3 Ideas in 2 Minutes on the Art of Writing Emails
SWYP, Meyer's Law & an Invaluable Email Hack
This sentence is a friendly yet slightly overexcited opener. Allow me to continue with a random commonplace statement. Here's some more irrelevant information. Sit down, this will take a while. Now we're five sentences in, and I still haven't told you what I want from you.
Start With Your Point (SWYP) is a writing principle for drafting emails. It encourages us to state our key message early on in an email. Writing to give a compliment? Lead with that. Want to invite somebody to a meeting? Say it upfront.
This way the reader immediately understands the relevancy of our emails, which — let’s face it — is always extremely high. Only then do we flesh out all the details in order of importance. The principle can of course be applied beyond email openings. Use SWYP to keep your audience‘s attention at the level of a paragraph or sentence.
As a reader, you can apply the inverted principle to anticipate bad news. Search for those negative messages buried in throwaway lines under convoluted grammar and mountains of jargon. Somewhere towards the end of an email.
For more writing tips, check out my essay on How to Get Better at Writing in 7+1 Steps.
II. Meyer’s Law
Speaking of bad news. We all know those emails we get on a Friday afternoon. Chris Meyer, a writer and analyst with a weakness for self-referential humour, has coined a relevant law:
Any email received on a Friday afternoon, shortly before close of business is bad news. Either the sender is terrified of the response, wants to ruin your weekend, or both.
III. An Invaluable Email Hack
There are emails we’d rather not receive at all. But what about those replies for which we’ve been waiting for ages? Even our friendly follow-up was ignored. It’s like we’re being ghosted. Negotiation expert Chris Voss has come up with an invaluable email hack that will get you a response immediately. It comes in the form of a single line:
Have you given up on this project?
According to Voss, the message achieves two things. First, the email can be answered with a No, a reply that leaves the other side feeling in control. Second, it carries the implicit threat that you’re willing to walk away on your own terms. Try it out, it’s eerie how well it works.
Source: Never Split the Difference 🐘
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