Do you write good emails? Do you get in email fights? Mr. Corpo breaks down the do's and don'ts of writing perfect emails, getting replies, and how to win an email fight. He also explains why you should never use EOD, why you should always REPLY ALL, and why 4:36 is the perfect time for a deadline. Bonus section includes Mr Corpo pontificating on his theories about attachments. Plus - new music by Jetskiis.
How To Write An Email (9/28/2016)
JUSTIN: An email walks into a bar. Ouch!
JUSTIN: Hi. Welcome back to another episode of Mr. Corpo podcast. Today I wanna talk about email. Email, email, email. I love email so much that I wrote a book about how to write an email. I love email so much that this week, I worked an entire day at the office in New York City, then I got on an airplane, and I flew to San Francisco. I arrived at midnight. I woke up the next day. I went to DocuSign headquarters, and then I went to Airbnb headquarters, gave talks about how to write an email to hundreds of people. And then I got back on the plane, flew back to New York, and went back into the office today 24 hours later. That's how much I love email. And you should, too. So let's talk about email.
JUSTIN: It started simple enough. You sent out an email to your co-workers. You told them a project was due the end of day, Thursday. And then all of a sudden someone replies and says, hey, where do I save this file? And someone else replies and says, "Does end of day Thursday mean end of day, or is seven o'clock okay?" And then someone else replies and says, "Is it okay if I turn it in on Friday?" And then someone else says, "Hey, what format do you want all this information in?" All of a sudden, it's been 36 hours, and no one's even gotten any work done.
This is a problem. This is your fault. You needed to be more clear with the instructions you gave everybody. And your first mistake was saying "end of day". Never use "end of day". "End of day" is like white noise. "End of day" is like someone walking up to you in the hallway in the morning and saying, "Hey, how's it going?" And then you stop, you kind of turn around to answer them, they've already walked right past you. It doesn't mean anything. It's just general corporate gobblety-gook. And so I don't want to you to ever use end of day as a deadline. Here's what I want you to do instead. I want you to send that email, and I want you to say, "Due at 4:36 PM." Why 4:36? No reason. It doesn't matter at all. But the point is, you need to break the norm. You need to break the code. You need to move it two degrees to the left to get that little bit of unexpected attention. And here's what's gonna happen. People are gonna go, "Whoa, Justin, he's such a weird guy."
And then here's what else is gonna happen. They're gonna reply to you at 4:32 and they're gonna think they're really funny and they're gonna say, "Hey Justin, I'm replying, it's 4:32 PM." And guess what? They think they're hilarious, but the point is, I got what I needed from them on time. And the reason I did is cause I used a little bit left of center to get their attention and to get them to think about, okay, he must have a reason he needs this due. So that's just a really quick hint about how to write better emails and get what you need from people on time. Never use "end of day." Alright, that's the quick hit right off the top of the show.
JUSTIN: You know, as I've been touring around the country with my book, talking at big companies, small companies, I'm always sure to point out the fact that I've never worked past 5 PM in 16 years of corporate America. Now, the only way you're gonna do that is if you are super, super efficient with your time. In fact, I like to call myself an efficiency monster. It sounds kind of braggadocious, but I think it's kind of gotten a nice ring to it.
But anyway, that's beside the point. The point is, I wanna help you get in and get out of work so you can get on with your life. And one of the common things I find that people have trouble with is making sure people reply to their emails. Not only on time, like we just talked about. But also making sure you get all the answers you need. How many times have you written an email to your boss, you had three questions in the email, and your boss replies with only one answer? It's super frustrating. You get mad at them, you think it's their fault, but the point is, it's not their fault. It's your fault. You didn't write a good enough email.
So what I wanna do right now is break it down for you and tell you how to write the perfect email. I will guarantee you can call me, you can write me, you can do whatever you want, I guarantee this will get you three answers to your three questions. Alright? Do I have your attention? Here we go.
JUSTIN: Pull up the email. Pull up the subject line, and write three things. Don't write the word "three,"05:02 write the number 3, and then the word "things." Alright, let's go into the body of the email. Hi boss, comma, three things. Again, use the number 3. Don't write the word "three." After three things, I want you to hit return, hit return again. Creating that white space is really important. We want there to be breathing room. The design of the email is important. Then I want you to write the number 1. Not the word "one," but the number 1. Hit return, and then I want you to write a two-word subject line. It can't be a full sentence, it can only be two or three words. Then I want you to hit return, hit a bullet point, and then in two sentences, you need to write the key point.
So, for example, if you write the number 1, the subject line might be "Gene's project." Or the subject line might be "Vacation schedule." And then you put your pertinent question right underneath that. After the bullet point, hit return, write the number 2, hit return, put your subject, hit return, put your bullet point, on and on we go. And you see what we've done? All of a sudden we've hit your boss with five times to queue them that you have three questions. The subject line says three, the first sentence of the email says three, then the number 1, the number 2, the number 3.
Do you think there's any chance your boss replies to that email with only one answer? No way. You're gonna get all three answers you need. You can get in, get out, and get on with your life. So that's how to write a perfect email.
