How to Easily Write Better Emails
Short for electronic mail, email is defined as the forwarding of digital messages across communication networks. Email operates across computer networks or the Internet. The messages are exchanged between a sender and one or more recipients. Nearly all email networks use an internet portal.
Overwhelmingly, email systems have gateways to other computer networks, enabling users to forward email to any other online computer in the world. The sender and recipient do not need to be online at the same time. The emails are stored on servers and forwarded from there to the recipient.
Composing emails that are concise and succinct will reduce the time devoted to email and make one more productive. By keeping emails short, one devotes less effort and thus more time is available for other work. However, writing is a skill, and like any skill, one has to practice. A clear email should always have a clear purpose. The less one includes in an email, the better.
It is a good idea to practice the ‘one thing’ rule, which means making each email sent about one subject only. If you need to consult regarding another subject or topic or assignment, discuss it in another separate mail.
In this article, you will learn about 1) types of emails, 2) how people typically deal with emails, 3) when an email is appropriate and when it is not, 4) parts of an email, 5) the art of writing a good email, and 6) a conclusion.
TYPES OF EMAILS
There are many different types of emails and these include the following:
- Personal: This is email which is sent or received and includes personal details. It may be from family, friends, and so on, but it’s specifically personal and not related to a job or commercial activity. It may be sent by an employee using an employer’s network, but would be of no business purpose. A business email address and a personal email address are generally quite different.
- Official: An official email is sent from, or by, an authorized department of government, an agency, an international organization or a business or commercial entity. It usually will have some clear indication that it’s official; a certifying cachet, a return address or other identity type, indicating the sender.
- Marketing: Broadly, all emails sent to a possible or current customer may be defined as marketing emails. This generally involves utilizing an email to send adverts, request one’s business, or solicit donations or sales, in an attempt to build trust, loyalty, and brand awareness.
- Notification: Notification emails are also called trigger, alert, or auto-respond emails. They enable the user to be notified every time a particular event occurs (or has occurred). Usually, notifications are used to celebrate and/or mark an event.
- Transactional: This is an email sent to an individual on a personal basis, generally as a result of an action they have made (e.g. a purchase, or a shipping update). Transactional emails also invite one back to a web service after an inactive period, or encourage one to purchase items remaining in a shopping cart.
- Spam: Spam, also called junk mail or unsolicited bulk mail, involves sending nearly identical messages to numerous receivers. Messages may include links which appear to be familiar websites, but are disguised and can lead to phishing sites or webpages hosting malware. Spam may also include malware as a script or another executable file attachment. Beware of spam.
HOW PEOPLE TYPICALLY DEAL WITH EMAILS
It is imperative for you to understand how people deal with emails, if you wish to write emails that are effective and will be read. Whether messages from work, or personal or marketing messages, an average office worker gets about 80 emails daily. It can be overwhelming to attend to so many emails each day. Most savvy users can and will filter all mails into basic categories for easier handling. Here is how a person may typically handle the emails they receive:
- For useless emails, do not read or reply. Put it in the recycle bin. Delete.
- To File. Including tax receipts, great email examples, or info for another project. It may be useful to put these in individual folders for easy access, but don’t have too many folders as it may cause confusion.
- Optional response. No need to respond, but would be courteous to do so.
- Spare time reading. Would be nice to read, but not essential. Practice filing as many emails as possible in this category.
- Respond today. Either respond immediately, or at the end of the workday.
- Requires action. Must read but no need to take action immediately. Can go into the will respond later file. This is typically mails from your broker, lawyer, tax consultant or boss, etc. Distance creates perspective. File in a folder named the day you wish to respond.
WHEN AN EMAIL IS APPROPRIATE AND WHEN IT IS NOT
It is not always appropriate to write emails. There is a protocol that needs to be followed at times.
Emails are appropriate when…
- You need to get in touch or communicate with a person who cannot be reached via telephone, or lives abroad or is visiting another country and the difference in time zone makes it difficult to talk to the person.
- It is not important to get an immediate response for your queries. The communication is not time bound and you can wait a few hours or days to receive a reply.
- You need to send some attachments digitally such as an image, a document, or a spreadsheet. It is easier and quicker to send it via email than via post.
- You need to pass on the same information to many different people.
- You wish to keep a record of the messages being exchanged for some purpose. They are easy to save and retrieve and can be extended as proof or references in case of a misunderstanding or you wish to refer to something.
