A lot of people struggle to write good emails. We worry that our messages are too long, too indirect, don’t have the appropriate tone, or aren’t engaging. Is this a concern for you? Read on! I’ve shared some tips to help you feel confident about your email approach.
Include all these elements in your emails
Subject Line: This is more important than you might think. Imagine that your reader opens her email and has 50 new messages to deal with. Writing a compelling subject line will ensure that yours gets opened right away. Try to clearly describe what the email is about, but do it in an interesting way. Make her want to read yours first.
Examples: New workshop opportunity, A little something for new members, Suggestions for your portfolio language
Greeting/Intro/Opener: The greeting is also important, but the way you write it depends on your audience. Skipping the greeting is usually too casual, but writing something like “Dear Sir or Madam,” is much too formal. Your greeting should reflect the relationship you have with the reader. In addition to an appropriate greeting, you might also want to begin with a little small talk, some context for the conversation, or a quick preface to explain why you’re writing. This helps you connect, provides a nice transition to your main point, and shows the reader why continuing is worthwhile.
Intro/Opener examples: How are things going in L.A.?, Corrine mentioned that you’re designing a new portfolio…, I wanted to follow up about the workshop…
Body: Include all the necessary info, but keep it concise. Give your reader the context and the information they need to take action, but stick to the main points and present them in a direct and logical way. You want your email to be professional, easy to read, and valuable. Show your reader that you respect their time by not writing more than you need to.
Conclusion: Your conclusion should reiterate your call to action, if you have one. If you’re asking someone for a meeting, suggest a date and time. When asking for a favor, remind the reader what you need and when you need it by. If you’re offering something, invite the reader to follow up with questions.
Closing: Just like the greeting, you should choose a closing that is appropriate for your relationship to the reader. “Thanks!” might be appropriate for a friend or coworker, but “Very Truly Yours” would be too much, right? If you’re not sure, “Thank You” or “Best Regards” are always a good bet.
Consider your audience while writing
One way to write good emails is to think about your audience and why you are writing to them. This is especially important as new forms of office communication, like Slack, become common. Slack is a great tool for quick questions, collaboration, and informal conversation. But if you’re writing an email, there is an expectation of good etiquette that is a bit more formal and structured than texting or Slack. Have empathy for your reader and don’t waste their time by writing carelessly. Make your emails worthwhile and they are more likely to be read first in the future.
You don’t want to go the other direction and be too formal either. You always want to be professional in your email, but when people write very formally, they tend to be too wordy and write more passively. It’s not engaging. Use active voice whenever possible, and revise your email to keep it engaging and clear. When in doubt, try to write the way you would speak to your reader. A great way to test this is to read your email aloud to see if it’s clear and if the tone feels right.
The goal is to find the balance between being polite and being direct. Of course you always want to be polite, but don’t waste your reader’s time with too much hedging. Get to the point quickly. For example, instead of writing “I was hoping we might be able to meet for coffee if you’re free sometime,” just write “I’d like to meet for coffee if you have time.” It’s faster and makes you sound more confident.
Finally, consider the purpose of the email when choosing the tone. Writing to ask your boss for vacation time is different than writing a newsletter to your followers or writing a cold pitch to a new potential client. A newsletter should be warm and engaging, while a request for time off should be polite and to the point. A cold pitch should be a combination!
Avoid these mistakes in your emails
One of the most common problems with emails is that they are too long. Although it might be tempting to give your reader all the details up front, there’s a better chance they’ll skim instead of read. Keep your information essential and specific. If you need to share a lot of details, consider a meeting instead. Show that you respect their time by being concise. They can always ask for clarification or more details.
Another one is going overboard with exclamation points. As an ESL teacher, I am totally guilty of this one. We are trained to be very expressive with our voices and body language to help our learners stay engaged and this translates into waaaaaay too many exclamation points. 😆 I literally have to go back through my newsletters and delete some every time.
It takes time to write good emails. Don’t write bad emails just because they’re faster. When you have a million things to do, it can be tempting to just shoot off an email the way you might send out a text. Don’t do it. Make your emails worth reading. This means checking for spelling and grammar errors. If you don’t already have Grammarly, today is a great day to install it!
Finally, be careful with negative content. It’s very easy to create misunderstandings through written communication, so be sure to write with empathy for your reader. If you need to talk about something difficult, taking time for a meeting where you can use body language might be better.
I hope these suggestions will help you feel more confident about your email approach. These tips are just the basics, but if you follow them, you can hit that send button with confidence.