The reader's reaction to your subject line determines whether or not your email gets opened. If you've been referred by someone the reader knows, put that name before your own: "(via Jane Doe) Kristine Oller re: speaking at Voice 2010." Also, give the reader a heads-up about the topic of your note. And please, if specific wording in the subject line has been requested, use it. That can make the difference between your email landing in the proper inbox or not.
2) Communicate clearly and carefully.
The greatest weakness of email is that it lacks tone of voice. Always remember that the subtleties of spoken communication are lost in an email, so the reader, especially if he or she doesn't know you very well, could misinterpret as being sarcastic a comment that you intended to be jovial.
3) Use a similar salutation in your response.
When replying to an email, you can enhance rapport with the sender by matching his or her salutation. If the sender opened with "Hi, Kristine," then reply with a "Hi" or "Hello" or "Howdy." If the sender was more formal, be the same. Some folks habitually compose emails without a salutation, but if you do not have an established relationship with the reader, that approach can come across as brusque or too casual.
4) Be brief.
Don't scare the reader! Very often, emails go unread simply because at first glance their length is intimidating. You never want the reader's reaction to be: "I don't have time for this. I'll read it later" (aka never). The shorter your email, the greater the chances it will get read.
5) Divide a long message.
When you have a lot of information to communicate, divide your email into two sections. Above your signature, write a brief note telling the reader what is in the text you've included below your signature. You can even enumerate the topics. For example:
Below you will find info on the four things we need you to do before the shoot:
1) Additions to the call sheet
2) Preparations for lunch
3) Questions for Stacy about parking
4) Stuff needed from Smart & Final
Let me know if you have any questions.
(Your signature here)
(The supplementary text here)
6) Use short line lengths.
If you use short line lengths (approximately 3 to 4 inches long, as in the sample above), the reader can easily skim your email without scrolling horizontally or adjusting the view window.
7) Write short paragraphs.
Likewise, keeping your paragraphs short and separated with a blank line enhances the visual appeal and enables quick reading.
8) Use multiple-choice questions.
Frame your requests or suggestions as multiple-choice questions: "Would you prefer that I drop off a CD of my reel or send you a link to it via email?" Multiple-choice questions subconsciously prompt the reader to ask, "How should I answer this?" rather than "Should I answer this?"
9) Include a signature.
Most email programs allow you to automatically add a customized signature to every email you send. It should include, at the least, your name, contact number, email address, and a live link to wherever your reel, photos, and résumé can be found on the Web. Use it consistently so the reader always has easy access to your contact information at each stage of communication.
10) Respect the BCC.
A great way to make sure people open and respond to your emails is to be mindful of how they are communicating with you. If you have been BCC'd (blind carbon copied) on an email, that probably means the sender wanted you to be aware of the information without inviting you in as an active participant in the communication that's going on. Be aware of that boundary, respect the sender's wishes, and don't let on that you were privy to the BCC'd correspondence.
Kristine Oller is an author, career strategist, and founder of TheActorsLibrary.com.