Email Tip No2: Table of Contents for Long Emails

Email 200You are afraid people may not read this long email and thus miss the important information it contains? I know, sometimes we simply have to write long emails.

A meeting may not be possible and the situation is just complicated. But I’ve also heard the notion “When the email is longer than two paragraphs, I am not reading it!” more than once. Avoiding long and often pointless email rants is indeed a good method to be efficient with emails.

So if there is really no way to shorten what you want to say any more and it is still an epic email, then I suggest you start with a brief introduction why you are writing the email and then continue with an inventory of the parts of your email. Sort of a table of contents if you will; like you would have in a report.

Use clear paragraph headings for example Problem Statement, Conflicting results, Summary, etc.

You can even work with numbers:

1 Suggested solutions
1a Option 1
1b Option 2


An example email could look like this:

“Dear Team,

I am writing this email, because I noticed several dangers for the successful completion of phase II. I would like to explain my observations and suggestions with all necessary details in following sections:

1) Summary of Deliverables
2) Status Team A
3) Status Team B
4) Deliverables in Question
5) Suggestions


1) Summary of Deliverables



2) Status Team A




If you have chosen an appropriate email title then it is likely everyone will open it. By immediately summarizing the email in the first paragraph and giving a clear overview of the sections, no one will be overwhelmed with the content.  People who already know about the problem can save a lot of time and immediately jump to the right section. And for you it is easier to re-read your email in case someone refers to it in the future.



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