Many executives receive an easy 50+ emails per day. Are yours being read? Just as important, are they acted upon? Do you ask questions in your emails, but find that only some questions receive responses? And in return do you receive emails that are ‘fluffy’ and incomprehensible?

To try and minimise these problems and give your own emails greater impact, here are some ideas. Always with the proviso that you need to choose the correct tone for the person you are writing to – and keep your message polite – consider the following:

1. Be clear about your intentions

Before you start your email, be clear in your own mind what you are trying to achieve. Are you responding to somebody, seeking clarification, asking staff to do something, and if so by when? If you are asking or directing, don’t hint at this, but rather be clear.

2. Who are you writing to?

Be accurate about this. If you expect action or response, put recipients in the To field not the CC field. This means you may sometimes need to rearrange the email distribution during a long thread. Tread a careful balance between email blasts with numerous recipients and copying in those people who genuinely need to be kept in the loop. Never copy in colleagues in a passive-aggressive way in order to highlight some inadequacy in the main recipient; instead, deal with this in an honest way. And of course, put all recipients in the BCC field if you don’t wish them all to see each other’s addresses; many people get pretty antsy about this, especially where their personal emails are concerned.

3. Get straight into it

This is not generally the medium for too much introduction! State your intentions – possibly even your conclusion – right up front. Don’t waffle or pull your punches; use plain, clear language in order to move things along.

4. Number the actions

If you are asking staff to answer or act upon a few things, number these points, and don’t be afraid to refer to the number at the foot of your email, e.g. ‘I look forward to receiving answers to my four questions.’ It just might remind them to ‘tick off’ each one when they reply. ‘Please respond/I’d appreciate a reply by close of business Friday’ might not go amiss either. You could also break up a longish email with headings.

5. Manage the thread

Keep email threads intact. This can get quite unwieldy with numerous colleagues involved in a protracted exchange, but it’s important now that the functionality exists to sort messages by conversation. After time has passed, it is easier to check back over correspondence and decisions taken if the emails are linked by subject heading.

6. Keep topics separate

Also helpful is to start a new topic with a new thread, especially where a response to this subject area will be needed. You’ll confuse the conversation sorter – and irritate your colleagues – if you add new subject matter into existing threads.

7. Review your email

Read over your entire email, trying to see it from the perspective of the recipient(s). Have you been crystal clear in what should or might happen next? If you’re responding, have you covered off everything in the original email? Have you put in clear requests or suggestions for action, and is a deadline appropriate and included?