Summarize Emails First for Client Action

June 7, 2018

When your client asks you to communicate via email, you can be tempted to plunge immediately into lengthy detail with an update. To get your client to react faster, use a technique common to top companies and even the military: Start with a summary, tell the client what you need to know, and then provide the details.

According to Lifehacker writer Alicia Adamczyk, business calls the technique "TLDR" for "too long, didn't read," while the military has the acronym "BLUF" ("bottom line up front"). Either way, the goal is to give the recipient a quick but precise overview of the most important information and a call to action. Details that can affect their decision come next, as the recipient has the context to put them into perspective.

Another technique uses the subject line to instruct the recipient what to do and when. "Decision needed by 1 p.m. Friday," for example, sets an expectation and deadline for your client, which may be more useful than trying to cram the nuances of the situation into the subject line. Let the email tell the story, using the "TLDR" or "BLUF" technique first, and your client will have the information needed to respond by your deadline.