We all recognize the feeling of email overload; too many emails and not enough time to read them. Nevertheless, when we send an email, we want it to be read and actioned as quickly as possible. How can we format business emails to optimize the chances of that happening? Here are some tips for writing professional and effective emails.
Successful business emails: Four critical questions
Before you start formulating a business email, you should ask yourself four crucial questions.
• Who is my audience? Emails to colleagues you know well will require a different approach to emails to senior management, clients or even prospective clients
• What is the purpose of this email? Whether it is for information or to request action, you should be clear in your own mind about what you want to achieve by writing the email
• Is it necessary? Consider who, if anyone, really needs the information.
• Is it appropriate in this particular situation? Would it be better to communicate the content in a different form. Sensitive or bad news, for example, is best delivered in person.
Only when you have answered these questions can you start writing an effective email
A meaningful subject line
After the sender’s name, the subject line is next thing the recipient will read, even before they have opened the email. How the subject line is formulated may determine whether they open the email at all. Consider the following examples:
Sales strategy meeting on Friday 10th June: Proposed Agenda
Which are you more likely to pay attention to? Concise and informative is a key rule for the subject line. If your entire message is very short you can use just the subject line followed by EOM (end of message) to show that the recipient doesn’t need to open the email:
Confirmed: Sales strategy meeting on Friday 10th June at 14.00 in Meeting Room 2. EOM
Make a good first impression
Your email should begin with an appropriate greeting, depending on your relationship to the recipient. While hello or even hi, and perhaps adding their name, is often the norm for colleagues, a more formal approach for senior managers, external partners or clients is generally necessary: Good morning/afternoon or Dear, plus their name. If the recipient doesn’t know you, don’t forget to briefly introduce yourself and the context in which you are writing.
Closing a business email: Useful phrases
The closing line should refer to what, if anything, you are expecting. This can range from a simple ‘I look forward to hearing from you.’ to ‘If you could send me this information by …, I would really appreciate it.’ For colleagues, a simple ‘Thanks’ or ‘Thank you very much’ will suffice as a sign-off. In more formal situations, ‘Regards’, ‘Kind regards’, ‘Best wishes’, or even ‘Yours sincerely’ are more appropriate.