Emails are not appropriate when…
- A message is long and complicated or requires further discussion that would best be undertaken face-to-face.
- Information is confidential. Email is NEVER safe! Bear in mind that a message can be sent to others without one’s knowledge.
- A message is emotionally charged or its tone could be misinterpreted.
PARTS OF AN EMAIL
You need to know the various parts of an email to effectively use each one to push your message. There are three distinct parts of any email. These include – the message envelope, the header, and the body.
The header contains information regarding the origins of the email, the email address and address of the sender and the system from where the mail originated.
- Sender’s Address – Establishes sender’s identity and/or corporate affiliation. Even if the sender and the recipient of an email have met previously, it may be prudent if you were to include your business details and designation in your signature to remind the recipient of you and your business.
- Recipient’s Address – The Recipient is the person you are sending email to. One needs enter their email address in the To, Cc, or Bcc field. “Cc” is short for “carbon copy”. The long version of “Bcc” is “blind carbon copy”, i.e., nobody can see who is addressed in Bcc.
- Subject Line – This generally conveys the point of the email or the gist that you wish a reader to understand from the email. Be as specific as possible.
- Date and Time – Displays this information when an email is sent or received in one’s inbox.
- Subject Matter – A newspaper headline has two functions: to grab one’s attention,and to act as a summary. An email message should do the same thing.
- Greeting/Beginning – Always begin with a greeting. It is important that you address the recipient with a greeting of some sort. You cannot begin your email without addressing and greeting in some way or the other. While closing, you need to close off with a signature. It could be a good-bye, or a thank you or some other such sign off to conclude the mail.
- Message/Middle – This is the crux of an email. The important thing to remember is to give all recipients the information they require to take the action you may be requesting. This includes explaining the context, details, or data that’s necessary, and presenting it in a logical, understandable way.
- Closing/End – Instead of summarizing what has already been stated, finish an email with action steps. If you wish to ask for an appointment, give a tentative time and a date. If you’re getting project input, remind a colleague exactly what the project
- Attachments – An email attachment is a file sent along with an email. One or more files may be attached to any email message, and this is a simple method to share images and documents. A paper clip image is the usual icon image for an attachment in an email.
THE ART OF WRITING A GOOD EMAIL
Emails could take up a large chunk of one’s day and they are useful, however they can also be abused and a distraction to productivity. Before sending an email, step back and answer some questions.
- What is my point in this email?
- What is my purpose?
- Am I summarizing a discussion, asking for action, or reporting progress?
Answering honestly enables one to create effective emails when writing them. Consider the following:
Number of emails an average person has to deal with each day.
You may be overloaded with emails daily, and despite good intentions, may end up ignoring a great percentage of them. Too many emails get lost, for they have no purpose. If there’s no purpose, it’s not an effective email. If you are asking for action but haven’t made it clear, responses may not come.
What you wish to accomplish with your email.
Email is great if one needs something written down, or if action is necessary. Rather than email, could you call the person for a discussion and not email them? Often a 10-minute call is as beneficial and more efficient, than several emails. Either calling or a face-to-face conversation is often preferable to email in so many instances.
Who is being targeted? A stranger or acquaintance?
What do you wish an audience to believe or presume about you?
What kind of impact do you wish to generate?
Making assumptions about an audience’s expectations increases the risk that a message or its tone will be misunderstood. To ensure that a message has the intended result, try the following questions to help narrow the target audience and their requirements:
- Who is the audience?
- How often does the audience use email to communicate?
- How comfortable is the audience with using electronic mail, e.g., when did they begin using email (childhood or adulthood)?
- Your boss? A stranger? A friend?
- What is the audience’s relationship to you, e.g. is the recipient your professor?
- How well do you know him or her?
- How do you talk to them in a social scenario?
Impact of the email on the receiver – read or not, comprehending, annoying, time-consuming.
Say what you need to say immediately, preferably in the subject line or first sentence. There is no need for rambling or long stories in the electronic mail realm. Say it once. Keep it short.
With the amount of bad emails received daily, people really do observe the difference when a good one arrives in the inbox. This could be the difference between being ignored and getting what you wish.
Email must be easy to read and convey meaning as quickly as possible. Even if your prose is mellifluent, the receiver may not be keen to read it. Keep sentences short and simple and do not write an email if you are angry, it will reflect.
Writing a Good Email
- Engaging subject line – Label emails correctly. A subject line helps ensure an email recipient will read it and not disregard it as junk or spam. A meaningful subject saves effort as the recipient can grasp the gist quickly.
