Emails have become the primary source of communication for businesses all over the world. Whether it is emails between employees for the same company or emails between separate companies, the number of emails has increased drastically since our world has moved more and more towards virtual work.
Writing a business email is much different from writing an email to your friends or family members. Business emails must be professional, informational, and not overly relational. Although they still need to be friendly, especially if you’re writing an email to a potential customer or client. Here are ten tips for writing effective business emails.
Have you ever heard of the acronym TLDR? It stands for “too long, didn’t read.” The average person gets around 80 emails every single day. Your email should say what it needs to say in as few words as possible.
Most people do not sit and read every email that comes into their inbox. They are selective with which emails they open and which they delete or ignore. Then, if they open the email from you, they may skim over a long email or decide that it is too long to read at that exact moment before they forget about it. That is why it is essential to make your email informative but short and to the point.
Include your essential information, but do not draw it out excessively and needlessly. If a longer email is necessary, think about including a short summary section with any action steps that need to be taken near the top of the email for those that do not have time to read or may be in the habit of skimming longer emails they receive.
Because of the massive amount of emails that the average person receives every day, the subject line is the most important line of the entire email. The subject line grabs the attention of your audience as soon as they open up their email inbox and before they even click to open up the email and read what is inside.
Your subject line should tell the recipient exactly what is in the email and why they want to read it. When emailing coworkers or people you correspond with consistently, it can be easier to leave the subject line out completely. Avoid doing this at all costs, as an email with no subject can be marked as spam and never seen by the recipient of your email. It should be specific enough to let your audience know what is inside, but not so long that they can’t read the whole email.
Some examples are “Instructions for Upcoming Project,” or, if action is required of your audience, “Materials Due for Project,” “Action Required: Respond to Meeting Request.” These subject lines, personalized by you for your specific job and projects, will let the reader know that they need to open your email and read what is inside.
It is important for you to know who you are writing to and address your email accordingly. If you are writing to one person, use their name. “Hi Tom,” or “Tom,” are both acceptable if you are writing to a colleague named Tom. If you are not familiar with the person you are writing to, it may be best to use a more formal greeting, such as the last name, “Dear Mr. Smith,” or “Good afternoon Mr. Smith.”
If your email recipient has not met you yet, or if you have not corresponded with them before, make sure you identify yourself right away with your name, job title, and company, followed by your reason for writing. An example of this would be, “My name is Mary Jones, and I am the content manager for Melbado. We are interested in using your content for our website.” This is a short and easy way of greeting your recipient, making yourself known, and declaring your reason for the email.
Include clear instructions for any steps that need to be taken If your email includes action steps, you need to state those clearly and concisely. Make sure it is clear to the recipient if a response or other action is required. Use numbered lists or bullet points to line out what needs to be done and in what order.
You can also use formatting like bold, underline, italics, and even highlighting to make action steps, due dates, and important instructions stand out. The recipient of the email needs to know what you want from them, how you want it presented or formatted when it is due back to you, and any other pertinent details. Make sure you outline these fully in your email.
An example of this could be, “Please fill out this attached form and return it to me before noon on Friday. Make sure you fill out each section thoroughly and email it back to me with the subject line, ‘Completed Survey.'” In this instance, the reader would know that you need him/her to fill out the form you attached to the email, complete every question, and email it back to you with the subject line “Completed Survey.” There is little, if any, question as to what they need to do next to complete the task you have assigned.
You may assume that because it is a business email, you will be conversing with other individuals that understand specific terms and jargon for your industry, company, or business type. This is not necessarily the case. Terms and jargon can confuse newer employees or employees of other companies, especially if the industries and even regions differ.
Stay away from shortening words, acronyms, and other jargon unless you are absolutely sure that everyone receiving your email understands them fully. The point and subject of your email can be skewed if your audience does not fully understand what you are saying in your email.
If there is a document, PDF, or spreadsheet that needs to be attached to your email for the recipient’s further reference, make sure you mention that it is there. It can be as simple as adding the words “see attached” after you reference the attachment or at the end of the email. You can do this by saying something like this: “I have attached the spreadsheet of your duties to this email. Please review.” This informs the recipient that they need to review any attachments you have provided.
In addition, if you have provided attachments for your email readers, make sure that you actually attach them before you send the email. It is also best to describe the attachments you are assigning to your email. Some recipients of the email may assume that an attachment is spam if they do not know what it is. Title the attachment appropriately and describe it in your email. An example of this would be “Your invoice for the product is attached to this email.”
It seems pretty straightforward, but make sure that you do not include any informal words, emojis, or emoticons. These come across as overly casual and friendly and are not necessary for a professional environment. A business email should not contain these at all. Although emoji are cute, the tone of your email should be professional. Your recipient cannot hear the tone of your voice or read your body language. The professional tone of your email is very important.
Building off of the last point, your overall tone should be professional. It is important to remain friendly in tone as well, so don’t use all capital letters when you write any sentence in your email. Most people use all capitals when they are attempting to emphasize a point, due date, or specific instruction. However, a sentence with all capital letters can come across as very harsh and can even come across like yelling - which is not professional in any sense.
It may seem difficult to be friendly in tone while also maintaining professionalism. The key is to use professional language with the correct style and sentence structure. A professional email does not need to be cold and unfeeling.
The following short email would be overly friendly and not professional: “Hi Katie! Thanks soooo much for meeting me for coffee yesterday to chat. Here’s the document you requested! Bye!” Instead, you could say: “Good morning Katie, Thank you for meeting with me yesterday to go over our project. I’ve attached the document you requested. I look forward to meeting with you next week. Have a good rest of your day. Sincerely, Mary.”
The first email used too many exclamation marks, inappropriate and unprofessional language, and was too familiar. The second email is friendly but professional, uses no caps, emoji, or inappropriately friendly language. The second sentence achieves the goal of being friendly and professional at the same time.
When the mission of your email message is finally complete (and hopefully in a concise and straightforward, professional, and friendly way), thank your reader for his/her time and sign off.
Your reader should feel like you value them, their input, and their time. A simple example of this is just saying, “Thank you for your time,” or “Thank you.” You also can say, “I look forward to hearing from you,” if you are expecting a response.
It can be extremely embarrassing to have a typo in a professional email. Even though email communication is meant to be quick, it’s important that you check for any spelling or grammar errors. If your email doesn’t need to be sent immediately, let it sit for a few minutes after writing it. This can help catch any errors you may have made.
On another note, if your frustrations or emotions are high due to a related work issue, it can help if you have time to calm down and change your perspective before sending an email with harsh language you may regret. On both counts, it is essential to proofread before you send an email.
Writing a good, concise business email with the above ten steps can seem overwhelming and impossible if you can’t see it in action. Below is an example of an email that reaches all ten criteria.
Subject: Action Required - Notes on Team Project Due Wednesday
Good morning Tom,
My name is Mary, and I am the content manager at Melbado. My team has a project due on Wednesday of next week, and we would love your input. I have heard that you are an excellent editor, and we would like you to look over it before we submit it early Wednesday morning.
Please make note of anything that you would make changes to and return it to us by next Wednesday, October 20. We greatly appreciate your help on this, and we look forward to hearing from you very soon.
Have a great rest of your day,
In this example, all ten principles are used correctly for a well-written business email.
All in all, there are ten steps to writing better business emails. Using these steps, your tone can be clarified for your future emails to coworkers, employees, supervisors, vendors, and customers.
The most important part of writing better business emails is making sure your tone is professional and friendly without being casual or overly friendly.
It’s also important to identify yourself and your reason for the email. With a good subject line, professional tone, and concise, to-the-point content, your business email is certain to capture the attention of your audience.