Twelve Tips for Better Email

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Twelve Tips for Better Email

With email continuing to reign as the communication mode of choice in the business world, billions of work-related messages are sent and received every day.

Because emails lack facial expression, tone of voice, and body language (emojis generally are not appropriate for business email), carelessly composed messages can create misunderstandings, harm relationships, erode loyalty, and ultimately lose business.

In addition to brushing up on grammar, here are a dozen tips to help you fine-tune your email communication.

  1. Leave the TO field blank until you are ready to press SEND.
  2. Use the SUBJECT line to inform, rather than just identify; it should read like a headline that briefly summarizes your message and draws in the reader.
  3. Base your message content on your recipient’s need to know. Consider journalism’s 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why (and sometimes How).
  4. Use standard grammar and spelling.
  5. Use short words, short sentences (8–12 words), and short paragraphs (50 words or fewer = 3 or 4 sentences), with a line space between paragraphs.
  6. Use bullet points and numbers to organize information.
  7. Fill no more than one laptop computer screen.
  8. Keep your spellcheck function on at all times, and reread your message before sending.
  9. If an attachment is necessary, add it before you start to compose your email. We’ve all received or sent emails that refer to missing attachments.
  10. Reply the same business day, even if it’s just to confirm receipt and advise the sender when you will respond in full.
  11. Respond to all questions posed, and try to anticipate others to reduce the number of back-and-forth messages.
  12. If the topic changes in an ongoing thread, start a new email with its own subject line.

Email can feel quick and casual, but when used for business, it deserves close attention to detail. Your first impressions and ongoing business relationships are at stake.

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Kathleen Watson has nearly three decades of experience as an independent business writer, serving clients in both corporate and academic settings. Her weekly blog, Killer Tips from The Ruthless Editor, offers practical word and punctuation tips, as does her recently published book Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor. Contact her at: Kathy@RuthlessEditor.com.

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