By Kevan Lee / Buffer
July 13, 2015

Have you ever received an amazing email, one that you’d like to print out and pin to your wall, one that made you grin from ear to ear or slow-clap in appreciation and reverence?

When I come across these gems, I drop them into a “Snippets” folder. I study them, I swoon over them, and I borrow bits and pieces of them to send better email.

Now imagine that every email you send is as great as these occasional all-stars you receive.

Impossible? Not at all.

Worth shooting for? Definitely.

At Buffer, we strive for 100 percent awesomeness in the emails we send to customers, and that pursuit of excellence carries over to the emails we send to teammates, colleagues, friends, and family. We want to send better email, the kind that delivers the intended message plus the desired emotion.

So I’m happy to share some of my sources of email inspiration. These are the templates and snippets that have caught my attention over the past few months, and which I’m hoping to include in more of my communication in the inbox. Think you might like to try any of these out in your daily emailing?

An email template for shaving 20 hours off your work week

Author Robbie Abed took to LinkedIn to share a pair of emails that he had used successfully to shave his workweek from 60 hours to 40 hours.

Here is email number one, which is to be sent on Monday.

The clear intention here is to set the expectation for the week ahead and give a supervisor a clear understanding of what you’re working on.

Then, on Friday, you send a second email, summarizing what you completed during the week and noting any open items that need further attention or follow-up from colleagues.

The idea here is simple: Set expectations early on in the week and follow through at the end of the week. According to Abed, this provides clear boundaries on your time, it shows your supervisor that you are responsible and organized, and—if everything goes according to plan—it might get you out of the office on Friday having worked zero overtime.

How Michael Hyatt says no to guest bloggers

Author and speaker Michael Hyatt gets a lot of email requests for a lot of different things. One of the most popular requests is for guest blogging – either bloggers who wish to submit guest posts to his site or other sites looking for Hyatt to write for theirs.

Here’s how he says no to guest blog pitches.

Here’s how he says no to invitations to guest blog.

I’ve been on the sending and receiving end of similar emails several times over the past few months. I happened to save a favorite “thanks but no thanks” snippet that I thought sounded appreciative and kind yet still said no.

Email snippets for saying no

In the examples above, Michael Hyatt said no to guest blogging. That’s a great start. And what about the scores of other opportunities we may need to turn down throughout the week?

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time coach and trainer, shared a series of snippets for saying no in a post published on 99U. She seemingly had a “no” snippet for any scenario. Here are a few of my favorites.

When you receive perpetual last-minute requests:

When people ask you about everything instead of directly contacting the appropriate person:

When you’re given an exceptionally short deadline:

When asked to do something optional that you can’t commit to right now:

7 simple sentences to set better boundaries

Could it even be as simple as a sentence? Wharton professor Adam Grant has a pretty quick list of seven different sentences that might work to set boundaries on your work/home life. Here’s the list:

  1. The Deferral: “I’m swamped right now, but feel free to follow up.”
  2. The Referral: “I’m not qualified to do what you’re asking, but here’s something else.”
  3. The Introduction: “This isn’t in my wheelhouse, but I know someone who might be helpful.”
  4. The Bridge: “You two are working toward common goals.”
  5. The Triage: “Meet my colleague, who will set up a time to chat.”
  6. The Batch: “Others have posed the same question, so let’s chat together.”
  7. The Relational Account: “If I helped you, I’d be letting others down.”

Of these seven, I’ve had a chance to try Nos. 1 and 3 just in the past week. The first felt great, as it truly was an opportunity I was excited to pursue yet the timing just wasn’t ideal. Sentence No. 3 felt just as good; had I committed, I would have been way in over my head. So not only was I able to set a boundary, I was able to ensure that the work was completed the best way possible.

How to send the best emails to your customers

In The Customer Support Handbook: How to Create the Ultimate Customer Experience For Your Brand, Sarah Hatter describes in expert detail exactly which words and phrases should be used in a modern-day customer conversation (and which shouldn’t).

Empty words (Do not use)

  • Feedback
  • Inconvenience
  • This issue
  • That isn’t
  • This isn’t
  • We don’t
  • No
  • We’re unable to
  • I can’t

Full words (Use liberally)

  • Thank you!
  • I’m really sorry
  • This sucks
  • I know this is frustrating
  • You’re right
  • That’s a great idea!
  • Let me check and get back to you
  • Thanks for sharing your idea / thoughts / taking the time to help improve the product

Magic Phrases:

Power replies:

I had a chance to use the “disruption” line just today with a customer who had a less-than-ideal experience. I’m not sure if my choice of words was what won him over or not. I am happy to say that he was super pleased to receive my reply—nothing to sneeze at for a customer we might have wronged.

What to say instead of “Let me know if you have any questions”

Chris Gallo at Support Ops has an interesting, applicable way of looking at that all-so-common wrap-up to the emails we send. How do you end your conversations on email? Seems like we typically choose one of these cookie-cutter signoffs.

  • “Please let me know if you have any questions.”
  • “If you have any other problems, just let me know.”
  • “If there is anything else you need, please let me know.”

Compare this with how you end conversations in real life. Gallo points out that none of us talk this way to our friends and family; why should we talk this way to our beloved customers?

Perhaps the best example Gallo cites is this one:

Instead of the stock answers, try these questions, which sound more human and feel more conversational.

  • Does this help you?
  • Did that answer your question? And does it make sense?
  • Anything else that I can help with today?

I’ve been trying these new signoffs in my personal emails for the past couple weeks, and I will say that it can be a little disarming at first. I definitely felt the urge to end with a token platitude rather than an open-ended “Does this help you?”

Fortunately, it gets easier the more you use it. And I’ve had many meaningful conversations that I might not have had otherwise.

Out with the “buts,” in with the exclamations

This one I’ve borrowed from our Chief Happiness Officer Carolyn who wrote about her removal of every instance of “but” and “actually” from her customer support emails.

With “but,” Carolyn removes the conjunction and replaces it with an exclamation point, splitting one compound sentence into two simpler ones.

With “actually,” she removes the word entirely, often opting for a new word or phrase to open the sentence.

I was inspired by these examples, so much so that I’ve gone to the extreme and attempted to remove all “buts” from the blogposts I write and the conversations I have. It’s interesting, even if I’m unable to followthrough 100 percent of the time, just to note how often the word might come up. I’m prone to use it more often than I thought.

Conclusion

Do you think any of these email samples and snippets might be useful to you as you communicate with colleagues and friends?

What are your go-to email words and phrases?

I’ve found that recognizing great emails is one thing, and using them is another. This is why I started cataloging the emails I love and referring to them regularly when I need inspiration on what to say. I go with a fairly straightforward copy-and-paste, which can take a bit of time. The SupportOps crew (and many of our Buffer heroes) use Text Expander to have snippets available via a keyboard shortcut.

This article originally appeared on Buffer

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