The following tips apply specifically to WRITING BETTER BUSINESS EMAILS, yet the first tip applies to any written communication.
Tip 1 – The written word is powerful
What is set in print, stays in print. Written words can never be unsaid – and they can be printed out and shared! The written word is easily subject to misunderstanding, so it is wise to be careful with what you say and how you say it. Even office emails need a modicum of formality. It is a good rule of thumb when writing business emails to bear in mind that they are the property of the company you work for, and that the IT department on behalf of the company can retrieve them at any time.
Tip 2 – Is it necessary?
Is your email NECESSARY? Can you pick up the phone and receive an immediate answer, or walk across the office to ask the question in person? Do you in fact know that the answer is already buried among your notes, or your emails, but you cannot be bothered searching? In this busy world, we have all been guilty at some time of not checking our own files first. If any of these is true, don’t waste your or anyone else’s time on emailing.
Tip 3 – Purpose of email
Most business emails are about (1) providing information, (2) asking for information, or (3) a call to action. Make sure that you are clear on the purpose of your email so that your audience is also clear.
Tip 4 – To send or not to send (yet)
So that you do not mistakenly hit ‘Send’ before you have had time to read and check the email, it is a good idea to add the email address of the recipient or recipients only after you have finished writing and checking it. It is very easy to press ‘Send’ prematurely without intending to, which can be both embarrassing and time wasting.
Tip 5 – Writing the email
State the subject of your email clearly in the subject line. Apart from making the topic or purpose of your email immediately clear, many months down the track, you or your recipient can search for the email based on its subject line. If your entire message can be included in the subject line, use the anagram ‘EOM’ – End of Message – at the end of it. Example: “XYZ Project Meeting. 8am, Room 3, Level 2 ‘K’ Building EOM”. If you are not sure whether the recipient knows the meaning of EOM, spell it out in full. When replying to email threads or chains, edit the subject line to match the amended topic.
It is courteous to begin your email with a greeting. Anything from ‘Hi Y’ to ‘Dear Y’, to ‘Hello Y’ is acceptable. Address your recipient politely before launching into what you have to say.
Less is better
Keep the email short and to the point. Specify concisely and clearly the reason for your email. Use your first sentence to state the main message, and try to communicate your entire message in three lines or less. Everyone is busy, and your audience needs to grasp your message quickly.
Call to action
Be very clear about what you need from your audience. If you are communicating several points, use numbered lists. Perhaps bold or CAPITALISE the key word. This is to make it clearer for the recipient, not to ‘shout’ at them!
State clearly at the end of the email the day and time by which you need a response. Make the deadline realistic for both of you. If you know the recipient has the answer readily available, request a response within the same business day. If they need to do research in order to respond fully, be realistic, allow an appropriate response time, and state this clearly. Do not make your poor planning someone else’s problem. If you have left a request to the last minute, do not expect your recipient to drop everything in order to respond immediately. Your priorities are not necessarily the same as those of the recipient.
The end salutation varies according to the formality or informality of the email, but it is always courteous to give your name – even if your emails include a sign-off signature – and a salutation. Some suggestions are ‘Look forward to your response’, ‘ Kind regards’, ‘Warm regards’, ‘Cheers’.
Spell check before sending
No excuse for misspelt words in the digital age! Make a good impression by running the spell checker before pressing ‘Send’.
Need help with your business communications? Want to repurpose your content across your social media platforms? Contact the writing and editing professionals at editors4you.com