Email is a fantastic form of communication that can be as easily adapted to quick back-and-forth conversations as long, detailed explanations. While you could, in theory, write an email that’s as short and casual as a text to your best friend or as long and formal as a legal document, most of your emails are probably going to fall somewhere between the two in terms of length and complexity.
This is particularly true of work emails. When you’re representing yourself on a professional level and communicating with anyone who’s important to your business, it’s vital that you’re able to communicate clearly and look professional while doing so.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to help you compose concise, effective emails for your business.
1) Use a Compelling Subject Line
The Radicati Group estimates that the average business email address receives nearly 100 emails per day. No, you didn’t misread that; their research indicates that by 2019 business-oriented email accounts will receive 96 daily messages, a mere 19 of which are full-blown spam.
This means that your email is competing with 95 others to catch the attention of whomever you’re trying to talk to. Therefore, to get your email noticed, you’re going to need an enticing, succinct subject line. Keep it short, and relevant to your target’s interests.
2) Use Work-Appropriate Greetings and Farewells
You never want an email from your work address to look inappropriate, so always open and close with greetings and farewells using the right tone. Start your emails with a greeting that’s not too formal or too casual, and do the same for the ending.
If you’re emailing your coworker, Doug, don’t write “Hey Dougy” or “Yo Doug” as your intro; a simple “Hello Doug” or “Hi Doug” strikes the appropriate balance. If you’re emailing someone you don’t know too well, a slightly more formal approach like “Dear Mr. Adams” may suit the circumstances. Just don’t go overboard with the honorifics and flattery; ”To the Distinguished Mr. Doug J. Adams III” would sound both stuffy and silly in most situations.
Take the same approach to your closings. “Thank you,” “Thank you for your time,” or “Sincerely,” followed by your name would work just fine most of the time.
If you’re emailing someone outside of your company, you should also include your title or position within the company as part of your sign-off; that way the recipient has a better idea of who’s sending the email. Consider creating a signature with all this information and it will be in all your emails by default.
3) Think Before You Write
If you know your email is going to run on the long side, try writing yourself an outline before you even start typing it. This will help keep you organized and focused as you write.
Most of the time you’ll likely be perfectly fine with a relatively short email, however. If it’s not critical to go into a drawn-out explanation, then don’t; you may be better off simply attaching a relevant explanatory document or offering to go into more detail later if you’re unsure whether your reader wants the extra info.
Unless it’s a marketing email, you can probably lay off the fancy graphics and fonts too. Stick to a clean style with a standard font, free of excessive pictures and colors. You might be able to change your text to reflect every color of the rainbow, but your boss probably doesn’t want to see that in a work email.
4) Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.
Quality matters. If you want to be understood and taken seriously, make sure your emails are free of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Even common errors can make it harder for your reader to understand you and, quite frankly, sending off an error-ridden email gives the impression that you simply didn’t care enough about the message to check it for mistakes.
From coworkers and leads to customers and bosses, you want to be taken seriously when you’re sending an email. In order to do this you must grab your target’s attention, start and end on an appropriate note, write a coherent message, and double check it for clarity.