How to Write Better Emails

Work, Career / Tuesday, August 13th, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Some days it feels like our days revolve around emails. Seriously, how many emails did you get today? I think I got somewhere around 150 in the past 24-hours alone. With all those communications coming at you, it’s time to figure out how to write better emails.

It can be hard to keep it professional and get what you want via email. But if you take the time to learn how to write better emails, you’ll have a much better chance at getting what you want.

Writing good emails isn’t that hard, but it is a bit of an art form. So, I’ve dug into my professional communication knowledge and come up with my 7 best tips to make sure your emails sound like they were drafted by a pro:

Use your subject line well

Your subject line is the first introduction that anyone has to your email, and as the title would indicate it is there to help readers determine what your email is about before they open it.

If you want to write better emails, whether you’re aiming to improve your personal or professional communications, then you need to master your subject line. Let’s look at an example:

  • Bad subject line: Follow-up
  • Better subject line: Following up on the Q2 Report

When it comes down to it, “follow-up” or “just following up” which is sadly an email subject line I see all too often, is a bad subject line. It doesn’t tell the receiver anything about your email. You could be following up on anything.

Therefore, if it’s a follow-up email, make sure to tell people what you’re following up on. Likewise, subject lines like “just touching base” or “about that meeting” or “daily check-in” are not helpful. 

Make your subject line quick-and-easy, but also descriptive.

Keep your message short

If you want to write better emails, one of the best things you can do is keep it short. When writing emails, we tend to overcommunicate. While this sounds like it could be a good thing, I assure you it’s not.

There is almost no situation that requires a 500-word email. In fact, according to Act-On, emails that have between 75 and 100 words have a 51 percent return rate, which is must easier higher than emails with more or less words.

Email is meant to be a quick-and-easy way to communicate, there’s really no need to write someone a novel. Make it quick, keep it on point and avoid overly descriptive writing. 

Make it clear what you want

Another thing I see in email writing is that people bury the lede or simply forget to ask what they want. When you’re writing an email you need to be clear and direct about what you want.

With that in mind, when it comes to learning how to write better emails, I highly recommend making it clear what you want and including that information as close to the beginning of your email as possible. 

If you’re worried about your ask still being missed, a great idea can be to bold or underline the ask. You can also make it more clear by using it at the top and bottom of the email so it’s the first and last thing they see.

If you’re setting up a meeting…

Setting up a meeting via email can be a serious challenge. It’s really easy to go back and forth with someone for days on end and not settle on an actual date. So, if you need to set up an email here’s a quick tip: give a date and a time.

Saying, I’m available this Thursday at 2 pm, does that work for you? is way more effective than when’s the best time for you? That’s because once they have a time and date, it’s easier for them to say yes or no and give a different time.

If you don’t give someone a date and time, you can honestly keep going back and forth forever and have no meeting!

Be respectful

Things can often be misinterpreted via email. Have you ever read an email and thought you a$$hole or what a dick? I have, seriously, just this afternoon. 

Written communications are some of the easiest to misinterpret because unlike when you’re on the phone, over video chat or in a face-to-face environment when you are able to hear tone and expression.

Text doesn’t come across that way. It’s easy to misinterpret thanks. as a curt ending and Thanks! as a pleasant one when that’s often not the case. If you need to give someone criticism, I highly recommend picking up the phone or seeing them in person—if you’re not able to do so, be careful about what you say!

This is all to say that it’s important to carefully choose your words when it comes to written communications such as email. 

Personalize your email

When it comes to personalizing your email, this is most important when you’re emailing people that you don’t know as well or have never met.

When it comes down to it, writing a better, more personalized email simply means not sending form emails. It’s really easy to tell whether you’ve simply copied and pasted an email. 

Personalizing an email can mean a lot of things, but here are some quick tips:

  • Using a person’s name
  • Referencing something common like a goal or event
  • Saying thank you, seriously, it goes a long way!

Go easy on the exclamation points

There is such a thing as too many exclamation points. But weirdly enough, there’s also said to be not enough exclamation points. I know, weird.

Having too many exclamation points often makes you seem too cheery and not serious enough, but an email void of them can somehow come across as cold and uninterested. So how do you come up with the right amount?

My rule of thumb when it comes to figuring out how to write better emails and get the exclamation points right is this:

  • Maximum of one exclamation point per paragraph, that means no doubles or triples
  • And only add them when necessary

If there is no appropriate place for you to add an exclamation point, you can always default to a Thanks! at the end. Ending on a light, positive note can be a great send off!

ALWAYS proofread your emails

I cannot stress this enough, ALWAYS proofread your emails. I repeat, ALWAYS PROOFREAD YOUR EMAILS. 

You have no idea how many things can fall through the cracks when you don’t take the time to re-read what you wrote. In most cases, proofreading takes under five minutes but it can save you from embarrassment down the line. 

If you want to take this one step further, I would highly advise if you have it available to you to get someone else to proof those incredibly important emails for you. You never know what you’ll catch! 

How do you write better emails? Share your tips and tricks below!

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