Most of us are pretty comfortable with using email as a primary tool for written communication in our personal and professional lives. But while some shorthand and a couple of typos don’t do too much harm in a friendly email, the same speaks volumes in the workplace (and not in the fun, casual way you may think).
Whether you’re communicating internally with colleagues and executives, or externally with your client base, polished email writing skills will come handy in your professional arsenal. In this article you’ll learn how to hone your email writing skills with a few basic tips for professional email communication.
Let’s start by positioning the corporate email in context – while it’s far less formal than a business letter, most of the traditional corporate writing rules still apply. Although we don’t want our recipients to get bogged down with formalities, it’s best to follow a universal structure while also keeping it simple and effective.
Here’s a checklist that you can work through while polishing your email writing skills:
- Evaluate Your Purpose
Before you even begin writing, ask yourself if email is the best tool for communicating your message. Be mindful of the fact that certain types of content warrant an email – but not everything. If the topic at hand will require a lot of back and forth communication, for example, you might want to consider picking up the phone, or even organizing a meeting. Also, keep in mind that emails are not as secure as you may think, so refrain from emailing personal or sensitive information.
- Craft an Appropriate Subject Line
People often overlook the importance of their email subject lines. It’s essential that you write a well-crafted subject line that grabs the recipient’s attention, summarizes the email’s content, and also prompts the recipient to read the email.
A handy tip for writing corporate subject lines is to add a call to action and date to the subject line. For example: “Please process by August 12.” You may want to write the subject line before writing the email, or after, but whatever you do don’t leave the subject line blank! This will almost guarantee that your email will be marked as spam or simply overlooked in a busy inbox.
- Use Clear Messaging
Like most business communication, professional emails need to be clear and concise. While you convey important information to your colleagues or clients, it’s key that you word it in a direct manner through which none of your pertinent points get lost. Keep your sentences short, polite, and formatted in a skim-friendly way. Numbered paragraphs and bullets are fantastic to help you transform a chunky email draft into one that will be easier to read.
- Practice Good Etiquette
Your email writing skills are a virtual translation of who you are as a professional – work ethic and attention to detail comes through in the way you communicate in the office. Even if you know a colleague or client fairly well, it’s best to be polite over email and avoid shorthand and slang. An emoticon here or there won’t hurt to help you express tone with someone you’re familiar with, but use them sparingly.
This is the clincher: don’t forget to proofread your email before sending it! This will only take you a few minutes, but it’s as important as wearing a well-pressed shirt to the office. While reviewing your email be sure to check for the following:
- Spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Case – remember that caps lock would imply that you’re SHOUTING!
- The appropriate length of sentences and the email as a whole.
- Any rambling or potential causes of ambiguity.
- General readability and formatting.
Finally, remember to conclude your email with a good salutation. Think about whatever fits best for the tone of the email, whether that’s “Thanks,” “Yours sincerely,” “Kind regards,” or something else.
This may sound like a slightly time-consuming checklist to run through before sending every email, but once you get the hang of it, it will come pretty naturally. If you’ve found this basic guide handy but feel that you could also benefit from improving your overall business writing skills, browse through our list of writing tutors to find one closest to you. Taking a few one-on-one writing lessons with an expert will go a long way in improving your overall professional presence in the workplace. Good luck!
Photo by LaMenta3