The first email (or ‘e-mail’) was sent by a computer engineer called Ray Tomlinson in 1971, sadly, the content of this message is lost to history. In 2017, 169 billion emails were sent every day, according to Statista.
Many would agree that email writing is an essential skill in today’s working world. And because it’s a skill, it can be developed. So, here’s a few ways to make your messages better.
1. Be brief
People in the modern workplace get a lot of email – so, make it as easy as possible for your recipient and keep it as short as you can. If you have a lengthy or complex message to convey, your email is a good way to set up a meeting or call to address this later.
Your email’s subject line is a great way to summarise your message, helping your reader to understand the context of your email.
Here it’s good to include Why you’re sending the email for example if you have a specific request, or want to invite the reader to something, mention it here. It’s also worth remembering that many emails are viewed on mobile, which can cause trouble with longer subject lines.
Getting down to business after you’ve greeted and thanked your reader can stop you from appearing blunt or rude, but try to get back to the point quickly.
Your final sentence or paragraph should provide some clear next steps, if required – or make it clear to your reader that the conversation can now be concluded. For example: “I look forward to catching up with you in the office on Tuesday” or “I appreciate your advice, I’ll take it from here”
2. Be polite
Unless your email is part of a chain of messages that’s been running for a while, it’s important to greet your recipient correctly. In business email, it’s better to be too polite than too informal (this applies to your greeting and the content of your message).
More formally, you can use ‘Dear’ and the recipient’s surname ‘ i.e ‘Dear Mrs. Smith’. Less formally, you could use a first name where ‘Dear’ may appear too stuffy. For example: ‘Hi John’. Try to avoid a generic ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ unless you don’t know your recipient’s name.
Your email’s sign off can be approached much the same way. In a formal email, you can consider closing with something like ‘Very best’, ‘Kind regards’, or ‘Respectfully’. With more informal email, a simple ‘Thanks’ or ‘Best’ may be fine.
Remember, it’s not a trade off between ‘friendly’ and ‘polite’, you can be both!
3. Check it thoroughly
Make sure you check every email thoroughly before you send it – even if you corrected the spelling as you went along. It might also be worth using software to help – Grammarly offers a useful plugin for your internet browser that’s great for checking spelling and grammar.
Now is also a good time to see if:
- The email has a clear purpose, with definite next steps for the reader.
- There’s anything you can remove that doesn’t support the main purpose of the email.
- There are any correctly spelled typos (for example typing ‘no’ instead of ‘not’).
At this point, you could also put your email into a word count tool. You may be surprised by how long it is.