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 online, it is an important skill to have for the rest of your professional life.

Follow these seven tips to help you make excellent emails:

  1. Write a meaningful subject line

    The best subject lines are clear and descriptive. Aim for six to eight words. Your subject line should convey what your email is about and encourage the recipient to open it.

    For job applications, check the want ad for specifications. Sometimes, they prescribe a format like “Application for Job code #12345”. Make sure to follow instructions. Subject line formats help recruiters sort applications for their openings.

    Subject lines to avoid:

    • Using all caps to grab attention. This could have the opposite effect. Your email may be flagged as spam.
    • “Hello” or “Hi”. These do not provide a clue about what your email is all about. It can also be too casual for the workplace.
    • Adding “urgent” or “important”. This 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.

    To figure out your tone, always consider the topic of the message and who the email will reach. This should tell you the level of formality you need to convey. However, regardless of the type of email, you should always be pleasant and respectful. Never be rude or worse, demanding. Observe courtesy and always say “thank you” when appropriate. Use emojis only when you know that it fits your company culture, or if the email is for a work friend. For more tips on writing emails in the workplace, read 8 formal email etiquette tips you should remember.

  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.

    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…”). Next is the body is where you discuss the meat of your message. Include only the necessary details you need to convey. The conclusion is where you remind your recipient what course of action you expect, and 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. They should also be compressed. A large file can bog down your recipient’s system. Also, the attachment’s format should be readable by your recipient’s computer (check with them or use common formats like doc, pdf, txt, etc.). You can also consider using a file-sharing site like Google Docs or Dropbox, or photo sharing sites like Facebook or Flickr for large files.

  5. Proofread before you hit send

    Always check your spelling and grammar before clicking “send”. Also, check names (especially spellings), dates and other details. Consider your tone when you read the email. See if it’s friendly and informative. Read it aloud to make sure. You can even send it to yourself first to 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 do not appreciate receiving emails 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. You’ll probably write things that you’ll regret later. Let yourself cool down first so that you can think clearly. Consider the situation from all angles. Try to understand the sender and the situation. Figure out if it is better to send an email or to make a phone call.

    Answering an email when you’re tired with an “Okay” or “Agree” 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. I will need more time to look at the files. I will get back to you as soon as possible”). This shows that you are a professional and responsible person.

Article updated November 22, 2023.

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7 tips for writing great emails

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