7 tips for writing great emails

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The ability to write effective emails does not only come in handy when you’re applying for a job. With most of our communication now being done online, it is an important skill to have for the rest of your professional life. To craft emails that get attention and show your professionalism, follow these seven tips:

  1. Write a meaningful subject line

    Subject lines should be clear. They should command attention. Make them short (around six to eight words) and descriptive. Most importantly, your subject line should convey a good idea of what your email is all about to encourage the recipient to open it. If you are sending a job application via email, check the want ad for specifications. Make sure to follow instructions (for example: “Application for Job code #12345”).

    Don’t use all caps just to grab attention. In fact, it could have the opposite effect as many spam email subject lines are written in capital letters. Also, don’t use “hello” or “hi” as the subject line. These do not provide a clue about what your email is all about. Writing “urgent” or “important” on the subject line can be annoying since what is important to you may not be as important to others.

  2. Distinguish between formal and informal emails

    Most emails should be formal in the workplace. However, we do send out less formal emails to our colleagues. A good gauge would be to consider the topic of the message you are sending and who the email will reach. You would not want your senior bosses to read your casual remarks and emoji-ridden replies to a very serious company issue (which reminds me, never use emojis when emailing a job application). For more tips on writing emails in the workplace, read 8 formal email etiquette tips you should remember.

    Regardless of the type of email, your tone should always be pleasant and respectful. Never be rude or worse, demanding. Observe courtesy and always say “thank you” when appropriate.

  3. Keep it brief but not curt

    Keep your emails brief and concise but make sure that you do not come off as blunt. Before you write, think of the most important points you need to say and mention them early on in the email. Imagine yourself talking to the person face to face to guide you when writing your message.

    In terms of construction, emails are similar to formal letters in that they should have a salutation, body and conclusion. Start with a greeting or intro to put everything in context (“Hello! I’m writing in response to your email about…”). The body is where you discuss the meat of your message and include the necessary details that you need to convey. The conclusion is where you remind your recipient what course of action you expect, and perhaps a line where to reach you for a reply. This is also where you close your email with a greeting and signature. Remember to keep it within three to four short paragraphs.

  4. Keep it clean

    Aside from not using “bad” words, a clean email means that your message doesn’t come with computer viruses. Make sure that your attachments are not infected and they are compressed, so as not to bog down your recipient’s system. Also, your attachment’s format should be readable by your recipient’s computer (check with them or else use commonly used formats like doc, pdf, txt, etc.). If you need to send high resolution photographs which are usually large files, don’t use email. It would be better to send it through a file-sharing site like Google Docs or Dropbox, or photo sharing sites like Facebook or Flickr.

  5. Proofread before you hit send

    Always check your spelling and grammar before clicking “send”. Also, fact check names (especially spellings), dates and other details. Consider your tone when you read the email (Is it friendly? Boring?). Read it aloud just to make sure. You can even send it to yourself first so that you’ll see how the email will look like. Also, be careful about clicking “reply to all” especially when the email is not relevant to everyone on the “to” line. Busy people will not appreciate it when you send them emails that they do not need.

  6. Don’t reply to an email when you are angry or tired

    Never answer an email when you are mad because you’ll probably write things that you will regret later. Let yourself cool down first so that you can think clearly, then consider the situation again from all angles. Be the bigger person and try to understand the sender and the situation. After this, write a clear answer or better yet, call the sender directly to know the real score.

    Answering an email (especially one that is long and well written) with an “Okay” or “Agree” when you are tired can come off as breezy. Unless it’s your intention, it says that you don’t really care. Always make an effort to write a thoughtful response that is at least made up two to three of sentences. You can point out why you agree and say “thank you” for the email if you really have nothing to add.

  7. Reply promptly

    Answer emails within 24 to 48 hours. If you need more time, send an acknowledgement email (Example: “Hello, I am working on your request for information on the case. However, I may need to conduct some research that will need more time. I will get back to you as soon as possible”). This shows that you are a professional and responsible person.

Article updated November 6, 2020.

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7 tips for writing great emails

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