How To Write An Email

I am writing 100 How-To essays. It is a big project. Here is why I am doing it. This is essay 7 of 100.

It is sometimes necessary to write an email. Here are a few Very Good pointers for any occasion:

For Work:

  • Keep these emails brief; nobody is going to read anything longer than two hundred words or so.
  • Highlight action items. It may sound sort of aggressive, but people suck at actually doing action items. (Bonus: Your email gets to have the color yellow — the greatest of all colors — in it.)
  • Make lists when you can. Sort of like this one. 
  • Maybe throw in a picture of a kitten in a hotdog bun or something?
  • The work email is perhaps the most appropriate place for an exclamation point! Because that means you’re not mad! Honestly, a well-placed emoji can help too. 😃
  • This list is probably a little too long for a work email. If your work email is longer than this, consider splitting it into two emails.

For When You Are In Love:

  • If the person is also in love with you, write gushy, beautiful prose about your feelings. Tell the person a memory about them that you cherish. Give the person a compliment that they will not expect. Tell the person you cannot wait to see them. Life is altogether too short to not relish the brief spells of being dizzyingly in love.
  • If you are not sure that the person is in love with you, drop a little complimentary story — “I keep thinking about how you beat all the boys at Mini Basketball last weekend. I was so impressed. You’re really surprising in all kinds of wonderful ways.”
  • If the person does not love you back, more power to you. You’re a warrior child who will love despite limits.
  • On second thought, I just want to let you know: There are SO MANY PEOPLE WORTH LOVING IN THE WORLD. You do NOT need to dwell on this person who does not love you back. They’re wrong and you’re great.

For When You Love Someone Because They Are Your Friend or Family Member:

  • People like to hear about themselves. Tell them the things you remember are going on in their lives. It’s weird how well this works.

  • People like to talk about themselves. Ask them specific and interesting questions.

  • Do NOT ask: “What’s going on with you?”; “How are you these days?”; “How’s your family?” People don’t know how to answer those questions honestly. Thanks, socialization.
  • Admit a little secret to the friend.
  • Recommend something to the friend. “This book/movie/app/boy/sheet/balloon drawing really made me think of you; I think you’ll like it.”
  • Two thirds of your email should be in conversation with your friend — that is, not just you talking about your own life.
  • Ask your friend advice if you’re up for it. Friends love that.
  • Maybe send your friend a print letter! WHO DOESN’T LOVE ONE OF THOSE! See three points below:
    • Once a friend sent me a letter where he asked me to trace various things in my life onto a sheet of enclosed newsprint — a key, something in my kitchen, a piece of jewelry, etc. — and mail it back. I thought this was fun.
    • Once a friend sent me a letter on a banana.
    • Once a friend sent me a letter on a piece of felt.

For When It’s Your Irritating Relative And You Have To:

  • Attach a cute photo of you doing something relatively wholesome. It doesn’t matter if it's on Facebook already.

For When It’s A Congressperson:

  • First of all, GO YOU.
  • Open with a respectful salutation; get straight to the point; back up your concerns with anecdotal evidence/ actual evidence; sign off respectfully.
  • Consider calling or sending a letter in the mail. Email is best for little things, but you’re more likely to get through with a hard copy or a human voice. 

For When It’s A Non-human Animal:

  • Write in dulcet tones and attach a cool and fun video.

For When It’s A Spice Girl / Gwen Stefani:

  • Open with a respectful salutation.
  • Be sure to give them a compliment they don’t usually get that’s almost alarmingly specific. (“The shoes you wore on Letterman in 1995 were so fabulous.”) 
  • Don’t outwardly ASK if you can meet them, but drop little hints throughout. Like, you could talk about “meat” a lot. Just as an example.
  • If it is Gwen Stefani, tell them to break up with that cad Blake Shelton.

For When It’s A Person With Whom You Are Having A Conflict, and You Want To Discuss the Conflict:

  •  Here is the email you should write; you may copy+paste this at your leisure:

Dear Sir or Madam or Gender-Neutral Honorary Human,

I have a few things I’d like to talk with you about when you have the chance. I’m free [DATES], [TIMES]. Do any of those work for you? Let’s sit down for a cup of coffee when you can. Here’s my phone number [PHONE NUMBER]. If it’s impossible to meet, I’d be happy to talk over the phone.

Thanks so much,