A Lesson: Five Advanced Email Rules for Professionals

About this lesson

Follow these five rules to improve the odds of your emails being opened, read, and, most importantly, responded to by your boss and co-workers.

The concept is to make it obvious what needs to be done by looking at the subject line and then reinforcing the actions required in the actual email.

1. Action Words in the Subject Line

Start all subject lines with one of these “Action Commands:”

  • ACTION REQUEST – When an email response is REQUESTED (polite)
  • ACTION REQUIRED – When an email response is REQUIRED (forceful)
  • APPROVAL REQUEST – Asking for a decision. Simple Yes/No or Approve/Deny. A frictionless reply.
  • INFO ONLY – The recipient need NOT reply. It is a “Read Only” email.
    The email is background material that can be used as a reference.

2. Clearly Stated Actions in the Message

  • At the top of each email message, provide a short summary of the email and WHAT IS EXPECTED from the reader. If you need a response. Clearly state it.  Make it easy to respond.

3. Effective Addressing

  • For ACTION REQUIRED/REQUESTED, attempt to limit the TO line to a single person. Multiple CCs are fine. This clearly identifies WHO needs to respond.
  • If you must include multiple actions for multiple people, then clearly state what each person must do in a summary section. Make it CLEAR and use COLOR.

4. Limiting Multiple Actions in an Email

  • Best if there is only ONE task per email. Use multiple emails for multiple tasks or reply requests. This improves the odds of each task getting addressed.
  • Send a series (“Task 1 of 3,” “Task 2 of 3,” “Task 3 of 3”) of messages with a stated SUBJECT LINES for each task.

5. Effective Long Email Strategies

  • ALWAYS start with a TL;DR summary.  Include what you expect the recipient to do WHILE they read the long email. The instructions might include the request of what the recipient is to do AFTER reading the long email. Be clear!


00:50   Rule #1 – Subject Line Must Use ACTION COMMANDS
06:19   Rule #2 – Add Clarity of Action Inside the Message
07:53   Rule #3 – Effective Email Addressing
09:39  Rule #4 – Working with Multiple Actions
11:30   Rule #5 – Long Email Strategies


Subject Microsoft Outlook

Software Compatibility All Email Clients


Course Completed




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Your emails crafted with care, vanish, poof, into a black hole of silence.

Why won’t your boss reply? Most likely, your emails are lacking visible clarity, coupled with frictionless response choices.

Hi, this is Les from Power Up Training. Let’s power up and see the five must-know rules to get responses to your emails.

Here is a typical inbox with unopened emails. What would you elect to open first? They’re all equally vague. So let’s fix them by adding clarity of what is expected. Rule number one, every email you send needs an action command. Action command? Well, let’s look at some examples.

I’m going to transform the unbelievably vague, “what are your thoughts,” into an “action request to add comment to a project report.” And while I will later demonstrate how to add specific details inside the message, let’s focus on the subject line where I’m telling my boss that we need them to act. It’s a non aggressive requests, but it’s clear that I am expecting a response. In addition to highlighting my request for action,

I’ve added a date. Always, always, always add a date, a reasonable date, but a specific time goal. Without the date, it may float into infinity. And wait and wait. And wait. Never be heard of again. I stated due date in the subject line will increase the odds of getting the email opened and read. And in a few moments, I’ll talk about not just getting it open, but also eliciting a reply.


Here is another variation of action words. “Lunch plans next week.” Is this a casual request or soliciting ideas of where to eat? And, what if I don’t want to go out with this person. [Sigh] “lunch plans next week.”

Now look, oh gosh, this is actually an important email about the board meeting. We upped our wording from a vague subject line to an action required with specific information in the subject line.

Now, this becomes more actionable with a visible clarity. And urgency. It is not an action request. But an action required. Required.

How about this one? “Jamie is out.” So what? Look at this. Now, there is clarity and an action and a very specific type an approval request. If this was in my inbox, I know it is a simple open and then approve or disapprove resulting in a 15 second response, and email Delete.

I only open this up every time as it’s an easy task to complete with this frictionless response. Approve or don’t approve, done, delete.

Now, for the last of my four visible clarity keywords, which is info only the original email subject line of the coming partial network outage has no context. Should I care? Do I need to do anything and when?

This could be one of those emails, if I skip I might just hope that it doesn’t come back to bite me. Look at the better version here. There is an added clarity and more importantly, the title of info only. There is no actions asked of me. The email is just a read and delete.

Delete email is my favorite frictionless response.

