Ten Tips For Writing an Effective Email

We’re all busy, and we’ve all received long, ambiguous and rambling emails. Most of us have also been guilty of writing such emails while requesting someone else’s time.  Whether personal or business, the ability to compose efficient and effective email is very useful – both in terms of productivity and responsiveness.  Here are some tips for writing more effective emails.

1. Keep It Short

This benefits you and the person on the receiving end of your email, particularly if that person is busy like you.  Cut out any unnecessary words, address the most essential parts of your inquiry, and use paragraphing liberally to break the email up into short, sweet, easily read parts.

2. Keep It Sweet

Greet your recipient by name, and sign off with your name.  Always use greetings, introductions, and sign-offs.  Opening and closing your correspondence appropriately reflects respect and consideration for the recipient of your email.

3. Re-read Once

You can go back and edit typos in a blog post or article, but you only get one chance with emails. It’s important that your meaning and expression is clear, especially when making pitches or networking with other people.  Also, remember that spell checking is not enough. Typos and mistakes that form other valid words (e.g., lose and loose) will not be corrected by the spell checker. Proofreading is key.

4. Use The Subject Line To Your Advantage

The subject line is the advertisement for your email.  It often determines whether we even open a message or not.  Make your subject succinct and to the point without being vague.  Be short, sweet, and specific.  For example, a subject line that says “Meeting” may not clearly outline what your email is about.  Try something slightly more to the point, such as “Follow Up to Friday’s Meeting,” or “Agenda For This Friday’s Meeting.”  The recipient will know what to expect when they open your message.

5.  Avoid attachments

Unless you are sending a document that the recipient has requested or needs, don’t attach too many things to your email.  Almost all images and documents can be copied and pasted directly into the email itself, saving the time of downloading, saving, and opening an attachment.

6. Identify Yourself Clearly

Don’t assume the recipient knows who you are.  When contacting someone new or unfamiliar, always include your name, occupation, and any other important identification information in the first few sentences.  Usually a work email address will include your name, but if not, make sure you sign your email.  If you are sending an email to a new or casual acquaintance, it always helps to jog the memory with something like “it was nice meeting you in the elevator yesterday,” so that they have an idea of who you are.

7.  Make It Easy To Be Found

In your signature, include appropriate URLs for your website, blog, portfolio or product. Make sure the links are functional so they can read more about you in one-click.

8.  Use Simple English

When the writing is too formal or uses irrelevant technical lingo, it is difficult for laymen to understand. Plus, you come off sounding like a legal document or spammer. Neither is good.  Write like you talk, using conversational English.  Be authentic and realistic.  Trying to sound too professional will come across as just that—too professional. Use your real voice – it’s more endearing and approachable.

9. Respond Promptly

If you want to appear professional and courteous, make yourself available to your online correspondents. Even if your reply is, “Sorry, I’m too busy to help you now,” at least your correspondent won’t be waiting in vain for your reply.

10. Minimize Questions

Ask questions that matter, and limit the number of questions and favors you ask in an email (one or two max). The more questions you ask, the less likely you are to get a response, and the less likely all your questions will be answered. Also, ask specific questions instead of open-ended ones.  You can send additional questions in separate emails; the key is to keep your message from overwhelming the recipient so you get the response you need.

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