If you work in the corporate world, chances are you write and receive a ton of emails. In fact, a recent study showed that the average office worker receives an average of 121 emails per DAY.
Yet, despite the quantity, many lack quality. They’re either confusing, too short, too long, or don’t strike the right tone. This can lead to wasted time and effort, and can really impact a team’s effectiveness.
That’s why, for today’s post, we’ll be talking about how to improve your professional email writing skills. These aren’t complicated changes that will take hours to implement – they are simple steps you can take starting today to optimize your communication.
Let’s dive in!
#1. Be intentional with your subject line.
The subject line of your email is its first impression. And you may only get a few seconds to encourage the recipient to open and actually read it.
A strong subject line is clear, concise, and communicates your objective. Here are some ways to achieve that.
Be sure to clearly communicate the purpose of the email. Is it a summary of minutes from a particular meeting? Something like “Meeting Minutes: December 1st Team Meeting” is incredibly clear and to the point. Include facts that will provide useful context, like the date, project, or team name.
Since you only have a few seconds to make an impression, your email subject should be concise and to the point. Try to keep your word count to a minimum.
Communicates Your Objective
What’s the objective of your email? To provide information as an FYI? To get a response? Is there any action required on the part of the recipient(s)?
Some ways you can communicate this in the subject line are:
- Starting the subject with “Action Required:” if relevant.
- Using prefixes: 411 for FYI/”for your information”-type emails, 611 for “action required” emails, and 911 for “urgent” emails. This works best when the whole team is on board and uses this nomenclature.
- Adding a due date. For example: “X Brand TV Ad Script: For Review by Jan. 15”.
Being clear, concise, and communicating your objective are also good practices to keep in mind when it comes to writing the email itself.
#2. Only send it to the required people.
Remember that stat I shared about office workers receiving an average of 121 emails per day? Email overload is a real thing and the more emails someone gets, the more competition the one you send has to contend with.
To be part of the solution, only include people on emails that need to be on them. If you’re not sure if they should be on them, just ask! You can always “CC:” them instead of including them in the “To:” field.
Note that you can also “BCC:” them so that they aren’t on any “Reply All” communications that follow, but the downside with that is that others on the email don’t have full visibility to who received the email which isn’t always optimal.
#3. Make the ask clear.
If your email includes a request, action items, or highlights next steps, be sure to make them abundantly clear.
Some ways to do this are:
Bolding and/or using a highlight colour to underscore the ask.
Mentioning it in the opening sentence of the email.
Providing a deadline to encourage adherence to your timeline.
#4. Use bullet points.
In many cases, the person reading the email is just skimming it. And if there are tons of long paragraphs, it will likely be closed immediately.
To keep the reader’s attention and highlight key points, use bullet points and numbered lists to your advantage.
These work particularly well if you’re summarizing a discussion, the rationale behind a recommendation, or next steps/action items.
#5. Consider the best way to make your point.
Email isn’t always the answer, and there can be easier ways to communicate. Here are some ideas:
Include an attachment or link in the email that tells the story, versus writing it out in the body of the email.
Pick up the phone and talk it through.
Speak to them in person.
With these tips in hand, you’re well on your way to writing more effective professional emails. Do you have any best practices that you rely on time and time again? If so, I’d love to hear them! Sound off in the comments.