I will use this set of wording “info only” for longer reports or explanation emails. If someone’s interested, they can read the details, but it also lets me record important facts for the record, or for other people to reference in the future. This does give the recipient the luxury of knowing that no decisions or actions are expected of them, it takes the pressure off, so they can just skim the email, and then file it away.

So to recap, rule number one of the five power rules, use key action words for clarity. In almost all your subject lines, start with one of these four phrases, “Info Only,” “Action Request,” “Action Required,” or “Approval Request.”

Plus, always include a target date in the email subject line, with the lone exception of “Info Only,” as there’s no action being requested.

Rule number one should highly increase the hit rates of your recipients opening your emails. Once inside, you need to continue using the next set of my rules to add visible clarity and the ability to provide frictionless responses.

Rule number two, add clarity of actions inside the email. Look at this email, the subject line did state action request but no other instructions. Imagine if this was a three page long project report. And you use those vague instructions. Is a recipient supposed to correct the grammar? Or the facts or the timeline are or what? Unless the recipient has 20 minutes to study this email request. And guess at the needed response. They might elect to postpone dealing with it. At which point, your email risked getting lost in the non response, email, black hole.


But. Now look at the added clarity of the request. “Focus on the tone of paragraph two.” Now I know what’s expected of me. I could accomplish this right now and be done with email clarity and lowering the friction of the effort to reply. So those are key. It is not good enough just to have your emails open, you must make it easy for them to reply. Use specific action instructions.

Now rule number three, proper recipient addressing. You can follow rule one for clarity in the email subject line and rule two for clarity of what’s to be done inside the actual email. But you may still fail to elicit responses.

If you’re not careful in who and how the email is sent via the TO: and CARBON COPY, CC, lines. Look at the action request to find $24,000 in cost savings. It has a good subject line and a defined action in the actual email. So why most likely will this be ignored? Because you sent a task to four people, it’s very likely that Jordan will think that Taylor is going to respond and Blake’s gonna think that Austin responds, and it’s possible that no one responds.

This is ineffective email addressing rule number three, it is better to identify who is designated to make the decision.

You can include other people in the CC line just in case they want to weigh in. But here it is obvious that Jordan is the point person responsible for finding that $24,000 savings. In fact, I might change the wording from the plane “Action” to “Action for Jordan,” even though she is the only name of the TO: line.

But it drives home the point of who’s responsible. The other missing item is that yes, we forgot to add a due date, which I can add in there. Rule number four complex emails with multiple actions. Some emails are more involved, and we’ll have multiple actions and potentially multiple recipients.

When possible, try to make all emails simple, with a single action to increase your response success, potentially breaking up a long email with multiple actions into multiple emails with one task per email. I’ll often do this and label my emails with the same subject line. But with the addition of “action one of three,” “action two or three,” “action three or three” and so forth. But if not use this format. Note that multiple people are in the two line has Taylor and Blake and Austin all have tasks and should know what each other is assigned to work on. To help with the coordination of the board meeting planning tasks. The subject line has the action required with a specific topic. Although missing a deadline, inside the message, I have added action required as a top summary with a due date.

Note that I will use hot red font formatting for all message summaries and action assignments, which you see inside the message is very clearly stating who does what.

While, there are specific tasks assignments. If anyone does reply, all the whole group is aware of the status. Plus, as a bonus, there’s some peer pressure to get their tasks done by the assigned date. Lastly, Rule five about effective long emails.

I like clarity in my emails, and for complex concepts, or projects that unfortunately require a fair amount of details and turns it into a long email. For me, any email over two paragraphs, makes my eyes glaze over and tempts me to close it down and deal with it later. Or hope, it just goes away. So this trick other than not sending long emails is to always have an executive summary at the start. A TL;DR are too long didn’t read summary, plus one critical item to include, which is what is expected of the recipient. Blah, blah, blah, blah.

What am I reading here? Looking at this long email without knowing why is a killer. Instead, spell out clearly what you want the reader to do as they go through the long email. If you’re expecting a reply, then tell them what to address. And if it’s just for info only. You can also add in the no reply needed.

Imagine what it would mean if all of your emails started off telling what specific action is needed from you before you even look at the details. Not only is this a relief to you and your reader, but it improves the odds that their responses will be what you’re looking to hear back on.

In fact, imagine a world where all of your emails are coming into your inbox following these rules. Your email life becomes easier. And to make that happen.

Feel free to share this video with the people who send you emails and get your team into the habit of creating visible clarity and frictionless email responses to this will be life changing.

If this was helpful, give a thumbs up and then watch my video on how to write effective email subject lines with ChatGPT.

Until next time, Go Power Up!