Scarlet Spark Team
Before You Click Send: How Better Emails Build a Culture of Great Asynchronous Communication
Updated: Apr 11
Nearly every animal advocacy organization we work with is entirely remote or distributed. One of the big implications of this setup is that these companies rely on a lot of asynchronous, written communication – especially email.
There are many benefits to asynchronous communication, including increased opportunities to craft a thoughtful message, refer back to information in the email later, and avoid the horrors of cross-time-zone scheduling. And yet, many of these wonderful benefits vanish when email is written poorly.
All too often, messages are long, confusing, and overwhelming, resulting in too much time spent writing, reading, and waiting for email replies. This problem is compounded for neurodivergent people (e.g., folks with dyslexia or ADHD) and/or people who work using a non-native language.
In this article, we break down the key elements of effective email communication in the workplace that’s easy (and maybe even fun) to read and act on.
For better remote communication, let’s start with the very top of the email.
TO: Whenever possible, include only one person in the ‘to’ field. In this way, you make it clear who is responsible for replying and taking action. Paradoxically, the more people are added to this field, the less likely anyone will be to respond.
CC: These are the folks who don’t need to take action. Consider it the ‘for your information’ (FYI) field.
BCC: People you add here will see your email but will not be included in any replies (since the TO and CC folks won’t see that they’re included). The BCC field is a glorious and generous field to use to protect people’s inboxes from unnecessary email. Here are two common instances of a kind way to move someone from TO or CC into the BCC field:
Introductions: Thanks for the introduction, Roxana! I’ll take it from here. I’m upgrading you to bcc to spare your inbox.
Collaborations: Since Hakim’s part of the project is done, I’m shifting him to bcc. (Hakim, if you prefer to stay on cc, please let me know!)
To Person taking action
Cc Person who might need to know
Bcc No longer needs to be part of the conversation
Next up is the subject line: a small bundle of words revered by marketers and ignored by nearly everyone else. To increase the odds of your emails being read, answered, and found again later when people need them, stick to the following email best practices:
Keep it specific: Imagine your little email adrift in the flooded sea of someone’s inbox. Ideally, just by glancing at your subject line, they should get a good sense of what you are writing to them about. For example:
A specific subject
Question about payroll
Question about Oct 18 payroll
Urgent request for intro