In tough economic times, it’s especially important that you use every opportunity to make a good impression as an employee. An easy way to get recognized at work is by writing really effective emails. You won’t win any awards for it, but if your emails are always purposeful, organized, and clearly written, everyone will notice, including your boss.
Here are five “Never” and five “Always” to writing outstanding at-work emails:
- Never write an email when you’re angry or upset. This seems like common sense, but people do it even at work, especially in their reply emails.
- Never be cute. If you think what you’ve just written is really cute, delete it and rewrite. This includes using various facial expressions at the end of sentences. Save cute for personal emails.
- Never criticize using personal adjectives. I’ve rarely seen emails at work that personally attack people by name, but I’ve read a lot of emails that criticize someone’s idea using personal adjectives. “That proposal at today’s meeting was so stupid.” If you need (not want – but need) to criticize someone’s idea or plan, state the reasons for your position, but never use personal adjectives.
- Never use all capital letters. Again, this is common sense, but it does happen. Don’t let it happen to you.
- Never send no-content replies unless there’s a reason. I get “Thanks!” and “OK” replies to my emails every day and I don’t want them and neither does anyone else. Never send a no-content reply unless a “thanks” reply is deserved or an acknowledgment of receipt of the email is required (they usually aren’t).
- Always read your emails before you send them. Again, this is common sense, but most people don’t do it and that’s why emails frequently read like first drafts.
- Always write emails to accomplish your purpose in sending it. Business emails are sent to inform, instruct, confirm, inquire, persuade, or reply to a received email. Keep your business emails within those purposes.
- Always make your Subject line informative and interesting. Instead of writing “Subject: recent company hiring”, write “Subject: How recent company hiring is going to affect our spending for the next 6 months.
- Always separate ideas. Business emails often discuss complex topics in a short narrative; this can make them confusing. One way to make your complex e-mails easier to understand is divide your e-mail into groups of ideas. My boss recently sent me a draft of an email he was writing and asked for my help in making its message clearer. He had written only two paragraphs, each with less than a dozen sentences. But both paragraphs contained multiple ideas and many of the sentences were not logically connected to each other. My solution? I never changed a word he wrote. I simply separated the sentences into five groups and put a heading to each group. The first heading was “Why You Are Receiving This Email” and my boss’s first sentence below it. Then, the next heading with the appropriate sentences below it. Within three minutes of receiving his email, I sent him my changes – my boss was happy!
- Always state your email’s purpose in the first sentence. If it’s necessary to state your opinion on the email’s subject, do that in the second sentence. Use the remainder of the email to elaborate on the first two sentences.
Summary – Follow the above simple tips and your at-work emails will immediately be more purposeful and more effective.