Email is dead, long live email.

No, you didn’t just happen to come across an archive copy of Internet For Dummies: First Edition, and yes, this is the year 2016. You are actually reading a blog post on how to compose an email for business.
Look, we all know that email is on the decline. The “kids” coming into the the workforce today barely want to use email. Isos as a company (and myself in particular as the technical lead of the Atlassian practice), has dedicated a good portion of waking hours helping organizations migrate collaborative communication from email to tools like HipChat, Jira, Confluence and other Atlassian/non-Atlassian applications.
However, here we are: Email is still a huge part of our daily working lives.  I still try to find ways to make my daily email load easier to process.  Even though I risk sounding like old man March, I truly believe that all of the communication innovations (like HipChat and #Slack) have caused the quality of emails to drop. More importantly, all of these communications tools, ironically, have caused our email inboxes to be flooded with notifications. Crappy emails just get lost in the shuffle.
I observe the main problem with email as it stands today to be this:
People spend a ton of time composing emails and expect actions as result of their message. Unfortunately, those emails are visually hard to decode and don’t clearly spell out expectations.  If your emails are obtuse, don’t expect quality reactions as a result.
Let me now share with you an annotated version of my very obvious email template that will bring you success, results, and even happiness in your personal relationships (if those need tuning up).

Email to Isos Management – I Need to Work from Sydney

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Subject: WORKING REMOTELY: My thoughts on working from Sydney.
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When composing a subject, try to actually split it up into two parts–first, a very short summary, and then a short actual subject.
In this case I’m breaking some Internet etiquette by using using all caps. However when making the summary subject, it is quite effective.
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[Danny cc’d]
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It is suggested that one should call out the carbon-copied subjects in the body of the email so that when the main recipient “responds all,” they definitely will have a handle on who will be receiving their response no matter what email client they use.
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Hey Thad,
I just wanted to give you my thoughts about my possible relocation to Sydney to increase Isos’ and Atlassian’s presence in Australia. After giving it more thought, I really believe there’s a strong case for moving myself and my family to the “Land Down Under.”
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Above is the quick greeting and summary of what the email will cover.
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Making the Case:

Please read my points and let me know what you think:

  • Aussie Market Not Fully Exploited: As demonstrated from the market research I presented to you and Danny yesterday, there are still thousands of companies in Australia that are not using the Atlassian stack to run their businesses.  Two great examples from my research that make me excited about exploring the Australian market are below:

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Above is the meat of the email. In this case, we titled (in bold…we use lots of bold…) the main sections “Making the Case.”
For the first and each subsequent point and sub-point, we start with a mini-summary that is also in bold. This allows the reader to quickly identify the main gist of the item and quickly determine if it applies to them.
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  • Jira usage: Almost 80% of “surf shacks” don’t utilize Jira to track their surfboard rental procedures. Rally’s “hang 10 mate!” marketing campaign really seemed to dampen enthusiasm for using Jira for all surfing-related management activities.

Thad: Do you agree with with my analysis that the surf shack market is not fully tapped?

  • BitBucket usage among marsupials tragically low: A recent Gartner survey showed that kangaroos preferred using Gerrit for performing code reviews when using git as their code reversion tool. Worse yet, internally leaked GitHub memos revealed that GitHub management paid wombats to use StackExchange to spread misinformation about Bitbucket to influence adoption by koalas. It is obvious that Atlassian is having their quoit handed to them on their own turf.

Danny: Do you agree that we need boots on the ground to stem this tide?

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Above are two subpoints of the first main point. Again, here we bold the mini-summary so the reader can clearly infer the topic. If applicable, we create whitespace between a point and the next sub-point and in bold call out recipients if you expect feedback on the topic at hand.
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  • Summary:
    • Making the case: I hope my thesis is strong as to why Isos needs to establish itself in the underserved Australian market. Atlassian can’t manage to get their name out there in their own backyard.
    • Making progress on our multilingual corporate goals: Now is the time for Isos to move on our international/multilingual ambitions.

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After we clearly state all our points, we quickly summarize the purpose of the email. Like in all the above examples, we bold our mini-summaries and then give a sentence or two with expanded thoughts.
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Further Action Items:

Thad: Please let me know if you can wire the moving funds into my personal account. If you cannot, please detail why.

Danny: You mentioned New Zealand as stronger foreign location for Isos to promote Atlassian technologies. Please let me know if my case changes your mind.

All: Any other feedback would be appreciated.
At the very end of the email, you very clearly call out further feedback you require that is not already requested in the main body of the mail. This is your final chance to state expectations of what actions you need from your readers.

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Summary:

I know, this email format is painfully obvious. I can hear everyone saying “No duh!” from here.
However, I have to say almost no one I correspond with uses this format. I constantly receive mushed up, globby emails from associates and clients alike. My format above works. I’ve been using it for 20+ years and it gets results. In the past year I’ve done A/B tests (sending the same email to different recipients formatted in this above format and a more traditional format) and 85% of the time I get more accurate responses with the above format.
Outline format, use of bolding, whitespace and explicit calls for action. It works every time.