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10 Tips For Writing Effective Email Messages

Updated on November 23, 2015
Writing Effective Emails
Writing Effective Emails

How To Write Powerful and Effective Emails

Effective email messages are concise and to the point: Email has quickly become one of the primary communication mediums in today's business environment, and is used internally between employees as well as externally between companies and their customers. This fundamental shift to email communications requires successful business people to develop and hone their writing skills, and provides you with an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your peers. By improving the content, tone and structure of your email messages, you will increase your ability to communicate effectively with your customers, management and colleagues.

Each of us has received emails that have caused us to pause and wonder what (or if) the sender was thinking when they hit the "Send" button. Poor spelling, incomplete sentences, lack of punctuation and capitalization, or even the tone of the email can affect how you, as the reader, will react to the message you receive - and can influence how well you absorb the content. Keep these types of emails in mind as your draft your own messages to ensure that you create concise, well-written and effective messages. Here are a few guidelines and suggestions for writing effective email messages.

Screenshot Image by the Author

Writing Effective Emails:

Create A Strong Subject Line

Busy business people receive hundreds of emails every week (maybe even every day). A great Subject line grabs the attention of the reader, so that they want (or need) to read the rest of the email. A well-written Subject line summarizes the topic of the email, and sets the expectation for an action, a request or a response. In certain situations, the Subject line can include the entire point of the message (example: Today's meeting rescheduled for 3:00 PM).

Get To The Point

Save you reader time by quickly getting to the point of message. Your strong Subject line already introduced the topic, and you first paragraph builds out the details and specifics. Avoid a long introduction or a lot of flowery language, long run-on sentences, and lengthy paragraphs: several shorter paragraphs consisting of a sentence or two each is easier to read - and to respond to - than a long passage.

Keep Your Message Short

Respect the time constraints of your reader, and only include the necessary information. As a general rule, fit your email message into one 'screen' so that the reader does not need to scroll down to read more. This is especially important in today's mobile environment when so many emails are read on portable devices. After the first screen, the reader is ready to move on to the next message.

Effective Email Messages Encourage Action and Response

SEND: Why People Email So Badly

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SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better
SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better

Send is the classic guide to email for office and home-has become indispensable for readers navigating the impersonal, and at times overwhelming, world of electronic communication. Filled with real-life email success (and horror) stories and a wealth of useful and entertaining examples, Send dissects all the major minefields and pitfalls of email.

 

Include A Call To Action

If you are taking the time to write an email, and you expect your audience to take the time to read it, be certain to include the next steps that you want the reader to take. For optimal effectiveness, position the Call to Action near the top of the message. After your strong Subject line and crisp intro paragraph, be clear in outlining the next steps with timelines for responses or follow up.

Spelling Counts

Seems simple, especially with the spell checking tools available in nearly every messaging application, but many emails are sent without taking this important step. Poor spelling detracts from the impact of your message, and can cause the reader to question your capability, competency and attention to detail. This is especially important when communicating with upper management or with your customers.

Use Punctuation and Capitalization Properly

You do not need to construct complex sentences to get your point across, but you do need to use commas and periods to separate ideas or important points. Sentences that run endlessly into each other without punctuation or proper capitalization are difficult to read and can dilute the integrity to your content.

Be Aware of Your Tone

It is often difficult for readers to determine the sincerity or humor as intended by the sender. Carelessly written messages can portray feelings of anger or annoyance, even when it was not the intent of the writer. It is your responsibility as the sender to ensure that your email does not provoke unintended emotional reactions and responses.

Make Your Emails Visually Appealing and Easy-to-Read.

Well-crafted email messages should resemble a typed business letter rather than a text message to a friend. Use basic fonts and type sizes, such as Arial 10 or Times New Roman 12. And use a dark font color; black is still best for easy reading against the light backgrounds of standard email message forms. Avoid fancy fonts and the overuse of bold and italics, which are harder on the eyes and detracts from your carefully worded content, and refrain from use light & bright colored fonts, especially yellow, pink and light green.

Remember Your Manners

Use salutations where appropriate, and use "Please" and "Thank You" when submitting written requests to others. These simple words can significantly improve how well the reader responds to your message.

Do not send impulse emails while angry. Cool down, reflect and then write a strong and effective email message.

Emails Last Forever

Be careful what you type and send, and to whom you send it. Do not send emails when you are angry or upset; it is very likely that you will feel differently tomorrow about what you wrote and sent today. In addition, once you send a note to someone, you lose complete control of where your note could ultimately end up, and who reads it. Take extra care when writing your emails to avoid potentially embarrassing and painful situations.

Proofread Your Message

Always take the time to proof read your emails before you hit the "Send" button. It is easy to omit words or make other common typing mistakes that you can catch by reading your note again before you send it.

Finally, include your name and contact information with phone number on business related communications. This improves the professionalism of your communiqus, and makes it easier for your customers to reach you without having to rely on the "Reply" button.

How many business related emails do you receive on a daily basis?

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Writing That Works

Say what you want to say, with less difficulty and more confidence. Now in its third edition, this completely updated classic has been expanded to included all new advice on e-mail and the e-writing world, plus a fresh point of view on political correctness.

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Effective Email Etiquette

More Help for Writing Effective Email Messages:

E-Mail: A Write It Well Guide

In today's fast-paced, competitive business environment, everyone needs to communicate clearly and use time productively. E-Mail: A Write It Well Guide is a user-friendly book that is filled with guidelines, tips, and tools. Discover how to write professional e-mail that gets results, makes better use of e-mail time, and avoids problems that can be costly.

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E-Mail Etiquette for Business Professionals

This book helps e-mailers realize the full potential of their electronic business communications. Used wisely, e-mail can be a powerful, efficient communications tool to inform, influence, inspire - and, ultimately, to advance one's career.

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And just for a little bit of fun....

Tell Us About the Best (or Worse) Email that You've Received

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    • John Huf profile image

      John Huf 3 years ago

      I hate when people misspell my name or other information in the email. I know that it always can happen. But if it has to do with some customer service, I don't think it's acceptable. When I send my invoices (using Invoiceberry) I always make sure that all information is correct and not misspelled.

    • cynthiannleighton profile image

      cynthiannleighton 5 years ago

      Nice lens! Good work on an important topic.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Important topic, it is like using the phone, so many of us need to learn basic skills.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Stopping by to review your tips for writing an effective Email, I like your step by step practical tips and you leave no stone unturned.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Great advice!

    • Mistl profile image

      Mistl 5 years ago

      Great tips. I receive a ton of emails every day and time really is money. Bullet points is another awesome thing to add to your mail to make it concise.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent points for effective business emails and I like that you added the tip to cool down if angry and wait to send it after cooling down.