Guidelines for writing e-mail messages

Even though sending an email is a pretty easy and simple task from a technical point of view, we should still pay attention to what and how we send it, especially in business/work correspondence. Generally, we all want our email messages to be taken seriously, but sometimes we don’t pay too much attention to the format and the email etiquette rules. Here are some email writing guidelines that will make your business email look professional.

Keep the subject line short and clear. Ideally, keeping the subject line up to 5-6 words is the best way to provide a brief and straight to the point topic. Providing long subject lines is a bad approach and is not a way how to write business email. Moreover, such a subject may easily be ignored by the recipient. When correspondence takes a lot of writing back and forth, then try to follow the topic and discussion with a new subject instead of just leaving the original one throughout the whole correspondence.

Address the other side by a proper greeting. It is advisable to start an email with “Dear {title} {last name}”, though this may be slightly adjusted. If the other side signs with their first name, then it is considered that you can address them in your reply by their first name as well.

Keep the body of an email brief. People have a tendency just to skim over too long emails, so email messages should be kept to a reasonable length. If there is really a need to write more than a couple of paragraphs, then a conference call or a meeting could be a better idea than sending an email of such a length.

Limit the number of topics per email message. Try to keep one email message limited to just one topic. If needed, try to set an expectation for the recipient that there are multiple topics discussed through that particular message. The best way to do that would be through the subject line, for example: “Please see my three questions” or “Please take a look at these issues”.

Check the grammar and spelling of your message. People tend to make some silly spelling or grammar mistakes because they type in a rush so, whenever possible, try to correct or check for errors before sending. Nowadays, most modern email clients have spell checkers built in, so get used to using them.

Do not use emoticons in business correspondence. Although this is quite an often practice in private email messages, it is not advisable to use emoticons in any kind of work/business related email correspondence. Keep the serious tone of your message if you want to be taken seriously and leave smiley faces for fun messages. Be polite throughout the whole email and always show some professional courtesy.

Limit the number of recipients to a reasonable number. If you are sending an email to a large group of people, there is a possibility they won’t read it completely or take it seriously if you included too many recipients. They may also be slightly confused thinking that someone else should respond to that email instead of them and your email could end up without any response. Hence, limit the number to a reasonable amount and, as already mentioned above, try to address those people by a greeting so they are always certain you intended all of them to receive that message.

Include a friendly closing. Let the other side know that you intended to end your message the way you did by adding your signature and possibly some closing like “Best Regards” or “Best wishes”. Otherwise, if you leave out the closing lines, the other party may think that the email was not complete or that you sent it by mistake. It is polite to end it by signing your name, especially if you do not have frequent correspondence with that person.

By following these email writing guidelines you will ensure your recipients have received the right information and, as a result, you will get the responses you want.

Karin Jakovljevic

About the author

Karin Jakovljevic

Karin Jakovljevic is the head of marketing at Ximble, a powerful, cloud-based workforce management system, simplifying employee scheduling and time tracking for retailers, restaurants and small businesses.

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