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Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Third Edition by Gina Trapani, Adam Pash

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Hack 3: Craft Effective Messages

Level Easy

Platform All

Cost Free

The old computer-science adage, “Garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO), means that if you give a computer the wrong input, it returns useless output. Humans are much more forgiving than computers, but in many ways GIGO applies to email correspondence as well. The clearer your email messages are, the more likely you’ll get the result you want quicker — whether it’s a response, a completed task, or an informed recipient.

In an ineffective email message, the sender’s expectations aren’t clear, the most important information is hard to find, and the body of the message is too long and difficult to read.

You spend at least a couple of hours a day reading and responding to email. How much of that time could be saved if all the messages you sent and received were to the point and free of any unnecessary information?

This hack covers ways to get the most out of email you send with the least amount of time, energy, and work.

Composing a New Message

Keep in mind the following simple strategies for whittling the messages you send down to their most effective state.

Determine Your Purpose

Every email message has a specific purpose. Either you are conveying information or requesting action from the recipient. Before you click that Compose button, know what you expect to get out of the exchange. If you don’t know your message’s purpose, don’t write it.

If you need to flesh out your thoughts by writing, send the email to yourself. Then ...

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