writing effective business emails

The ABCs of Writing Effective Business Emails in English


writing effective business emails

Writing effective business emails in English is an art. Emails are probably the most common way that business people communicate today.  Gone are the days when managers, managing attorneys, and executives spent significant chunks of time dictating letters to their secretaries. Many just send a quick text or email instead. The problem is that when English is not their “mother tongue” writing effective emails in English can pose a challenge. People actually “fear” writing emails in English when English is not their mother tongue. You can get over your fear of writing English emails if you follow certain rules.

There are definitely unspoken rules for writing and sending emails and otherwise interacting on the Internet. First of all, you have to realize that there are two types of emails that you can send in a Professional context: formal and informal emails. The rules for each types are different. For example: never put an “emoticon” in a formal business email; and always have a subject line for formal emails. On the other hand, in informal emails, be free to use émoticons and omit the subject line if you wish. The point is to know the difference. A lot will depend on the purpose of your email.  Some people call this “Netiquette.”  And speaking of netiquette, it helps to know email vocabulary for both formal and informal emails. Below are 26 tips for writing effective business emails. You can call it the ABCs of Writing Effective Business Emails In English.

A.  Consider the top box of your email as being of vital importance. So make sure you indicate 1. who the email is going to; 2. who the email is from; 3. What is the subject of the email (very important); and whether the email is being cc’d or bcc’d.

B. It is more professional to have a signature line in your emails that includes your phone number, job title and company name.

C. If possible you should put a disclaimer in your email as well, at the foot of your emails, that warns potential Internet snoops that the contents of the email are “confidential”  and are intended for the person to whom it is addressed only.

D. Find out if your company has guidelines for sending emails and be sure to follow these guidelines.

E. Always use the spellcheck in English to make sure you have spelled words correctly; but do not depend on spellcheck alone since it is sometimes wrong so you want to copy edit your email or have someone copy edit for you if you can.

F.  Know the difference between bcc and cc. You use the bcc when you want to keep the recipients private from each other. You use cc when you are sending the email to more than one person but you don’t mind if the recipients know who else received the email.

G. Flag email as “high priority” only if you want an immediate response or if it is urgent.

H. The greeting of your email should sound professional so it is better to start with “Dear Mr Smith…” rather than “Hi Mr. Smith.” Of course, if you already have an ongoing relationship with the recipient, even in a business context it is okay to be less formal. This is a judgment call.

I. Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible. Are you writing to confirm something? Ask a question? Follow up on a previous conversation? Respond to a request? Then your first sentence in your email should get straight to the point.

J.  Treat your business emails as seriously any other business communication.

K. Never put in writing anything that could cause liability to your company in a business email.

L. When sending attachments in business emails, you may want to ask the recipient first about the format if you’re not sure that the file type or file size is appropriate.

M. Try to brush up on basic email lingo. Know what is the “subject line,” “recipient” “inbox,” “”cc,” “bcc,”  “attachment,” etc., means

N.  If you are writing an email with more than one paragraph, try to discuss only one topic in each paragraph. In other words, keep it short and simple and stick to the point of each paragraph.  Use signals such as “First,” “Second,” “Lastly.”

O. Use headings, subheadings, bullet point, and numbers if it will make your message clearer.

P. Depending on the complexity and sensitivity of the contents of your email, you may want to pre-plan and pre-write it as a Word document first before cutting and pasting it to your email.

Q. If you can, it is more professional to use @company email addresses for business emails rather than Yahoo or Gmail or AOL.

R. For non English Mother tongue emailers, it is necessary to remember that your sentences must express a complete thought; i.e.every sentence must contain a subject and a verb and possibly an object.

S. Don’t overuse emphasis such as bolds and italics.

T. Use active voice rather than passive voice except in  those circumstances that clearly warrant passive voice such as when the subject does not refer to a specific person.

U.  If you are not absolutely sure what an abbreviation or jargon means, or a slang term, avoid using it.

V. Never send a business email when you are angry- especially when it is at the receiver.

W. Leave a lot of “white space” in your emails. Make sure your sentences and paragraphs are adequately spaced keeping in mind that it is difficult for many readers to read tight, lengthy prose on a computer screen.

X. Choose the right level of formality. Do not be too formal or too informal depending on the context.

Y. Consider the type of font you use. You can’t go wrong with Times Roman. Or Garamond. But there are many fonts out there that are absolutely inappropriate for a business email.

Z. Considering that everyone is busy, structure your email logically so things appear in an order that makes sense to the recipient.



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