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6 Tips For Writing Better Emails

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you have an email account. You may well have several – perhaps separate accounts for professional and personal contacts.

It’s easy to assume that we know how to use email effectively: it’s been around for long enough. But if you find yourself struggling to communicate effectively by email, these six tips should help:

#1: Start With an Appropriate Salutation

Some people jump straight into the text of an email without so much as a “hi”. It’s polite to add a salutation, just as you would with a letter.

That might look like:

Dear Sir/Madam

Dear Mr. Johnson

Hi Sue

Hello Fred

Your salutation needs to be appropriate. If you’re writing to a prospective employer, “Dear Mr. Johnson” is probably the best way to go. “Hi Bob” is going to look unprofessional.

But don’t assume that formality is always the right answer. If you’re writing to a friend of a friend, using “Dear” plus their surname is going to seem oddly stilted.

If in doubt, “Dear [firstname]” will usually work just fine.

 

#2: Get Straight to the Point

Your correspondent won’t want to wade through paragraphs of waffle – so get straight to the point. If you’re writing to someone out of the blue, don’t give them your life story before you make a request.

Getting straight to the point might mean that the first line of your email (after the salutation) looks something like this:

I’m working on an article about Acme Widgets for XYZ publication, and wondered if you had a few minutes to answer the following three questions.

Could you supply me with a quote for the following project?

I’d like to discuss the revisions with you. Would Tuesday at 2pm be a good time?

I’ve attached the documents you requested at our meeting yesterday.

You may well need to include more details, but if you put the important point up front, your email is more likely to get a timely response. If your question comes too far down, the recipient may not even realise that you need a reply.

 

#3: Keep it Short

Try to keep your email as short as possible. Make the paragraphs short, too – long paragraphs can be difficult to read and take in.

Do make sure you give enough information for your correspondent to be able to make a decision, if that’s required. You might find that it’s best to offer this as an attachment – you’ll have more flexibility over formatting, and your correspondent can print out the attachment easily.

 

#4: Use Numbered Points

If you’ve got several questions or points to make, it’s very helpful to number them. This makes it easy for the other person to respond to each one, especially if some just require a yes/no response or a single word answer.

For instance:

Could you let me know:

  1. 1. How much it would cost for the website design
  2. 2. How much for the website design plus a tri-fold brochure
  3. 3. Whether you could complete #2 by the end of April

It’s also useful to list your questions or points as bullets in this way; if you write a single paragraph, some of your questions might get missed.

 

#5: Re-read and Use Spell-Check

A typo or spelling mistake can turn one word into an entirely different one. If you’re using email in a professional capacity, that mistake could be embarrassing – or even offensive. It might alter the whole meaning of your email: a missing “not”, for instance, could potentially cause problems.

Spell-check should help you avoid any silly mistakes – but use your eyes and brain too. There are plenty of words that spell-check won’t pick up. If you’re emailing from a device with predictive text and an auto-correct feature, make sure you always re-read what you’ve typed.

 

#6: Make Your Signature Useful

Do you have an email signature? (That’s the text that appears automatically at the bottom of your email.) Some people don’t use one at all; others have a funny quote or favorite saying.

Whether you’re using email for professional or personal reasons, make your signature useful for both you and your recipient. That might mean:

  • Giving the link to your website
  • Including your work address and/or phone number
  • Adding links to your social media accounts
  • Putting in a line to promote your recent book / blog / product

If your email provider allows it, you may even want to create several signatures to use for different purposes (e.g. one for emailing friends, one for new business contacts).

Do you have any great tips to add? Or any pet hates that crop up in your inbox? Let us know in the comments…

 

  • http://dissertationtoday.com/ dissertations

    i am out of topic but i wanted to say – be happy in this new year!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I also want to add that you should BOLD points that you want them to read immediately.  I do this in almost all of my emails now no matter how short.  This helps them to identify key points immediately.

  • http://belly-fat-loser.com/ Steve Faber

    It’s amazing how few people, especially business people, take full advantage of their email sigs. My God, it;s right there, at the bottom of every email, just waiting to be read, if you’d only put something important there…..

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  • fjpoblam

    In emails I receive, I think #1 conflicts with #2. Get to the point. No greeting is needed. 

    Further, learn to write. “Please supply me with..”? “Please give me..”!

    http://www.copyblogger.com/ernest-hemingway-top-5-tips-for-writing-well/

  • Terri

    Don’t forget the subject line. Nothing is worse than having an email with important information be lost in the shuffle because the subject line read “Hi there”.

  • http://www.sundeepmachado.com Sundeep Joseph Machado

    The subject line is always important. Thankfully Outlook has a way to tell the user that there is no subject line.

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  • Pbhailey

    Another tip on the subject line…if your message is short, sometimes putting it in the subject line is all that is necessary. I.E. “Today’s board meeting has been cancelled.” or “Articles for the newsletter are due today.”

  • Onesharbear

    Nothing in the subject line! If there isn’t a clue as to what the email is, I just delete it. Take time to inform.

  • http://www.uktonercartridges.co.uk/ ink cartridges for printers

     how to create signature give an idea please

  • http://www.techx64.com Tushar Agarwal

    The signature links in an email is very useful but since i use gmail i have to manually add link everytime. Any work around for this?

  • Mrogatinsky

    cc only as necessary and no need to reply “you’re welcome” to a thank you note. 

  • Lucy SS

    Use bcc when sending to a group to protect your email recipients email addresses!  For the To: line, create an email address that’s called “Undisclosed Recipients” and then use your own email address.  This is proper email etiquette very often violated!

  • JAD

    Really helpful in this day and age.  We all can use improvement in communication.  Every day is a new day!

  • Alicia

    If you are using Outlook 2007 or newer you can also add a reminder/due date for the recipient.  I find this to be very helpful.

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  • http://bebrainfit.com/ Deane Alban

    And please, don’t send me an email in all CAPS! I don’t feeling like I’m being shouted at.