Write more effective e-mails... in reverse

It's easy to overlook something important when you're dashing off an e-mail - like an attachment, a subject line, or a coherent point. BNET's Dave Johnson shares a trick he came across that will help ensure your e-mails are useful and complete before you hit Send.

Note: This article originally appeared as an entry in the BNET Business Hacks blog.

Sometimes it's the little things that increase your productivity. Don't get a new word processor, for example — just learn to use the keyboard shortcuts on the program you already own. In that same spirit, Every Joe offers some unexpected advice for improving your productivity by reversing the way you usually write your e-mails.

Instead of entering the main message text, then addressees and subject, and finishing with an attachment (which is the order 99% of us do almost every time), follow these steps:

  • Attach the files. Starting with this step mean you won't forget to add the attachments at the end. It also helps you keep the message focused on the main point, which is probably related to the attached files.
  • Write the body text. Be sure to relate the message to the attachments and the desired outcome of sending the message.
  • Write the subject. Now that you've written the message, the subject should be like a thesis statement — a concise restatement of the body. It also eliminates messages with blank subject lines, which are mysterious, confusing, and also make you look foolish.
  • Add recipients. Doing this last prevents you from accidentally sending the message without the subject line or attachments. It also allows you to smartly select who to send it to based on all the work you put into the first three steps.

Even if you choose not to follow this interesting strategy, don't forget that that there are tools to help you avoid forgetting the attachment. And I recently offered some useful advice on sending efficient e-mail.

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