Communication is key to ensure a smooth and effective business operation. That's why every manager and executive should strive to give a good example to employees in written communication. Emails are a standard form of business communication and yet there are many professionals who are still struggling to make the most from it. Here are 10 key tips to help you write emails that will perfectly capture your professionalism.
1. Mind the subject line
Before hitting the Send button, take a minute to examine your subject line. If it's empty, you're making a mistake. The subject line is there to give the recipient a reason to open your message. Professionals get many emails every day, so instead of engaging in a leisurely back-and-forth, they'd rather clean out their inbox and move on to their tasks.
A vague subject line won't inform or persuade the recipient to opening your message. The same goes for emails which simply lack a subject – how can a professional decide if the email is worth their attention if they've got no idea what's it about? Before sending your email, remember that it will be one of the many messages in the inbox and differentiate it by adding a clear and on-point subject.
2. The 'one thing' rule
Emails aren't like business meetings with a varied agenda. The most effective emails are those that include less information. It's a good idea to practice the so-called 'one thing' rule, ensuring that each email treats a single subject. If you'd like to ask a question about another project, just write a different email. This is how you make sure that your communications are organized and effective.
3. Have a purpose
Before you set down to writing an email, ask yourself: What's my purpose? Why am I sending this email? What do I need from the recipient? If you find it hard to answer these questions, you probably shouldn't be writing this email. Writing without having a clear understanding of what you're trying to achieve is a waste of time – both yours and the recipient's. Just ask yourself whether this emails is really necessary – by sending out only those which are key to your operation, you'll show respect to the recipient and ensure that they will treat all your communications seriously.
4. Be emphatic
Empathy enables us to assume different perspectives and see the world through the eyes of different people. This is how we can better understand their feelings and thoughts. When writing an email, consider its content from the point of view of the recipient. Is is clear? How would you interpret this sentence if you were the recipient?
Once you show that you think of others while writing emails, you'll receive a different sort of response. Most people are busy, so respect their time and make your email short. If you've got something positive to share, do it – people like compliments. If the recipient helped you, be sure to thank them – do it even if it's their job to help you.
5. Don't prolong the introduction
It's natural that when you email someone for the very first time, you'll want to properly introduce yourself and justify your attempt at reaching out. Let them know who you are in few words – just as if you were meeting face to face. You'd never deliver a 5-minute-long monologue, would you? This is also when your signature becomes crucial – especially if you're not sure the other person remembers who you are. Leaving your credentials in a signature will help you shorten your introduction and get right too business.
6. Keep it short and sweet
Your every email should contain enough sentences to convey your message, and not even one more. Try to limit yourself to five sentences. A smaller number might be perceived as too abrupt and simply rude. More than five sentences simply wastes time. Sometimes you'll find it impossible to keep an email to five sentences, but in most cases they will be enough.
7. Develop a standard structure and stick to it
To keep your emails short, you'll need to build a strategy for structuring them. If you follow this template in every email, you'll save lots of time and effort. A simple structure will feature: a greeting, a compliment or pleasantry, the reason for your email, the key – a call to action, a short closing message and a signature.
If you think a pleasantry is not necessary, you're wrong. By starting each email in this way, you'll motivate people to read the rest of your message. When writing down your call to action, provide clear instructions, for instance: 'Could you send me this file by Wednesday?' or 'Please get in touch with the client and let me now what's their response'.
8. Choose active voice
If you can use active voice, do it – never choose passive. Active voice is easier to read. It motivates readers to take action and assume responsibility. Sentences in active voice focus on the person taking action – in passive voice, you concentrate on the object of the action. In passive voice, things seem to happen by themselves. Empower the recipient and inspire them to take action by using sentences in active voice.
9. Write as you speak
Don't forget that email is considered a less formal way of communicating than a letter or even a phone call. If you choose to write as you speak, you'll make a good impression on the recipient who'll perceive you as more likeable. It will also help you to keep your emails short. Extended paragraphs happen rarely in spontaneous speech, so they shouldn’t serve as the basis for your written communications. Your emails should reflect your personality – if you wouldn't say something to a person's face, don't choose the form of email to do it. Be polite and never forget to say 'please' or 'thank you'.
10. Add a signature
This final piece of advice is key to your business email communications. A block with contact information ranging from your name and business address to phone numbers and additional email addresses is a must. What to include in a business signature? Write your name, job title and provide a link to your online spaces – website, online portfolio, or social media accounts relevant to you as a professional. You should also add a legal disclaimer if it's required by your company. Never clutter your signature with thoughtful quotes or artwork – that's just unprofessional. A signature is another smart strategy which will help you to keep the body of your emails short.
Following these rules, you'll be able to make the most out of your business communications and ensure that every single email you send achieves its purpose.