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The Secrets to Writing Business Emails without Overthinking

Posted by Elizabeth Levey
September 3, 2015

by Elizabeth Levey

elizabeth-levey-1Most of us today have a love/hate relationship with email.  It’s arguably the most common form of written business communication, but it’s so commonly misused and abused that it’s easy for it to lose its effectiveness. But writing a good business email shouldn't be a struggle.  Here are a few simple secrets to writing business emails that work, without overthinking it:

1. Make sure your subject line is specific: “Please read!”, “Important” or “Details” are too vague and unspecific to gain the attention of your reader. This also makes it more challenging for your reader to search and quickly find your email in their files should they need to reference it in the future. Use a few words to communicate something that is meaningful to your intended reader, for example, “Tuesday 3 pm meeting location.” No need to linger over exactly what to say, just get to the heart of your message. Also, it doesn’t have to be overly-long — 6-8 words usually does the trick.

2. Be concise, but be polite!: No need to snap, growl, or bark at your audience in your effort to send a brief email.  Take a quick moment and imagine how you would feel as the recipient if you were reading the message.  As always, words like “please” and “thank you” go a long way to drive home your true intentions. Remember, email is not supported by body language, facial expressions, or intonation.  A good guideline is five sentences: anything less than that may come across as curt or abrupt, and anything significantly more could be considered time-wasting.

3. Think (a bit...) before you emoji, over-punctuate, or text-speak: Multiple exclamation points, emojis, and text-speak are typically well-intended ways of conveying your enthusiasm and excitement. However, they are not the most appropriate when used in professional emails.  Before adding that smiley face at the end of a sentence, question if it's really conveying the professionalism the communication deserves. Otherwise, your reader may not LOL about it!

4. Make sure your signature block is clear, concise, and correctwriting-business-emails-2-1: Ensure that all necessary contact information is present, and when applicable, that any company branding is consistent. Does your signature block include information that is mandated by your organization? Make sure it's correct, and that important elements (links, graphics, etc.) are up to date.

5. Be sure to proofread and edit your emails before hitting send: Spellcheck can only get you so far — proofread or consider asking someone else to proofread your emails before you hit "send." Take an editing pass over your email before sending, and you reduce the mental worry that comes from possible mistakes in language, spelling, grammar, or tone.  If riddled with terrible grammar and punctuation, the most well-intentioned email from the most understandably busy person will cause a reader to wonder how you passed 10th grade English class.

6. Be sure to respond to any urgent or important emails promptly: If you need more than 24 hours to research an issue or make a decision, take the time to write a brief (but polite!) email explaining as much.  Then make yourself a calendar note or appointment to follow up by the promised deadline.

There’s no need to overthink things when attempting to write a business email, as long as you are clear, concise, and careful with your process. It will reduce the time you spend on email, make you more productive, and ensure your email is well-received by your intended audience. 

Have any other tips for writing a great business email?  Share in the comments below!

And while you're at it, check this out:

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