How to write emails, like they do in the Nordics

You send an email and then you call that person to tell them you sent them an email. If you are at the office, you may also go to that person yourself to tell them you sent them this email.

OK, now. Have you ever been involved in this e-craziness? Raise your hands. Nodding also works. Email is still the most popular communication tool today. But it doesn’t have to create communication chaos either. It’s in our hands. Well, literally.

Writing a purposeful and meaningful email is one thing. Stalking friends or colleagues is another thing. People in the Nordics are well-known for their effective communication. So, we can take some lessons to improve ours, too. Alright, some might claim that Nordic people are sometimes… too effective in communication. Meaning they don’t communicate at all.

But there is one guiding principle behind this behaviour and you really need to find it out. Read on!

Why do we send so many emails in the first place?

You know what they say. When something is free, it is very easy to abuse it. Indeed, you are not charged a single penny or cent for hitting that “SEND” button in your email management tool.

Plus, you know you can reach the person you write to, 100% of the cases. OK, unless they have blacklisted you but this is seldom the case. This freedom and ease to send an email and expect an answer from its recipient ASAP (how 2010s is that?) lie at the core of the problem.

Read on for tips on how to save yours and other people’s sanity!

3 questions before you hit the button

Listen! We, humans, make decisions based on rational and emotional criteria. Flooding others’ email boxes with messages is usually triggered by our emotional part. We need to talk. We need to say things right now. And demand an answer. This is how humanity is wired. And for good reason.

But when it comes to communication (we dare say in all its forms, not only the written but also the oral way), we need to have empathy. It’s important to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Will I be stalking them if I send them another email? Putting too much pressure on them, whilst it’s not necessary?

And we also need to involve our rational part. What’s my goal with this email? Does it make sense to send it and ask for a prompt response? All in all, you need to ask yourself these three questions below, before hitting SEND. 100% inspired by the Nordics (and common sense too!).

#1 Is my email clear and concise?

From the title to the message body, your emails need to be clear and concise, if you are to trigger a response that makes sense. Go straight to the point, this is something that people in the Nordics very well know how to do. No need for unnecessary intros and small talk. And there is also no need to put all your creativity in the email title. Putting a “Hi” or even worse “[No subject]” won’t get you far. Don’t make other people’s life miserable. Clarity and simplicity win.


#2 Do I need to involve other people?

Simple because there is the CC option, it doesn’t mean you need to abuse it. CC’ing the boss or the whole team in any email you send is not effective. Apart from making their inbox cluttered, you also jeopardize the trust you may have built with other people. Not everyone is to be involved in the thread. There are always ways to update any third party offline, if at all. In the Nordics, there is a flat hierarchy overall and that helps significantly reduce non-necessary communication and delays. Trust the Danes!


#3 Do I really need to send this now, if at all?

Email notifications all day (and night) long is one of the most common factors associated with work stress. You really do not need to send a new meeting request email at 2 am. Chances to get a response in the middle of the night are really low. It’s about work-life balance. And you know what? In the Nordics, people may frown upon you if you get to send emails in the middle of the night. To them, it’s a sign you are not productive during the day at the office. And in general. And this is probably true.

But you know what? Most of the times, the most important reason to ask yourself before sending an email is this one: Do I really have to send it, at all? Sometimes, it’s best to go talk to the other person face to face. E-communication has really speeded things up, perhaps too much. But talking on a 1-to-1 level can sometimes work wonders. More than you can imagine.

Keep it personal and meaningful!

Image: Ulf Huett Nilsson/