Business Emails: How to write them quickly and correctly

Plain, simple, brief. That's the way to go. Photo: RambergMediaImages/flickr

HARRISBURG, April 9, 2013 – For my first “Tech Tips in 10 Minutes” column, I wanted to tackle an issue that I’ve heard colleagues, supervisors and other professionals discuss for years: how to quickly write more effective business emails.

Truth is, if you’re sending an email with six paragraphs, spelling errors while repeating the same point over and over, your email will probably be ignored.

Fight your email writer’s block and increase your workplace productivity by creating emails that are direct, deadline driven, personal and simple by following these five steps.

1. Get to the Point

There’s a huge difference between business and personal emails. It doesn’t matter if your recipient is your supervisor, a co-worker, a journalist or vendor. Business emails are for the direct transfer of information, not for superfluous conversations.

Email subject lines and content should be short, concise and to the point. Your main idea, question or concern should be expressed in the first few sentences.

To increase your email’s chances of being read, keep the length manageable. A paragraph or two should be sufficient. Longer emails are usually either skipped or placed in a “read later” folder.

2. Set Specific Deadlines for Deliverables and Responses

Business emails should encourage your recipient to take action. Within the body of your email, communicate your desired deliverables and due dates.

As a general rule of thumb, give your recipient at least 24 hours to reply. If you still don’t receive a confirmation or response, feel free to follow up via email.  If a deadline is looming, you may want to rethink your email strategy and give the person a call.

3. Be Personal

Although the goal is to be concise, you should still personalize your emails as much as possible. Remember, you’re talking to a human, not a computer, so a friendly and professional tone is appropriate.

Consider including your recipients name in the subject line to catch their attention. Never include a generic salutation like “Hi!” Be specific. If you’re writing an email to John, start your email with a friendly “Hi John!”

Including a brief personalized sentence near the beginning of the email isn’t out of the question, either. Let the reader know you’re interested in them, not just what they can do for you. If you know your boss just came back from vacation, start the email with “How was your trip to Mexico?” and then get to the point.

4. Stay Plain and Simple

Avoid fancy fonts, colors and images in your body and signature when composing business emails. This is especially important as we use smartphones with different operating systems to access email more frequently.

Unnecessary formatting and attachments can cause load issues for your recipient. There’s nothing more annoying than receiving an email you can’t actually read!

5. Proofread

Before you hit the send button, take a few minutes to proofread your message. Follow these guidelines for a quick and easy review:

Verify your recipient’s name and email address

Confirm that you’re sending the message from your correct email account (work versus personal, etc.)

Check your subject line and body spelling and grammatical errors

Review all tasks and deadlines outlined in the message for accuracy


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Katie Elizabeth

Katie Elizabeth is a freelance blogger, content coordinator and communications grad student. She’s always on the lookout for the latest and greatest social media and tech tactics and thinking about the creative ways in which professionals can actually USE them. 

She’s worked in several different industries, including real estate, sustainability and career development. When she’s not writing or studying, she’s probably on her way to a concert or exploring flea markets and antique stores.


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