sehgal, a US Navy veteran, writes for the Harvard Business Review:

Military professionals lead their emails with a short, staccato statement known as the BLUF. (Yes, being the military, there is an acronym for everything.) It declares the purpose of the email and action required. The BLUF should quickly answer the five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why. An effective BLUF distills the most important information for the reader. 

As Sehgal writes, having a summary up top helps people decide if they need to read the entire email without wasting their time (and still getting them the most pertinent information). Because he’s no longer in the military, he starts his emails with “Bottom Line” rather than “BLUF”. You could also use Ramsey’s “TLDR”.

For example, an email might begin, “TLDR: We will have summer Fridays June 8 and 22 beginning at 1PM.” Then you can explain the rationale for the policy and any more rules or restrictions.

Other useful military tips: Maximise your subject line by telling the recipient what type of action is required on their end (for example, “Action” or “Decision”), and let them know plainly when you need a response by. That way, everyone’s on the same page and there are no tech ambiguities left to chance.

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