Whether you're looking for work, hoping to extend your professional network or trying to make a good impression in your current role, it's an essential skill in the digital age to be able to compose a succinct and effective email. And it's often harder than it sounds! Most of us are used to informal, casual correspondence, but it's important to clean up your communication for a professional purpose.
Everyone’s inbox holds those difficult to read or process emails, hanging around because the recipient is unclear on how to reply or act. A well-crafted email provides the recipient with a friendly, clear, concise and actionable message.
Let's look at the criteria for a great email in a bit more detail.
1. Should this even be an email?
We tend to over-communicate by email. While it's efficient and provides an electronic paper-trail, not all communication should happen this way. Ask yourself, 'Is this email really necessary?' Perhaps a quick phone call or a ping on the company messenger is more appropriate. If you’re expecting a lot of back-and-forth on the topic, a short conversation can eliminate a lengthy email chain. If you're sure that an email is the best way to communicate your message, read on.
2. What is the purpose of your email?
An email must have a purpose. And it must have only one purpose. This email practice is called the ‘one thing rule'. By limiting emails to one thing, the message is easier for the recipient to understand, process, and act upon. This clarity increases understanding and productivity. In practice, we sometimes have to ask for several pieces of information related to the same topic. In this case, use a numbered list to clarify for your reader that the request has components. This will help your recipient to respond easily and ensure you receive all the specifics you need.
3. Who are you writing for?
In all business writing, the audience is the top consideration. Who you are writing for will determine how you write your email. The recipient (and your relationship with them) will determine the tone, formality, and content of the communication. If you're using acronyms or jargon, will your reader understand them? If you're writing to someone in a very senior position, you will want to ensure your tone is respectful and your language is formal. It won't matter how well you craft your message if you are off the mark in your professional tone. You'll also want to consider how you use the 'To', 'CC' and 'BCC' fields as these are frequently misapplied and can cause confusion in who the message is for and who ought to respond.
4. What should every great email include?
Subject line: This is the mini summary of your email. It should be between three and eight words long. Try to avoid one-word subject lines or using terms like 'Sales', 'Please read' or 'Important' as they are flags for spam algorithms. This is the one section of an email most people don't consider well enough, meaning their email may go unread or be stuck in a 'read later' folder by their recipient. Your subject line is as important as your main email content!
A greeting and opening pleasantry: Never jump straight into your content; always make sure you have formally opened your message with a greeting ('Hi' or 'Dear' depending on your relationship) and a short one-line polite enquiry or comment ('It was lovely to see you at X event', 'I appreciate you taking the time to help me with this project', etc.).
Purpose and call to action: Be explicit in what you're communicating or asking in your email; what is it you want them to do as a result of your message? Then ask them directly to do that, ideally within a specified timeframe.
Closing message and sign-off: This simply indicates the email is finished. Without one, your message could sound abrupt or rushed. Something like 'Thank you for your time' or 'I look forward to hearing from you' are perfect, along with a professional sign-off ('Best wishes', 'Kind regards', etc.).
5. What needs to happen before you hit 'Send'?
It's important to review your email before you send it. Make sure you've included any necessary attachments and proofread thoroughly so it makes sense and doesn't contain any glaring errors (remember that a spellchecker won't catch words spelled correctly that aren't in the right place - for example, a 'not' instead of a 'now', or transposed words). Not only can typos convey carelessness, but they can also change the meaning of your words, leading to confusion over the content and purpose of your message. Grammarly is a great free tool if you're not confident in this area of your writing.
How can we help?
If you're looking for a new office job in Surrey and aren't registered with us as a candidate, please give us a call on 01932 355000 or email us (using all your new tricks from this blog!) at email@example.com. You can find our full list of vacancies here. We look forward to helping you find your perfect role.