Allow me to dedicate an article to what I’ve learned from my many mistakes, taking the form of a very simple yet informative walkthrough that can apply to any email you send out (including *that* one).
1. Don’t email without saving a draft and rereading it 5 minutes later.
No matter what the day is, the time is, or the mood you’re in, this rule is the most important and it always applies. Think of all the junk you’ve sent out in the past that you instantly regretted sending? That is the sign of an email you should not send. Poor grammar, spelling mistakes, going off on one to someone you haven’t really spoke to in a while, calling someone by the wrong name… The list is endless. Better to save to drafts and check it 5 minutes later. If you just hit ‘send’ you might regret it 10 minutes later.
2. Write something you’d want to reply to.
People tend to read emails as replies. If you can’t find anything to reply to you will probably never get a reply yourself. Make it interesting and show some personality in it. Doesn’t matter if it’s work or personal.
3. Keep it short, or keep it sweet.
Remember, first impressions are always made more on the tone rather than the content. Make your emails easy to read, even if you are going on about a few things put it across in a way that it is easy to read and goes straight to the point.
3. Go through it once more.
I find it’s good to look over everything twice. You’d be surprised at how much you’ll pick up on a second time round. I will not sugar-coat it; if you are sending annoying grammatical and spelling related mistakes out to people, they will automatically write off anything else you say.
4. Consider how you’re feeling.
The most crucial part of writing an email is what are you feeling when you’re writing the email? Are you angry? Frustrated? Biting your fingers? Angry at someone else? Are you depressed? Happy? Crabby? The mood you’re in will define the way your email reads.
5. Tell them what you want done, and why you think they’ll benefit from you doing it.
If you’re writing an email to someone you need to know exactly what you want done, and why they should do it. Without the benefits of knowing why you want them to do it you’ll have no success whatsoever. Tell them why they need to do it, tell them what the benefits are of them doing it, tell them what’s in it for them.
6. Keep things moving.
Always get straight to the point and keep the tone light. This is especially true when you’ve got something important to communicate; if you want to communicate this effectively, you need to make sure the tone is relaxed and casual — don’t bark orders.
7. Keep it short.
If you can’t say it in a brief email you’re not saying anything at all. The key is to get your point across to the receiver in the simplest way possible.
8. Talk to them, don’t write to them.
People have feelings so don’t be afraid to use positive language. You want to be clear but sensitive. For example, use instead of “We need to talk about the budget” try “I just wanted to give you a heads up that the budget will be tightened this year, I just want to talk things over and figure out how to make it work for us if this is something that makes us concerned”. See how much more personal the second email is and how much more that person will listen?
9. Try to avoid slang and address people as if they are in front of you.
When people communicate they want to connect to you. This connection may not be as close as using your first name but it does help and shows you are a person as opposed to a company. Avoid slang as much as you can — you want to prove that you aren’t just some faceless corporate drone.
10. Reply back to emails you recieve.
Always reply back. Even if it’s a short “thanks for that, I’ll get onto it right now”. You never know if that person will reciprocate the favour. People respond far better to a polite ‘thank you’, and if you reply back you just look like a responsible person.
It’s important to remember that these above points will help you improve your tone, grammar and the general quality of your emails… but the key to getting “better” at writing emails is to just write lots of them. Whether it’s to a friend or a colleague, an email is just a way of communicating. So write to the people that matter, put your thoughts into words. Yes, it really is that simple.