How to Write Effective Internal Emails: Nine Tips

Many people have a love/hate relationship with email. Most of us complain about the evils of email — and corporate communications teams look for ways to reduce it. However, employee surveys consistently show email as the #1 or #2 preferred way to receive company messages. Perplexing? Not really. Maybe it’s not the channel, but the way we are using it. Here are some tips on how to break through the clutter with effective internal emails.

  1. Intrigue your readers so they click to the rest of the message. Idea: Pose a question in your email that is answered in the “rest of the story” (i.e., Do you know the #1 thing that matters most to our customers?) Another technique: Set up your story in the email and make the reader think, “and then what happened?” (e.g., “Yesterday was my first day working in a new role as part of a job swap on our team. No sooner did I sit down at my peer’s desk when I received my first big challenge.”)
  2. Write in the active voice to hold the readers’ attention. Avoid passive language.
    (Active: “Paula fixed the issue.” Passive: “The issue was fixed by Paula.”)
  3. Email subject lines should not be an afterthought. These few words determine whether or not someone even opens your email! A “must-click” subject line is provocative. Fact: subject lines that contain a number have the highest open rates. (, “Are you using the 3 most useful collaboration tools?”) Think about it – which headlines make you click on an email or Facebook post?
  4. Write for the scanner. Use bullet points and sub-heads to break up long blocks of text to help even scanners get your key messages.
  5. Vary the delivery. Consider a simple selfie-style video or audio message recorded on your smart phone, and write a short email with the link to the file online. Include a graphic or photo with the email portion of your communication to help draw in the reader.
  6. Focus the message on one central thought and connect your “sub-thoughts” to that central concept to make it easy to follow.
  7. Keep It Short and Simple. (A new take on the K.I.S.S. principle). Best practice is no more than 100-150 words in the body of your email. The email text can link to “the rest of the story” on a webpage. But it has to be interesting enough to make them want to click to read the rest. (See tip #1).
  8. Tell a story. Consider structuring your communication as a story — with a beginning, middle and end — and feature people doing something tangible.
  9. Involve your reader. Ask readers for their opinion, or to add their examples of something you are addressing in your email. Then, be sure to check the comments on your post regularly and reply.

So, next time you’ve got a message to send, keep these tips in mind to ensure your readability is high! Do you have other tips for writing effective internal emails? Please comment with your suggestions.