Have you ever gotten one of those rambling emails in which the request is buried somewhere in a sea of asides? Given that it is from your boss, you press on trying to divine what the &%#@^ she is asking for! (note, all examples are fictional and any resemblence between current and past bosses and this example is purely coincidental).

Alternatively, you receive an email that clearly articulates its purpose in the first two lines and a quick scan tells you what to do or even whether it is applicable to you. If you would rather receive (or send) the second type of email, read on to learn about the ASK/ACTION format.

What are you ASKing of me?

An ASK/ACTION Email looks something like this:

Ask-Action Email Format

The Elements of an ASK

There are four parts to an ASK/ACTION email that help to make it clear:

  1. SUBJECT:  that provides a summary and the deadline.
  2. ASK: What is the context for this email.
  3. ACTION: What do the recipient(s) need to do; a clear statement of what needs to be done, by whom and by when.
  4. BODY: Additional details as applicable.

After the two liner, additional information is provided to flush out the request.  Nevertheless, this is the ASK/ACTION email format.

Bonus Points and Additional Links

Some other thoughts and suggestions when using an ASK/ACTION email:

  • If you are using the Lost Assignment and Task Epidemic methodology, consider using the TASK name in the subject line.
  • Send one email for one ASK/ACTION; apologize though and note if multiple emails are coming through.
  • Personalize your emails if possible.
  • For group emails, consider following up with a short conference call to explain the ask, this allows for more than one channel of communication.
  • Send a meeting invite out as a reminder only, thus the above email would be converted to a meeting with a location of ‘Reminder Only’ for 2099-12-31 at 4pm.
  • Use the BCC to reduce email churn but notify people at the beginning, for example: You have been BCC’d to protect your privacy.
  • If you are including documents but have a shared repository (e.g. network drive, SharePoint, etc) note that there is a courtesy attachment but specify the master version with a link: Master Version: M-Drive:2098-2099\Analysis\HelpMe\.

Some other links and thoughts on this: