How to Set Up Scanning In Your Email Message

In today’s busy, information-overloaded world, few people actually read e-mail message content word by word. 

Instead,  when you send someone an e-mail, the first thing they’re likely to do is look at the content highlights…bullet points, deadlines, and links for areas that interest them. 

What today’s readers want is scannable text.  It is visually-distinguished content that allows the reader to move through the information quickly, orient themselves, and determine if there is information that is important to them in the moment

Once they’ve determined the information is relevant and timely for them, they will spend a few more minutes scanning for specific areas of interest.

 If the information shared contains too many highlights; the highlights are not connected, or the copy contains unfamiliar terms or concepts, the reader’s attention is distracted; and they will experience mental tension.   Mental tension creates turmoil that can result in:

  • discarding the entire e-mail
  • losing interest in the primary topic
  • losing focus on the primary objective of your e-mail

To set up easy e-mail scanning for your reader,

  • Use topics that are relevant to the reader today
  • Write a good subject line that will encourage opening and help distinguish from spam
  • Keep the e-mail message brief…half the word count (or less) than conventional writing 
  • Keep it focused…one idea per paragraph
  • Use pop-up windows to explain any new or unfamiliar concepts or terms
  • Use meaningful, not clever subheads
  • Start with the conclusion…referred to as the inverted pyramid style
  • Keep a left-brain,  linear path concept throughout… don’t include unrelated material

In e-mail messages, it’s even more important to keep your sentences short.  There are of course always exceptions.  In general, though, short sentences  do a better job of capturing, and keeping, the reader’s attention.  The longer the sentence, the greater the opportunity to confuse.

Use visible features, such as bolding, italics, or varying text colors to highlight main points and essential parts of the e-mail content.  This allows the reader to make a quick decision about whether they want to read the entire thing.

Using pop-up windows for explanations of an unfamiliar term or concept allows the reader to relieve the mental tension the unfamiliarity created, while not being distracted from the main content.

If your e-mail message is an action-oriented one…a message that is requesting the reader to take an action of some type, repeat the call to action  in various forms…button, blinking highlight, boxed-in blinking cursor… throughout the message. 

If the call to action has an extended deadline, ask the reader to tell you how…rather than if…they would like to be reminded.  Provide options such as…phone call…e-mail…48-hour reminder, 24-hour reminder. 

Using high-quality graphics, good writing style and outbound hypertext links when using other sources as a reference will increase your credibility.  

Now that your prospect or customer has established a “first business date” relationship by providing their e-mail address, it’s your responsibility to build, respect and protect.  

Make it easy, transparent, and profitable…for them and you…to do business together.  Keep your e-mails, easy, transparent, and profitable…for them to read.

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