We sent more than 205 billion emails to each other in 2015. Researchers believe this will increase to 246 billion by 2019. To make our lives easier, we need to improve the way we write and respond to emails. We need to save time by asking the correct questions and by giving the right answers.
This includes writing a great subject line (if you are unsure of how to write a great subject line, read The 12 Worst Mistakes People Make In Email Subject Lines) and signing off professionally (read Why ‘Best’ Is The Worst Way To End Your Email).
In this post, I want to show you five ways to improve your general email writing skills:
Keep it simple. Use short sentences and easily understood words. Research shows people respond to shorter emails written with a Grade 3 level on your readability statistics. Do not use texting language. Use proper spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Keep it short. We all avoid long emails and respond to the shorter ones first. Reading a long email is time-consuming and annoying.
Get to the point.
Be positively neutral. Tone is important. (Read 155 Words To Describe An Author’s Tone.) As I said, get to the point, but you do not have to be abrupt. Be polite, but not overly friendly. Avoid emojis and emoticons. They make you look unprofessional.
Ask/Answer a question. This is the main reason people send business emails. Use the five w’s and the one h (who, what, where, when, why, and how) if you struggle to compose an email. You will usually want to ask or answer one of these questions. Do not ask more than three questions in your email.
Be specific. Start with the most important information. There is no time to build up to it in emails. People skim when they read electronically. Avoid vague timelines and deadlines so that you do not have to write another email.
Your emails will also improve if you:
Remove qualifiers. Words like ‘very’ and ‘almost’ confuse people.
Remove apologetic words like ‘just’ and ‘sorry’. These will put business clients off and they sound unprofessional. Examples: I am just
sending you this to ask… Sorry to bother you, but…
Leave out ridiculous words and phrases, such as:
- ‘Honestly.’ – Does this mean you were being anything other than honest before?
- ‘In my opinion.’ – Unless you are channelling somebody else’s opinion?
- ‘Please find attached.’ – This is not a treasure hunt. Rather say, ‘I have attached…’
- ‘Have a good day further.’ – Further than what? I am not sure if this is a uniquely South African phrase, but it does not make sense and it wastes time.
- ‘Please do not hesitate to contact me’ – Unless we are talking about a matter of life and death. ‘Please contact me’ works.
Improve your writing with The Plain Language Programme.
If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:
- But How Did The Email Make You Feel?
- 5 Tips To Help You Avoid The Most Annoying Email Pet Peeves
- The Top Seven Tips for Writing Emails