Ever wondered how to make your work emails as effective as possible? In this article, we’ll explore three skills that will help you get better results.
The first email (or ‘e-mail’) was sent by a computer engineer called Ray Tomlinson in 1971, but sadly, the content of this message is lost to history. In 2021, 319.6 billion emails were sent every day, according to Statista. Compare this to 2017, when 169 billion emails were sent, and we’ve already seen an enormous increase.
So, emails are an essential part of communication in modern society. But do you know your email etiquette?
Many would agree that email writing is an essential skill in today’s working world. And because it’s a skill, it can be developed. So, here are a few email top tips to make your messages better.
Professional email dos and don’ts
Let’s start off with what NOT to do. Check out our video below by the University of York’s Mike Dunn to find out how emails can end up being annoying if you choose to exploit their weaknesses rather than strengths.
Instead of doing some of the things Mike describes, try asking some of these questions to yourself before sending an email:
- Is email the right (or wrong) tool for the job?
- How is your email written?
- Can you use the features of email to your advantage?
- Should you really press send?
How to write an email for work
Now, let’s get into our top three tips for writing effective work emails. If you follow these basic rules, you should be able to navigate workplace communication with less stress.
1. Be brief
People in the modern workplace get a lot of emails – so, make it as easy as possible for your recipient and keep it as short as you can. If you have a lengthy or complex message to convey, your email is a good way to set up a meeting or call to address this later.
Remember though, if you’re working in the same place as your colleague, it may be easier to talk to them in person. Make sure that you’re not sending a brief email just to avoid personal interaction.
Your email’s subject line is a great way to summarise your message, helping your reader to understand the context of your email.
Here it’s good to include why you’re sending the email. For example, if you have a specific request or want to invite the reader to something, mention it here. It’s also worth remembering that many emails are viewed on mobile, which can cause trouble with longer subject lines.
Getting down to business after you’ve greeted and thanked your reader can stop you from appearing blunt or rude, but try to get back to the point quickly.
Your final sentence or paragraph should provide some clear next steps, if required – or make it clear to your reader that the conversation can now be concluded. For example: “I look forward to catching up with you in the office on Tuesday” or “I appreciate your advice, I’ll take it from here”.
2. Be polite
Unless your email is part of a chain of messages that’s been running for a while, it’s important to greet your recipient correctly. In a business email, it’s better to be too polite than too informal (this applies to your greeting and the content of your message).
More formally, you can use ‘Dear’ and the recipient’s surname ‘ i.e ‘Dear Mrs Smith’. Less formally, you could use a first name where ‘Dear’ may appear too stuffy. For example: ‘Hi John’. Try to avoid a generic ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ unless you don’t know your recipient’s name.
Your email’s sign-off can be approached much the same way. In a formal email, you can consider closing with something like ‘Very best’, ‘Kind regards’, or ‘Respectfully’. With a more informal email, a simple ‘Thanks’ or ‘Best’ may be fine.
Remember, it’s not a trade-off between ‘friendly’ and ‘polite’ – you can be both!
3. Check it thoroughly
Make sure you check every email thoroughly before you send it – even if you corrected the spelling as you went along. It might also be worth using software to help – Grammarly offers a useful plugin for your internet browser that’s great for checking spelling and grammar.
Now is also a good time to see if:
- The email has a clear purpose, with definite next steps for the reader
- There’s anything you can remove that doesn’t support the main purpose of the email
- There are any correctly spelt typos (for example typing ‘no’ instead of ‘not’).
At this point, you could also put your email into a word count tool. You may be surprised by how long it is.
Develop your email writing skills
How are you developing your email skills? Does your organisation recognise the importance of clear communication?
You may be interested in taking one of our online courses below to brush up on your communication, business etiquette and writing skills. You’ll probably discover that your new knowledge will be transferable across many areas of your life – both personal and professional.
Online courses to develop your communication skills and email etiquette
- Business Etiquette: Master Communication and Soft Skills by Central Queensland University
- Digital Marketing Content Creation: Online Writing by The Open University and Target Internet
- Digital Skills: Embracing Digital Technology by King’s College London
- Copywriting Fundamentals by the Chartered Institute of Marketing
- Professional Resilience: Building Skills to Thrive at Work by Deakin University
- Career Skills for the 2020s: Navigating the Online World of Work by Coventry University
- Building Effective Professional Networks and Relationships by Central Queensland University.