As an account manager at The Rye Agency I send and receive hundreds of emails each week.

After years of mass adoption of email, many people are still not entirely comfortable with it. That makes it, as a communication platform, pretty inefficient at times.

Here are my tried and tested techniques to get more from email.

Remember they’re not letters

The formality of letters doesn’t need to exist on email.

If you’ve met with somebody a bunch of times and get on well with them, starting each email with “Dear Jane” seems stiff and distant. It builds walls in your relationships with customers and colleagues.

Of course know your audience. Some people will appreciate a more traditional letter-writing approach when it comes to email. But it’s always worth remembering that formal doesn’t equal professional.

Keep them short

Try this experiment: keep your average email response to under 5 sentences.

You can probably communicate what you need to in that time, and the reader will appreciate the clarity.

If you can’t sum things up in under 5 sentences, no problem. Sometimes you need to explain things in more depth. But if you find yourself writing paragraphs, consider dropping email (below).

Remember there’s a person reading it

As with most digital forms of communication it’s easy to forget that an actual person is reading it on the other side. Without tone of voice and context messages can be easily misread -especially when things are unnaturally formal.

Joking by email rarely works - certainly not sarcasm and irony!

If you dislike something somebody has said, asked, or showed you (a quote, a design sign-off, anything really) be particularly careful. Again, consider abandoning email.

Know when to abandon email

In the modern office, email is kind of the de-facto way to communicate. But it’s pretty useless at more things than it’s good for.

If your email is going into paragraphs and you’re having to explain something in detail - just pick up the phone or start a Skype call.

If you can’t write the email in 5 or 10 minutes, arrange a quick call instead.

If you find yourself CC’ing a bunch of people, with questions flying back and forward - things getting lost in the way. Abandon. Arrange a meeting. In person or remote. Everything will be resolved a lot faster.

Here at The Rye Agency we have a Slack chat room open so we can ask each other quick fire questions and share things throughout the day. This works especially when it comes to things involving multiple people because everybody can chat at the same time and see each other’s responses.

End with an action or statement

Emails can go round in circles, particularly booking meetings with dates and times bouncing round and round. Try ending your emails with a definitive statement or action but give the reader a chance to overrule it…

“Can we talk about this by phone this afternoon? Let’s say 1pm. Does that work for you?”

Getting used to things

It might come across a little bit abrupt at first, but in my experience it keeps things ticking along nicely. Once you abandon the formality of email and speak like yourself the reader does the same.

It unclogs the blockage of unnecessary etiquette.