There's a difference between writing an email and writing a truly effective email. Brushing up on your email writing skills can be the difference between getting a prompt, favorable response or a swift deletion. Boost your email skills with these 10 powerful tips and you'll be on your way to crafting effective messages that get results.
Craft a Meaningful Subject Line
When writing an email, it's important to use an informed, detailed subject line. When a reader sees the subject line, the wording should immediately reveal what the message is about. It should also be relevant enough to the content of the message that it includes a term the recipient would be likely to search for if it becomes necessary to find the email again. This can determine whether readers open your message and if they'll be able to find it later, both of which are important for effective email messages.
Open With an Appropriate Greeting
When writing an email, avoid the temptation to dive directly into your request on the very first line. Instead, just like you would with a letter, open with an appropriate salutation. This social nicety can make a professional impression while helping you to connect with the recipient. Be sure to use the appropriate level of formality.
- For a formal greeting, it's generally best to use Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss, followed by the person's last name. You could also use both their first name and surname.
- For a less formal greeting, you could just use the person's first name followed by a comma (Leanne,) or add Dear or even Hi in front of the name.
Focus on the Overall Email Purpose
Whether you're writing an out-of-office message or an email to a teacher, keep it in mind as you craft the content. Emails should be brief and directly to the point, so everything you include in the message should convey information specific to the reason you decided to send an email. Paragraphs should be brief, with no more than one main idea. All information included in an email should support the main point. Extraneous information should be removed. If the person needs to know information not related to the purpose, send a separate email specific to whatever topic it is about.
Organize Emails Appropriately
Consider how your message should best be organized before you begin writing. People often skim over emails, so you should organize your message to make it as easy as possible for readers to quickly get the information they need. Use short paragraphs and bullet points to make information easy to digest. Place appropriate headings over paragraphs to help direct readers to key information. If you're trying to give instructions, consider providing numbered lists, with each step on a different line. Don't use all caps, nonstandard or cutesy fonts, or multiple font colors. These things make emails hard to read.
Use Proper Email Spacing
It's important to use proper spacing in an email. This helps ensure that the document is easy for readers to digest and process. Don't just write a single long paragraph for readers to decipher.
- Leave a blank line between the greeting and the beginning of the message by hitting the return key.
- Use short, single-spaced paragraphs that start at the margin rather than being indented.
- Leave a blank line between paragraphs so readers know when one topic or point ends and another begins.
- Leave a blank line between the last sentence of the email and the text that draws the message to a close.
Use Appropriate Language
If you are sending emails to business contacts or other professional colleagues, be sure to use formal language and formatting appropriate for business communication. Avoid slang, texting abbreviations and emojis. You can be somewhat less formal with personal contacts, but you should still keep in mind that an email should be structured more like an actual letter rather than a super-casual text or direct message (DM) conversation.
Write With the Right Tone
When writing an email, it's important to consider the overall tone of your message. Don't just focus on what you want the tone to be, but look closely at what you have written as if you were the recipient so you can get a realistic sense of the tone could be interpreted. When trying to get a see of the tone, it can be very helpful to read your message out loud. If you know the recipient, consider their personality type and how they tend to respond to certain types of messages, so you can avoid triggering a negative response.
Never Email in Anger
Never write an email while you're angry and hit send right away. Any time you're writing an emotionally charged message, write what you think you want to say, then edit it so that it features what you should say. Don't edit the message immediately after you finish it, as you're probably still angry. Leave it alone a while before finalizing it for sending. A little time and distance can provide you with the perspective you need to keep from making a difficult situation get even words. Check out some examples of how to write clear, polite emails to see this advice in action.
Send Error-Free Emails
Make sure you're sending the right message about your level of professionalism by sending error-free email messages. Most email applications have a built-in spell check feature that will look for misspelled words and basic grammar errors as you type. Use this feature, but also proofread carefully prior to sending an email. Once you click send, you can't get the message back! If your email app doesn't have this functionality, consider writing in a word processing application that does, then copying your work to an email after you have finished writing and checking it for accuracy.
Close Politely With a CTA
At the end of an email message, it's important that you don't just allow the message to trail off at the end. Instead, end with a call to action (CTA) that specifically states what you're expecting (or hoping for) from the reader. Then, skip a line and add a closing greeting, such as "Regards," "Sincerely," "Best Wishes," or similar. Then, leave a blank line and type your name. If you don't have a built-in signature block, add information like your job title, company name, phone number, and email address. If there's an attachment, notate this below your signature by stating "Attachments" at the end.
Sample Email Messages: Formal vs. Informal
Now that you're reviewed 10 key email writing tips, you may find it helpful to review a few examples of email messages. The sample emails below illustrate the difference between formal and informal email formats.
Formal Email: Writing to a Business Contact
In the sample below, someone is thanking a potential employer or business associate for their time. You might also use a formal email to follow up on a job interview. Notice that no contractions are used and the language is quite proper. No presumptions are made, but gentle reminders of how to get in touch are established.
Subject line: Portfolio Submission - J. Abilene
Dear Mr. Green:
Thank you for taking the time to review my portfolio. I would be delighted to speak with you further about the future of your graphic design department. It sounds like you have some very exciting changes coming down the pipeline.
Please feel free to call me on my cell phone anytime at (212) 871-3498. Of course, you can also reach me via email as well. I look forward to getting to know you better.
Informal Email: Writing to a Friend
In an informal email, (almost) anything goes. If the recipient is a friend or personal acquaintance, generally speaking, you can loosen your language a bit. That said, remember that whenever you hit "send" on an email or text, it becomes a permanent fixture that can resurface in the future. So, no matter the context, choose your words wisely.
Subject line: Appreciation and Invitation
Thanks so much for helping me update my portfolio. Because of what you did for me, I was able to land an interview with AdExact's Marketing Department!
I definitely owe you some coffee. Are you interested in meeting up at Greenwich Village this Thursday? I'd love to treat you to one of those Mocha Frappuccinos you love!
Apply Email Writing Tips to Get Noticed
With a constant stream of email messages causing inbox overcrowding, people often focus on email messages that truly seem important. To get your email read, you need to get it noticed first. That's exactly what the tips provided above will help you do. Using these tips will help you capture the attention of message recipients and keep them engaged. That has to happen first; then they'll be motivated to read the entire contents of your message.
Expand Your Written Communication Skills
Now that you're ready to craft effective emails, dedicate some time to expanding your letter-writing skills. Begin by making sure you know how to write a letter. Next, master the art of writing a basic thank you letter. Once you've mastered that and you're ready for more advanced letter writing, turn your attention to learning how to write a complaint letter. Soon you'll be an expert in crafting powerful written communication!