JUSTIN: We better give you a break. I feel like I just dropped a lot of knowledge on you. Once again, our show today is brought to you by Forlorn Hope Wines. And you've heard me talk about the founder, Matt, ad nauseum. I've talked about how good-looking he is, I've talked about how you can find out his phone number and how you should crank call him, but I think we haven't talked enough about his wines. So let me just talk about his wines for a second. He makes small-batch, super interesting, off-kilter varietals. This stuff is -- sometimes it's 20 cases, sometimes it's 100 cases. The point is, if you're not on his email list, this stuff sells out in about 24 hours or 48 hours. And it's all a little bit funky and interesting. So if you walk into a restaurant, you order Chardonnay, don't order Forlorn Hope Wines. If you're semi-interesting, even remotely interesting, if you've ever had any taste buds in your mouth, order Forlorn Hope Wines. Use the discount code MRCORPO, all capitals, no spaces. And you're gonna get 15 dollars off any purchase with three bottles or more. So check it out, forlornhopewines.com, it's fantastic stuff, it's pretty much all I drink. And if you don't know, now you know.
JUSTIN: Alright, while we're talking about email, there's two more topics I wanna cover. One of them is reply all. And the other one is email fights. So let's do reply all first.
JUSTIN: This is a hot topic for most people. And it's kinda split right down the middle. I talk to a lot of people and they say, "Never reply all. Always split it off into small groups." Well, I'm here to tell you I completely disagree with those people. I think you should always reply all. And here's the reason: if you break it off into a separate group, the rest of the group is wondering if you ever replied to the email. You're also causing confusion, cause now half the group knows what the answer is, and the other half doesn't. So my thing is, you should always reply all, because it's a chance for you to show you've got good information, you reply on time, you're a trustworthy person. And everyone knows you close the loop. So take it from me, always reply all. It's that simple.
Now, let's talk about email fights. Have you ever been caught in an email fight? Have you ever looked around and everyone's looking at their computer and going, "Oo, email fights!" It's kind of like a schoolyard fight, you know, everyone's kinda getting in a circle wanting to watch what happens. You will never win an email fight in email. It is impossible. So what you need to do is get up from your desk, walk up to that other person, whoever it is, even if you don't like them, this is the only thing you can do. You walk over to their desk and you say, "Hey, what should we do about this? How do we resolve this?"
When you get in front of someone, it's a human-to-human interaction. And all of a sudden, all their bluster, all of their posturing is gonna go away, and they'll just help you solve the issue. But then here's the important thing: you've gotta go back to your desk, you've gotta hit reply all, and you've gotta tell everyone, 10:00 "Hey everybody, I just talked to Rob, everything's all set, here's what we agreed on, here's how we're moving forward."
Now, let me tell you, the rest of your office is gonna be super disappointed. They were really hoping to watch an email fight. You need to show people that, hey, I don't get in email fights. I can resolve any issue, and I'm a really good person to work with. So that's the only way to handle an email fight.
JUSTIN: Bonus section! Bonus section! Bonus section! Bonus section! Bonus section, I love you! Here we are in the bonus section. And I wanna talk about email a little bit more. We're gonna talk about attachments. I've got two things to say about attachments. First of all, when you send an email, don't you dare send an email that has no information in the email itself and just has an attachment. That is super, super annoying. I operate on the assumption that no one will ever even open the attachment. And think about this: most people are reading your email on their little mobile devices. So it's really doubtful that they can even open the attachment or see it. So what I wanna tell you is, always make sure that your email has all the pertinent information in the body of the email. Don't rely only on the attachment, alright? That's the first thing I wanna say about attachments.
The second thing I wanna say is, make sure you format your attachment for printing. There's a special place in hell for anyone who sends an email that doesn't have the attachment formatted to print. You know what I'm talking about. You get the attachment, you open it up, you send it to the printer, and you go to pick it up, and it's in size 17 font, it's on eight pages, and you gotta go back to your desk, and you have to format it yourself. I hate this. So be careful. Check the formatting, make sure it's ready to print. Alright. I think I just changed your life.
And that's it for today's show. I could keep going on this email topic forever, I mean trust me: I wrote a book, and the title was How To Write An Email. You can't possibly understand the pressure I feel every day at work, being the guy who literally wrote the book on how to write an email. So I have to spend so much more time and so much more energy to make sure this thing is right. So listen, I hope these were helpful points. I could go on for another hour on this podcast, or you could just go to Amazon.com, buy my book, and pick up all the other tips and tricks I've got in there. Now, before we go, I of course wanna say thank you to my super fantastic producer, Rob Schulte. Rob, give a quick shoutout.
ROB: Thank you.
JUSTIN: Was that for me or our listeners?
JUSTIN: Oh, good answer. Alright. Hit me up on the social channels. I'd love to hear from you. Hit me at Twitter at Mr_Corpo. Or you can find me on Instagram at JDKJDKJDKJDK. That's JDK four times. Now, on the way out today, I'm gonna leave you with a new track from one of my favorite bands in San Francisco, Jet Skis. This song is called Midnight Kawasaki Ride.
ROB: I think it's actually Moonlight.
JUSTIN: Oh, okay. Uh, alright everybody. Leaving you with Jet Ski's Moonlight Kawasaki Ride. That's a better version of that song, I think.