- Mention the subject clearly and make the request of the email very clear – Briefly state the purpose for writing the email at the beginning of any message.
- Follow KISS (keep it simple, stupid) and be to the point – Mirror your Correspondent. If you receive a single sentence answer to a several paragraph message, pay attention. Especially if the correspondent is a superior or a person whose business you are trying to win, make an effort to match their style and tone.
- Brevity is best – You need to be as brief as possible while writing emails. No one likes to read long mails, especially from strangers. Be clear and to the point. If you are not clear in your writing or have not organized your communication well, there is scope for misunderstanding and the purpose of your sending the mail could be undermined. Hence, think well before you write.
- Be personal – Some emails will need personal attention. So spend time on those and try to provide value. This will help you get the attention of your recipient and will send a message that you care about the people who you send the messages to. Ensure that you have an email signature at the end of your mail. This will help people to contact you easily. It should contain your mailing address and phone numbers.
- Be restrained – When emotions rise, slow down. If you receive a rude email, the best advice is to ignore it. Emotions can escalate quickly in email exchanges. Just delete the message. Chances are the sender will think better and write another, polite version.
- Be polite & mind the tone – You need to pay attention to the tone of your message. Be careful about the words you use and in what context. Since there is no visual or audio contact to support your tone, if the words are not used carefully, there is scope for misreading the message and misunderstanding it. WRITING AN EMAIL IN CAPITAL letters, is impolite as it is difficult for the receiver to read and the receiver will definitely be annoyed, if not offended. It is also interpreted as shouting in the digital world.
- Pay attention to details like grammar and format – Generally, good writing and efficient communication is not an easy task, and can be time-consuming. It takes time to formulate thoughts, to assess what to say, and to write a message in a succinct fashion. Do not try to decorate an email with lots of colors and formatting. As a general rule, use black text against a white background.
- Proofread – Once you have typed an email, you shouldn’t simply send it off, always check an email at least once. Check for basic spelling and grammar mistakes, also name spellings, events referred to, or dates mentioned. Consider the tone of the email. Do not go overboard with being too friendly or too businesslike.
- No attachments – Forgo unnecessary attachments. The number of emails that clog an inbox with attachments containing flowered borders and fancy signatures is unnecessary. If sending attachments, size is a concern. Attachments quickly add up and can bulk up the size of the inbox.
- Use proper names – If possible, address a recipient by name. If you don’t know the name, look it up. Try to do your best to find out the name of the recipient. Always close with a greeting and a full signature which includes your business name and designation.
- Pay attention to aesthetics – It is important that your email is formatted properly and the information is presented in an easy to read format. This means use of short sentences, short paragraphs, bullet lists, and most importantly short messages that are to the point and relevant to the topic. Do not digress from the email topic at all. Have a proper introduction, middle and end to your emails.
Emails have not been around too long and the basic emailing etiquettes are still being developed. It may be a while before all of it is in place. But following the same etiquettes as for post mail will help you deal with most emails. People have different perspectives about communicating through emails and this can lead to considerable misunderstandings between sender and recipient. In addition, an email may be sent for several different reasons, which may include such things as keeping in touch with loved ones and friends, asking for information, or requesting an appointment or reserving a place.
All emails are not the same and shouldn’t be treated the same. Each sent email will take its tone from the purpose for which it is being written, the person you are sending it to and the outcome you wish to have. Emails that have become a nuisance for some people are the unsolicited marketing emails that sell, advertise or offer products you do not want or need. Such emails, sent to hundreds of people each day, clog up the recipient’s inbox and are irritating. Most of the time they are filtered out, marked as spam and placed in the spam folder. It is a challenge for most writers to create emails that will not be marked as spam and will reach the intended audience. Before you send an email, give a thought to the email and what it contains. What would be the consequences if it got into the wrong hands? Such things are not impossible and do happen. This is a good and final check to make sure that your emails sound respectful, professional and ultimately represent how you wish to be portrayed to the world.
Each person has a different perspective on email. While some people may take emails as an informal medium of communication, others may not think so. They may view email as simply a more expedient way to communicate an official message or communication. Sending an informal email to such people is courting trouble as they may interpret your email as being inappropriate and offensive. Whatever you are writing and sending, retain a sensitivity regarding the above, and all should go well with your electronic mailing. You have to be aware of the personal preferences of each person to whom you are sending an email. When there is some doubt, you should always go the formal way.