But here’s the deal: You’ll drastically reduce the time you spend on business emails when you make sure your emails are read and understood.
…drastically reduce the time you spend on business emails when you make sure your emails are read and understood.
Get Your Business Emails Read
Let’s tackle the first challenge for a minute: Getting your emails read. Because the reality is that your coworkers, bosses, customers, etc. are scanning your emails, not reading them.
And when your emails (or anything else you write for work) are scanned, not read, meaning can be lost, points not made, clarity confused.
So…what’s the cheat I promised in the headline…the cheat to slash your time spent on email?
Get your emails read. And how, you’re asking? The hint is in the headline…and this sentence…and the sentence above.
Yep, the cheat is this: Use ellipses.
Why? Because this uses the Zeigarnik Effect: Our brains focus more on unfinished tasks than finished ones, so an ellipsis helps to carry people forward.
In other words, our brains are hardwired to want to finish a task, so we keep reading. An ellipsis makes us want to read on.
And that, dear reader, can help you get your business emails read the first time.
Ellipses as Email Cheat
So now you know about the ellipsis and why it works. Next is how to apply it because you can’t simply stick in a dot dot dot wherever you please, right? Right. Here are three ways to use an ellipsis as a cheat:
Use an ellipsis to introduce information so people keep reading, as in:
A home automation system can help you manage your home’s energy usage to reduce the energy used and the money you pay. Here’s how…
Use an ellipsis for effect in the middle of a sentence, as in:
I could use reassurance that creating rich content still has its place in our busy email world…and I’d love to champion your cause as an example of this.
Use an ellipsis for a punch at the end of a sentence, as in:
With ABC Company, you can have your franchise business up and running before you take it over. Thens when you take over, you already have your facility, equipment, staff…and customers!
Or…you can check out all the ways I’ve used ellipses throughout this post as examples.
Just give it a try in your emails and see what happens. And remember, your goal is to get your emails read and understood the first time. So when you use the dot dot dot, use the tool with that goal in mind.
…your goal is to get your emails read and understood the first time. So when you use the dot dot dot, use the tool with that goal in mind.
Two Notes on the Technicalities of Using Ellipses
And now a note about the proper way to use ellipses as punctuation.
Above, I wrote about using ellipses as a cheat to get people to keep reading your emails. But the ellipsis is punctuation with a specific use too.
Technically, you use an ellipsis when you are only quoting part of what someone said, as in this sentence when only the later part of the sentence is quoted:
Soft skills are “…the personality traits, attitudes, habits, and behaviors you display when working with others.”
Or this example where part of the quote is removed for clarity and an ellipsis indicates the removed text:
“Sharon says soft skills are the…behaviors you display when working with others.”
Or this example where the end of the quote is cut off and the ellipsis indicates the removed text:
“Sharon says soft skills are the personality traits, attitudes, habits, and behaviors you display….”
Note that in the last example, I used four periods, not three. That’s to indicate the end of the sentence. The first three periods are the ellipsis. The last is the period. Confused yet??
And what about spaces before and after? Are you to use them? It’s up to you. Whether you do or don’t, be consistent. That’s the only rule. Do NOT use a period before but not after or vice versa. Use spaces if you want … like that. Or don’t use spaces…like that. But do it the same way all the time.
And now that you’ve learned the cheat and the technical details both, put the cheat to work in your business emails!
P.S. Here’s another point of confusion: ellipsis vs. ellipses! The first, ellipsis, is singular, as in one ellipsis or…while the other is plural meaning more than one ellipsis. Yep. Confusing!
P.P.S. For more advice on writing business emails that save you time, take the quick online class Rock Your Inbox!
Dots photo by Vlado Paunovic: https://www.pexels.com/photo/low-angle-view-of-dots-on-built-structure-4372705/