10 Tips on How to Write an Email

Emails are key to communication in the office. Yet, as a rule, they are badly written. Take careful note of the following:

from Forbidden Advice (Reader's Digest Association Books)
10 Tips on How to Write an Email© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Emails are key to communication in the office. Yet, as a rule, they are badly written. So by consistently sending sharp, well-composed electronic messages, you will make yourself stand out from the crowd. Take careful note of the following:

1. Hone your subject line
Try to be more specific. Instead of giving your email the name ‘Byrne project’, call it ‘Byrne project: new deadline for phase 2′. Your email is already more interesting than most.

2. Don’t bury the lead
If you want to annoy people, make them read three paragraphs before you get to the point. If you want to rise in the company, state your purpose in the first sentence or two and then get to the why and how of the matter.

3. Request further action
End emails with a suggestion or a request for action. An example would be: ‘I will call you on Monday at 10 a.m. to discuss this’ or ‘When can we get this done?’. Otherwise, nothing is likely to happen.

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4. Be human
People who would never dream of being cold and abrupt in person, often come across that way in their emails. Being businesslike doesn’t mean being impersonal. Try to remember that the recipient, like you, is a human being.

5. Proof your email

Just one misspelling, grammatical error or typo can make a sender look careless and disrespectful. Sending ‘clean’ emails lifts you above the sloppy crowd.

6. Check the address
Always make sure that you are sending your emails to the right person. It’s so easy to press the ‘send’ button, only to discover that your message is heading straight to the desk of the very person you don’t want to see it. Be especially careful about the content. You never know who may unwittingly forward your email on.

7. Behave yourself
Avoid sensitive subject areas, such as sex, race, religion and disabilities. Apart from being inappropriate email topics, especially in the workplace, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble over them. You may not think you are causing any harm, but others may think differently. You could end with a discrimination claim being made against you.

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8. Stop copying in everybody
All you’re doing is irritating people who are not directly involved in the project.

9. Pick up the phone
If you have to spend more than 5 minutes on an email, call instead. It’s easier to explain things on the phone, and you can always follow up with a shorter email to confirm the details of your conversation. In some cases, it might be even better to make face-to-face contact.

10. Skip the redundant
If all you have to say in your e-mail reply is “Thanks!” refrain from sending it. You’re just clogging an inbox.

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