You probably fire dozens of them off each day without really thinking about and, it’s true, there’s no right or wrong way to write an email. Each to their own, we say. However, as the main method of modern business communication, the way you come across on email is important – and easy to misinterpret. Whether you’re pitching for new business or catching up with an old client, here are a few basic rules everyone should be following…
Start with a compelling subject line
First impressions absolutely count and this is especially important if you’re emailing someone you’ve not had business dealings with before. As the first thing your recipient will see, the subject line needs to get your email off on the right foot. Make it snappy (long subject lines will get truncated on mobile devices), and let the reader know exactly what you’re writing about. Do not, we repeat, do not put emojis in your subject line.
Keep the body short and to the point
In most cases, an email doesn’t need to be more than a couple of hundred words, max. People just don’t have the time to go through paragraph after paragraph of unnecessary information; if they need more details they will ask for them. Dump the friendly ‘warm up’ intro too – instead, use the first line or two to introduce yourself and briefly outline what the rest of your email is about.
Avoid walls of text
People generally skim emails. As a courtesy, help your recipients by including headers, bullet points and links wherever you can. It’ll also make your email – and, by extension, you – look more organised and approachable.
Ditch the jargon
Just like when you speak, writing an email means you sometimes have to put a little extra thought into the words you’re using. Too many technical terms or irritating business buzzwords will instantly turn readers off, and can diminish your credibility. Write like a human – you want to come across as approachable and personable, not a robot.
Use an appropriate tone and style
That means NO SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS or channeling your inner e. e. cummings by doing away with capital letters altogether. Textspeak, overuse of colour and wacky fonts are also big no-nos – you’re email may be remembered, but not for the right reasons. You want to exude a calm, got-it-together vibe at all times, and those are surefire ways to kill it.
Don’t type on your phone
When writing a business email, the common sense thing to do is to think about it and draft it properly. Easily done on a computer, but unless you have the fingers of an aye-aye or the patience of a monk, typing on your smartphone isn’t always going to cut it. Trust us, you’ll kick yourself when you see the accidental typos later.
Edit and proofread
Carelessness is never a good look, especially in an email where any mistakes will stay for posterity – and a lengthy conversation chain. Before hitting ‘Send’, make sure you go over what you’ve written a few times – if you come across a typo or if anything reads even a little bit off, fix it immediately. This is also a great way of making sure you’ve got your message across clearly and quickly.
Read the digital room
‘Reply All’ is a useful tool – but tread lightly. If your recipient has purposely added someone into the conversation, don’t take them out – it’s basic manners. Likewise, if you’re copying someone in, be sure to introduce them to the recipient and explain why they need to be included. However, if you’re following up on an introduction and your connector has nothing to gain by receiving your reply, take them out. We all have enough emails cluttering our inboxes already.