Writing Effective Emails

The EmailBot 5000

From a young age, writing effective emails meant to me that they were ruthlessly efficient. I relayed only the most important information in as few words as possible—why would I want to waste my time typing when I have important work to do, and why would I want to waste someone’s time with pointless reading? This ultimately resulted in emails devoid of emotion, which translated to rudeness, making people hesitant to correspond with me. Turns out, writing effective emails is not easy.

When Writing Effective Emails, Balance is Key

When you’re communicating important information to colleagues and business partners, you shouldn’t write like you’re texting an old friend. You also don’t want your emails to sound like they were written by Spock, even if they say exactly what needs to be said. Even Spock was half-human; writing effective emails is important during the work process, but you don’t have to sacrifice your humanity to relay or ask for information.

How Formal is Too Formal?

  • Play it Safe

It’s always a good idea to start off a bit formal when corresponding with new coworkers or clients—sort of like wearing a blazer over your t-shirt and jeans for the first few weeks of a job.

  • Go with the Flow

Stay within your vocabulary comfort zone when typing out the copy of your email, to ensure the message sounds organic. Don’t type like you just swallowed a thesaurus if that’s not how you normally speak.

  • Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Of course, remember to say “please” and “thank you” in your email. It may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to overlook when you’re writing dozens of emails every day.

How Casual is Too Casual?

  • Know your Audience

Knowing the communication style of the person you’re corresponding with, the type of conversation you’re having, and learning to match it, is important to a successful dialogue.

  • OMG, no THX

However familiar you are with a client or peer, avoid texting-style abbreviations in emails. Not only can they confuse the recipient if they don’t know what the abbreviation means, but it looks incredibly unprofessional.

  • :’-C

Speaking of unprofessional—and I hope you already know this—please NEVER use emojis in an email! A potential boss once added a “;-D” face to a request to interview me for a job. It was weird.

How to Write an Organic Email

Now that you’ve achieved professional balance, let’s walk through the process of writing a professionally-human email!

1. Make sure your respectfully-worded correspondence is organized effectively, with the most pressing information on top and arranged in descending importance.

2. Be sure to include a polite call-to-action:

“I’d appreciate any notes you have on this document,” “please send me the photo edits by Monday”

3. Double-and-triple check for grammatical errors, missing information, and tone

4. Never send a one-word email; if you don’t need to say much, keep it short and sweet with a brief sentence:

“Thank you for sending me your documents, I just received them and I will review them this afternoon”

Efficiency Isn’t All Bad

It’s possible to send efficient emails without sounding robotic. When writing effective emails they can be casual and relaxed, but shouldn’t lack professionalism. But if your correspondence comes off as uptight, you could risk a bad digital reputation with the people you work with. Kuki yomenai is a Japanese phrase that refers to someone that “can’t read the air” of a conversation and says and does all the wrong things. These are lessons I’ve learned (mostly) the hard way, but hopefully with my insight, you can avoid being a total kuki yomenai in the workplace.

Happy Emailing!

-Rachel Lynn Clark, Project Coordinator