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Professional Email Writing – Take It to the Next Level

By Jody Bruner

May 27, 2024

Email Writing, Writing Skills

Professional Email Writing – Take It to the Next Level - Professional-Email-Writing
Professional Email Writing – Take It to the Next Level - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1
Professional Email Writing – Take It to the Next Level - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1

Do you have a love/hate relationship with business email? Can’t live with it or without it. Much of our frustration stems from sheer volume, and if you think your inbox is full, the global picture is staggering. In 2022, an estimated 333 billion emails were sent and received. That number is expected to increase by around 60 billion over the next three years. Not surprisingly, remote workers are hit the hardest: they get almost six times more emails each week than their hybrid counterparts.

Given those astronomical numbers, the biggest gift you can give readers (and yourself!) is a well-crafted email that’s clear, concise and courteous.

Email writing skills – the essentials

Wavelength’s Email Etiquette course serves up a buffet table of tips and techniques to take your email to the next level. Here’s a sampling of five best practices to help you use this tool wisely and well.

The first consideration should be – is email the best way to communicate? If information is sensitive or if you don’t want a paper trail, it’s not the best choice.

Remember that email is both sticky and slippery. Sticky in that it has the half life of plutonium and will be around forever. Slippery in that once you hit send, you lose all control over that email.

Professional email writing – 5 best practices

If email is the right choice, consider the following strategies.

1. Create an information-rich subject line
Emails get results only when they’re read. Given the volume of messages landing in everyone’s inbox, the best way to ensure your email is read is to create a subject line that conveys your main point – what we refer to as the bottom line. If action is required, say so. If there’s a tight deadline, put that date in the subject line. Newspaper headlines are a great example of information-rich titles. The more specific the subject line, the more likely your reader is to click on it. Instead of ‘Travel expenses’ try ‘Submit your travel expenses by Sept. 30.’

2. Put the bottom line up front
Great, your reader has opened your email. Now keep their attention. The opening paragraph should expand on your bottom line so the reader knows exactly what you want them to know, feel, or do. Even better, add a benefit. For example, ‘To ensure your September travel expenses are reimbursed this pay period, please submit all receipts by September 30.’

3. Use cc, bcc and Reply All thoughtfully
Back in prehistoric times of paper letters and memos, writers were careful in choosing who to cc or bcc. Fast forward to today when we sometimes cavalierly cc or bcc just because it’s so easy. To avoid unnecessarily adding to those billions of emails, consider who needs to be copied. If you’re not sure whether your manager wants to be copied, ask!

Use Reply All just as thoughtfully. Does everyone need or want to know your reply? Just because it’s easy doesn’t make it a good practice.

4. Create a simple, scannable layout
Readers are busy and are looking for shortcuts. So they often skim rather than read word-for-word. Help readers skim intelligently by using headings, short paragraphs and bullet points when appropriate. Keep things simple with minimal use of bold, italics, color and highlighting. Avoid underline unless it’s a link.

5. Mind your manners
Tone is the body language of email so make sure you’re conveying a polished, polite and professional image. Words such as please, thank you, and appreciate go a long way to engender goodwill. Conversely, negative trigger words such as impossible, fail, or reject, can quickly deflate the tone. Look for ways to state the positive instead of the negative. For example, replace ‘We cannot process your application until you send us full payment’ with ‘As soon as we receive your payment of $$$, we will process your application.’

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