In regards to professional emails, in business it’s hard to avoid them. You may be discussing a project, speaking to a customer or just participating in general correspondence. But it’s a powerful communication tool you need to get right to ensure the success of your business. Considering the average working day sees us receive up to 80 professional emails, yours needs to go the extra mile to generate the results you need.
So whether you are emailing to motivate, persuade or inform, these are the tips and strategies you need to ensure you are communicating in a clear, effective and successful way. Oh, and there are a few things to avoid too!
Email Tip 1: Start with this general email formula
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of what makes great professional emails, there are a few simple rules ALL business emails should follow regardless of who you are communicating with. We suggest structuring your email as below to ensure you are doing it right:
1) Subject line
Just like a newspaper headline, this needs to grab your reader’s attention and summarize the body of your email. For this reason, it is important not to overlook (or forget to write anything) in the subject line. A blank subject line suggests spam, and is more likely to be bypassed completely. Yet, a vague subject line misses the opportunity to engage the reader and can instead deter from reading the rest of your email.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when choosing your email subject line:
- Spend more time on the subject line than the body of your email. Some people actually find it easier to leave this until last, as they are more accurately able to summarize the email message and its purpose.
- You could consider including the date in the subject line if your email is part of a weekly series (i.e when sending reports or plans.)
- Consider using a CTA if appropriate- for example if it is paramount your reader replies by a certain date, you could write ‘please reply by June 18th’.
- Don’t make the subject line too long– remember it needs to engage your readers attention. Likewise if you don’t have much information to send over in the body of the email, consider using EOM (End of Message) afterwards to convey no further details are provided. An example of EOM used in the email subject line includes: ‘could you please send the Google Analytics stats for March? Thanks. EOM’.
2) Greeting your reader
Acknowledging that the reader is an actual human being provides a more personal touch to your email, and is a nice opener before diving into the main points of your message. It is also polite! The only time you may decide to drop this is within a long email chain which becomes more like a casual conversation than a business email.
3) Body of the message
he main event! The body of your email needs to be clear, concise and have a specific purpose- nobody likes a waffler! If you draft an email that has all the information the recipient needs as well as one that is direct and to the point, you are more likely to receive a focused response. Otherwise the reader may skim read and miss vital points. On average you should aim for just 3-4 lines of text. If, however, you need to explain points in more detail, don’t be afraid to use bullet points to break up text and make any actions points more distinguishable to the reader.
4) Sign off your email
Just like opening your email, signing off your email is a chance to be polite. Choose a closing remark that is both friendly, reflects your personality but is still professional. Popular options include ‘kind regards’ ‘all the best’ ‘take care’ and ‘talk soon’. Experiment with a sign-off that feels right for you.
Email Tip 2: Use professional emails wisely
We have all been tempted to fire off email after email to get answers quickly, but this can actually be counterproductive and doesn’t always deliver the best results. Plus nobody likes a spammer! As we mentioned earlier, on average people receive a high volume of emails per day and it’s important not to add to that stress. Instead, first define if your email is necessary. If so, stick to the structure above to ensure your email is clear and to the point.
Where possible, you should use other communications tools when:
- Delivering bad news- this is always better face-to- face (or at least by video call) than over email. It allows you to demonstrate empathy and compassion, which can sometimes be tricky to convey in writing.
- Dealing with sensitive information/passwords/date- email isn’t the most secure method of communication. So for extra cyber security consider other methods when dealing with confidential information.
- Long conversations. Quick professional emails can work for discussion, but you are more likely to gain the information quicker and more effectively through a phone or video call if the topic is turning into a lengthy conversation.
Tip 3: Check your email for tone of voice
We already know you need to start/end your email by being both professional and polite. But the overall tone of your message is also something to consider when writing. When you meet someone face-to-face, emotions are conveyed through body language, but this is lacking over the computer screen. Emotion and tone can be displayed through everything from sentence length, to choice of words, to which punctuation you choose to use. Using an ‘!” for example can display excitement, but used too frequently, it hints at overly strong feelings! Likewise, capital letters suggest shouting or high volume so use cautiously.
Remember: It’s much easier to misinterpret emotions or meaning over email than it is in person. To avoid this happening in your business, re-read your professional emails before sending to check how it feels emotionally. If you think your intentions could easily be misunderstood, you need to find a more certain way to write your words.
Email Tip 4: Keep it professional
Whilst you aren’t writing a formal letter, it is still important to maintain an element of professionalism when corresponding via email- especially if this is with customers. It can be tempting to treat email as a more casual form of correspondence, using slang and abbreviations as you would with a close friend or over a text message. Unless you are on really close terms with someone, this should be avoided.
Once something is written it is effectively logged, can be forwarded or shared with others and kept as proof/documentation. That is why remaining polite and professional is essential when dealing with business communication.
Email Tip 5: Proof, proof, proof!
Everyone is guilty of being super busy and firing off emails before double checking them- but this just might be harmful to your business. It only takes a minute to review your spelling, grammar and punctuation before hitting send, but it could make all the difference to how your email is interrupted. A message containing typos, is too long, or doesn’t read well is a poor reflection on your business.
Tools like Grammarly can really help with this. They not only highlight any grammatical errors but also suggest alternative ways of phrasing and deconstruct sentence length.
Email mistakes to avoid
Just as there are tips you can follow to make your business email communication better, there are also some points to avoid! These are the common email mistakes to watch out for:
Over use of commas
Yep, just as we mentioned with exclamation marks, over using commas can make sentences long and complex. You are aiming for clear, concise copy, and whilst commas are great at breaking a sentence down, they are often overused. The best way to ensure you are using them correctly is to do a proof read and use a Grammar check like Grammarly.
Didn’t they already say that? Is not something you want a client or team member to think when reading your email! Perhaps you have repeated a point or too frequently used a word or phrase- either way it doesn’t look good or keep the reader engaged. Reading your email aloud can help with this, as can using a thesaurus for alternative ways of expression.
Sounding too robotic
First and foremost, it is important to remember that you are speaking to a human being! So overly long, textbook like language just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to effective business communication. Instead, visualise how you would start the conversation if you were discussing the email subject face-to-face. This will help keep the tone friendly and polite, but avoid being too casual. You should be keeping your target audience in mind at all times.
Your emails are a personal reflection of your business: So you want to be demonstrating your professionalism, values, and attention to detail within your writing. To be most effective with this method of communication, always be polite, check your tone and visionalise who you are speaking to. In terms of logistics, be clear, to the point and proof reading your email for errors before you hit send.
Following these tips will ensure you write effectively and use email to your business advantage.
What are your top tips when writing emails? We would love to hear from you!