No matter what type of business you are in, there is no getting around emails. Writing emails is an essential skill for conducting successful business conversations. To improve the impression you make via emails, you need to work on your business email writing skills.
Your writing represents you. If you send a confusing email full of errors, the recipient can perceive you as careless and disorganized. Putting your effort into writing better emails is putting effort into your image.
Do you want to take your business email writing to the next level? Then, take the following 10 steps that will lead you to better email writing skills.
1. Always Write a Subject Line
Not writing a subject line is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
The subject line is like the title of the book or the headline of a news article – a necessity. It leads the recipient into the email and tells them what to expect from the body.
To craft a relevant subject line ask yourself this: If I were this recipient, what would matter to me the most?
Look at the email from the reader’s standpoint. Let’s say that your requested information has a deadline. Include it in the subject line. You’ll inspire action and show thoughtfulness for the recipient. For example:
- Subject line: Respond by Friday – Order for Suppliers
You want to be specific and direct when writing a subject line. Put the keywords first as they will grab the attention.
If you can’t come up with the subject line before writing the email, do it after you draft the message. With email content in front of you, single out the core message and turn it into the subject line.
In terms of length, keep the subject line under 8 words. The inbox preview shows under 50 characters. Ideally, you should aim for 33 to 44 characters. That’s the number of characters that smartphones show.
2. Adapt the Style to the Recipient
Despite what some may assume, the one-size-fits-all doesn’t apply to business emails. You should adapt your tone and voice based on your relationship with the recipient.
If you’ve established a close and friendly relationship with a client, sending an overly formal email can be a confusing switch in your manners. In this case, you can go for the second style of writing in the following examples:
- Х:I am afraid I will not be able to return your call today. You can expect my call tomorrow around noon.
- √: I’m sorry, I can’t give you a call today. Talk to you tomorrow around noon.
Your senior colleagues and your boss demand a dose of respect in business correspondence even if you work together for years.
Be mindful of what words and conversational expressions you use. Reflect on the language you use in conversation with the recipient. Polish it up to make it appropriate for written communication.
For informal style, you should stay away from slang. You can keep it casual and friendly without deteriorating the quality of email. To exemplify, when it comes to greetings, Hey (name) is a more suitable option for informal email than Hi, what’s up?
3. Keep the Sentences Short and Direct
“Writing long sentences is like adding water to tea; the more words, the weaker the message,” said Dianna Booher, author and writing expert. Remember this quote when writing emails. Don’t let yourself weaken the message.
Short and clear sentences are comprehensible and digestible. They help the reader understand the message even if they are not familiar with the topic.
To keep the sentences short do the following:
- Avoid unnecessary words and adjectives (very, beautiful, great, etc.)
- Present one point in one sentence
- Use active voice
Passive voice prolongs the sentences. It also asks for an additional effort to understand the message.
Stay away from passive voice whenever you can. It will take you further away from the goal that is to keep the email concise and understandable. If you must use it, keep it under 10% of your email content.
4. Be Polite
Manners cost nothing. All you need to invest is a few extra seconds. However, the result is rewarding as you will earn respect.
Whenever you find it to be appropriate, write “thank you”, “please”, and “sorry”.
Simple expressions of politeness can go a long way. It can help you establish better relationships and open up new business opportunities.
Just take a look at these examples. To which request would you rather respond:
- Please send me the contact number of your supplier.
- Send me the contact number of your supplier.
The word “please” can turn a demand into a polite request. When people don’t feel like they are forced to do something, they’re more likely to do it – and do it faster.
5. Start Persuasively
The first few sentences set the tone for the rest of the email. If you don’t grab the attention from the start, the reader will be less committed.
Invest extra effort to make the first two (or three) sentences persuasive.
Start strong by unveiling your intention right away. You can get to the details later. The introduction should state the key message and potentially, call to action.
Not only will this immediately clarify the purpose of the email, but it will make it easier for the recipient to revise the key message whenever they want. They won’t have to search for it in the body as it will be openly stated in the beginning.
6. Avoid Complex Language
There is no better place for using jargon and technical terms than in business writing, right? Well, not quite.
Despite the temptation to prove your expertise with heavy jargon, acronyms, and technicalities, complex language can send the wrong message. Instead of seeming professional, you can come across as pompous.
Don’t use complex language that you wouldn’t use in business (verbal) conversations. When needed, you will of course use technical terms. However, pushing words like “fiduciary” in a simple business email is completely unnecessary.
7. Skip the Small Talk
On average, a recipient spends about 13 seconds reading an individual email. Don’t waste that time on empty words.
There is no room for small talk in written business communication. You need to get to the point and stick to presenting only key information.
Keep in mind that the recipient is juggling a continuous flow of new emails daily. They want to process the information you provide as fast as possible. Do them a favor by writing briefly.
Unless the email demands longer content, try to keep the body under 150 words. That’s more than enough for expressing your request, inquiry, or outreach.
8. Organize Information
One of the most important elements of a well-written business email is organizing information. When you learn how to segment content for improved readability, you’ll be the favorite email sender.
Segmenting and organizing information allows for skimming, easy review, and fast comprehension. Structuring is the answer to increasing cognitive ease.
If you want to organize your email content, resort to these tips:
- Organize the rest of the information from most to least important
- Segment ideas into short paragraphs (up to 4 sentences)
- Use bullets and numbers to list key information
- Organize information from most to least important
- Limit the number of topics you cover in one email
- Use bold and italic solely to emphasize
- Use all caps and colors scarcely; too much of it will slow down the reader
Proficiency in organizing information is achieved through practice. To speed up that process, you can hire writers to help you create a few emails or revise your writing and give you some guidance.
9. Proofread for Mistakes
Nothing can deteriorate the quality of business emails like basic grammar, spelling, and vocabulary mistakes. You can write the most compelling content, but if your email has a fair share of errors, they will be in the spotlight.
Invest time in proofreading your emails. Always. That minute or two can save you from embarrassment and being perceived as careless.
Pay attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, and capital letters. When in doubt, turn to Google to clarify any uncertainties about proper writing. Thanks to the internet, the answer is always a few clicks away.
Even if you use a spell-check feature on the email platform, give the email a quick read. The spell-checker won’t signal confusing sentences or wrong words (for example, writing thought instead of through). It is up to you to spot any “intruders” before you click “Send.”