Given the amount of emails we send and receive every day, I am still surprised by how many of them are, well, terrible! Incorrect names, poor spelling, rude tone – the list goes on. And while I understand many of us quickly fire off emails because we’re busy, taking a little extra time before hitting ‘send’ can improve not only the response you receive, but also your relationship with the recipient.
1. Subject Line
Think of your subject line like the heading of a news article – you need to stand out in an overcrowded inbox, so write something attention-grabbing to compel the reader to open it. I’m sure we’re all guilty of the ‘as discussed’ subject line, which, when you think about it, is pointless. Your recipient has surely discussed many things with many people, so it’s better to be specific.
2. Be Polite
There’s nothing worse that opening an email only to find yourself immediately irritated with the sender. Maybe the tone is off, or their requests come across as demands. Whatever the reason, you’re annoyed and much less likely to respond straight away. This goes both ways! Just think, it’s actually rather difficult to be too nice… Start off with a simple, pleasant greeting. Make it personal, rather than a standard “hope you’re well” approach. If you have an existing relationship, something like “did you enjoy your weekend away?” will do nicely. If you’re emailing a stranger, a little flattery can go a long way. For example: “I read your article on part-time learning and found it very informative” adds a nice personal touch. There’s no need to go overboard, but it never hurts to start off on the right foot.
3. Resist Topic Overload & Oversharing
Wherever possible, try and cover only one topic per email. You’re less likely to confuse the reader, and sticking to one subject will keep your email at a reasonable length. No one wants to read an essay! It’s also a good idea to keep personal conversation out of a professional email. You never know who it might be forwarded to, and not everyone remembers to delete the conversation history. So unless you want the details of your weekend antics splashed around the office, maybe save it for another time.
4. Formatting and Punctuation
If you absolutely must cover multiple topics in one email, formatting is your new best friend. Slapping your recipient in the face with a huge chunk of unformatted text with no punctuation is not going to make them want to read it, and they will almost certainly miss an important point. Spacing out topics in separate paragraphs or dot points keeps things looking neat, and helps to convey your message and intentions clearly. You’ll also stand a much better chance of receiving a specific response for each topic. And in case there is any confusion, using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS is still (and always will be) the equivalent of yelling, which isn’t a particularly good look.
5. Urgent vs. Not Urgent
These days everyone thinks everything is urgent, but just because you’re facing a deadline doesn’t mean your recipient is on the same page. It’s important to allow them enough time to consider and respond to your email, and to bear in mind that their priorities are not necessarily the same as yours. If you do require a quick response, try to encourage, rather than demand one.
6. Closing Off
Closing off politely is just as important as your opening greeting if you want to encourage that response we’ve talked about. If you’re waiting on something, let the recipient know in advance that you appreciate their assistance. Sign-off with something simple like ‘kind regards’ or ‘with thanks’ followed by your name and email signature.
How many times have you hit ‘send’ only to spot a glaring error after it’s too late? Argh! The worst! A quick read-through can save you from a world of embarrassment, and really takes no time at all. Get into the habit of proofreading everything you send – especially when contacting senior colleagues or managers, and for important matters such as a job application.
This post is by Open2Study's blog writer, Peta Brady.
Peta Brady is a freelance copywriter, social media enthusiast, and general grammar pest.
Get in touch viawww.thewordbird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_