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Real Words that Work - You have about five seconds

By Patricia Davies, President, Patricia Davies Communications

You have about five seconds
Guess what a colleague did with an email that started this way: 
“Subject: Ref to my call today
It’s great to get connected to you. Hope you are doing fine. With a view of exploring a mutual benefit synergy between you and ABC Inc. I tried reaching you over the phone, but unfortunately couldn’t reach you at your desk. Further to our meet last time at the Software Convergence, we wanted to rejuvenate our relationship to the next level.”   

Readers decide instantly whether they will continue reading an email. You have about five seconds of their attention before they move on. My colleague, a vice-president at a national non-profit, was utterly confused. “I don’t know this person, don’t remember meeting him and don’t have a clue what he is going on about.” She sent me a copy as an example of “horrible writing” and deleted it. 

At the end of the email the writer mentioned a piece of software that might be useful to my colleague’s organization, but she was too irritated to follow up. He could have grabbed her attention with a subject line such as “XYZ can help smooth communication among project teams” and moved on to explain how. No need to rejuvenate a relationship to the next level. 

Tip: If you’re drowning in email, check out for 10 Rules to End the email spiral.

Patricia Davies is an award-winning writer and editor, an Endorsed Education Provider (EEP) with IIBA®, and a regular panelist on the IIBA “Being a BA: Effective Communication” Webinar (first Tuesday of every month). Do you have a writing question? Please email to and we’ll try to address it in a future column or webinar.