How to Write a Great Email
I never gave much thought to my email-writing skills until someone complimented me on them recently.
The person was saying how good communication skills don’t come naturally to everyone and that one of my strengths at work is my ability to communicate effectively in writing…apparently a talent I have been busy overlooking.
So I thought I would share some of my personal tips for writing a great email, in case you may want to give yours a second glance:
1) Always start with a proper greeting. I don’t dive into emails without a “Hi XX” and a “Hope you are well” to back that up. It doesn’t matter if the contact is junior or senior, a client or not, I like to treat the correspondence with respect and a little personal touch to start on the right foot. And yes, this applies to strangers as well. I hope they are doing well, too! It’s not an awkward statement that requires a response (i.e. “how was your weekend?”), it’s just a simple snippet that sets a polite, engaged tone.
2) Keep it short. If the topic at hand requires a lengthy conversation, I use an email to preface it and ask for a follow up call to “discuss in more detail.” Don’t put an entire strategy in an email (attach as a separate document, if you need to), don’t dive into controversial topics and don’t use it as a forum to vent anything that shouldn’t be put into writing. These days, more and more emails are being read on-the-go, on cell phones or tablets, and anything that looks too long or in-depth will give the recipient an insta-headache.
3) Break it up. If I do have a chunk of information or feedback I need to communicate or share to start a discussion, I always either break it up into multiple small paragraphs or put it in bullet form. It’s easier on the eye and the mind and lets the reader digest in bite-sized nuggets and reply to each one individually. The only emails that should be one paragraph are one-liners. Give each individual thought/request/detail its own space.
4) Befriend your BCC line. This may or may not apply to your business, but BCC is one of my favorite things about email. Here’s how I use it – in bullet form, of course 😉
- I use it on group correspondence where I know people will reply with their thoughts and I don’t want everyone on the chain to have their inboxes bogged down. I often start those notes with a “pardon the BCC, but don’t want to clog your inbox” so that people know there are other people on the thread but their replies won’t go to everyone (note: more room moms really need to learn this trick of the trade).
- I also use it when someone has e-introduced me to a contact but doesn’t need to be on the resulting back and forth. I move the person who made the introduction to the BCC line on my reply and again address it up top with a “thanks for the intro, X; I am moving you to BCC so you can skip the back and forth.”
- Finally, I use it on any mass invitations, announcements, etc for clients where we want to keep the recipient list under wraps. I double and triple check before hitting send and I put myself in the “to” line so I can see how the email comes through to everyone.
5) Adopt a proper email tone. I can’t define this one for you because every industry is different, but in my business (public relations and marketing) that means keeping emails in a middle ground between formal and casual. I don’t use the same verbiage I would use in a new business proposal or client strategy presentation, but I also don’t use the same tone I would use in an email to my sister. I walk a middle line because emails, by nature, are meant to be succinct and easy-to-digest, but they are still a form of professional correspondence and should be treated as such.
6) Sign off with a little style. Which leads to my last point: signing off. As I do with a proper greeting, I like to close my emails with a proper closing. It’s typically as simple as “thank you” or “many thanks” and then my name followed by my formal e-signature. It’s never an abbreviated “ty” or “thx” unless it’s a close friend/colleague and it is NEVER accompanied by x’s and o’s if it’s at all related to anything professional. Ever. I choose not to bog down my signature with icons and graphics (I know some employers require this) because I find them annoying, but I do include my name, title, link to my professional web site and direct phone number for easy access. No need to include your email address there again…they just got an email from you with that. And when I reply, I always take an extra second to make sure I am spelling the person’s name right because it blows my mind every single time when someone replies to an email from me and starts it with “Hi Racula…”
Hope some of this was helpful! With that, I am back to work! Have a good Monday. xx
*photo by Fawn Christiansen