Enhance Your Email Communications

Email has become the most used form of communication in business. We all have a flood of emails in our inbox each day. Marketing professionals work hard on writing an effective, attention catching email to bring customers to their business. But emails between interoffice team members, between a client and a service provider or between a superior and employee need to be just as effective. It is a topic that is often neglected when employees are being trained.

Emails can be time consuming to write so crafting an effective message can reduce back and forth. Before clicking “Compose,” ensure that the email is really necessary. Email is great for getting answers to questions and creating a written record. But if you expect a lengthy conversation, perhaps using a company messenger or a phone call would be a better choice

The Greeting

Select a greeting that is appropriate for the tone you are trying to set. Using the formal “Dear Mr. Smith” sets a professional, formal tone. A simple “Hi Jack” introduces a friendly level. Outer office communications should begin with a pleasant greeting referring to a recent connection with the recipient or “Hope all is well” type statement. Inner office communications don’t need to include something like this. But be careful not to get too personal by including reference to social events or a personal reference. Keep in mind that this communication is a written record and may at some point wind up in front of a different reader. Keep it on topic and business related.

The Message

The objective is to create an email that is clear and concise and will communicate the full message that needs to be conveyed. An email should focus on one item. Multiple requests in one email can cause confusion.  If a message is longer than 200 words, a reader tends to scan and often will not read to the end. Unless writing a technical response, it is best to keep emails short. Bulleted or numbered lists are quick and easy ways to request or portray more than one piece of important information related to the main topic. This reduces the chance of the reader missing something that is buried in a longer paragraph. Short paragraphs allow the reader to skim quickly through the content.

It is tempting to abbreviate words to finish quickly, but it is best practice to use formal language and complete sentences. Acronyms are okay to use with your inner office teammates, but not a good idea for communications outside the office where the recipient may not be as familiar with them.

The tone of an email can range from formal to friendly. Use polite words such as please and thank you. Do not use ALL CAPS because it reads as yelling. Bold or italics work better to emphasize a point. Excessive punctuation or emojis diminish the professional tone of the email, but can often keep requests between team members friendly. Adding a phrase about appreciation can ensure a positive reaction from the reader. For example; “Your time is appreciated on this request.” It may be their job, but knowing you have respect for their time goes a long way.

Call to Action

State clearly any call to action and, when possible, the timeframe for the task. If the request is buried in a wordy paragraph or vague, the reader may miss it and any urgency associated with it. This is a good place to use bulleted or numbered lists if more than one action item is required. If the reader is skimming the content, this is the line you want them to read. Put it in a separate paragraph. Write it as a clear request.

The Sign Off

End the email with an appropriate sign off. Include Name and business information such as phone number, to be displayed for the convenience of the reader if they need to contact you.

Proofread

Always proofread your email before clicking “Send”. Of course, you don’t want to send an email that contains typos which would show a lack of professionalism. On the second read through, evaluate whether the message has been clearly stated and that the tone is correct.

Avoid writing the way you would speak the sentence. Since written words are flat with no facial expression or body language to back them up, select words that sound cooperative and polite even though they may not be words commonly used in verbal conversation. “Get that report to me tomorrow.” is okay when said with a smile but should be written differently. For example: “Please complete the report and send to me at your earliest convenience. The client is looking for it tomorrow.”  It is a good idea to have a colleague proofread email content before sending a critical email to an important client or contact.

The Subject Line

Using the subject line to preview the main point of the email is an effective way to alert the recipient of the importance of the email. Putting a short question can sometimes work to get the recipient’s attention. Also, using a project name or other identifying phrase will make the email trail easily searchable. It is easy to lose an email when the subject line is generic, such as Project Question. Including a unique project name such as Lilly’s Fashion Boutique Question, will produce a good email trail with a quick search of the word “Lilly”. Keep in mind the purpose of the email, and use the subject line as the place where you alert your reader to what you expect once they open it. Something like, “Review and Approve Contract Draft Lilly’s Fashion Boutique” may prompt the recipient to open sooner than if they saw only the project name.

Best Practices

Good email writing practices should become a habit to be used each time an email is written. Keep the basic elements in mind, even when sending inner office messages.

  • Determine if this email is necessary
  • Subject line written to summarize the purpose of the email and be easily searchable
  • Greeting that sets the tone, formal or friendly
  • Paragraphs that are short and clear
  • Call to action clearly stated
  • Sign off and Business Information

Email content and language is just as important in business emails as it is in marketing emails. Create good habits around email composure and email can become the most effective communication tool you have in your business toolbox.