Writing an email seems simple enough, but it's easy to make a mistake, especially when trying to respond to many messages in a timely manner.
Depending on your job, email may be one of the main ways you communicate with co-workers or other professionals. In fact, 86 percent of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes, according to a 2017 statistic from HubSpot.
The Radicati Group’s 2015-2019 email statistics report says business users sent and received on average 122 emails a day in 2015, which is expected to grow to 126 emails a day by the end of 2019.
Before hitting send, Amanda Cooper, Richland County Employer Resource Network Success Coach and North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Inc. Business Development Coordinator for Temp2Higher, has some tips.
First things first: consider your audience. This will help guide you in your approach to the subject line, content and overall tone of the email.
“The level of professionalism is going to change, whether it’s a business professional that you’re really terrific friends with and you have more of a relaxed relationship, as opposed to maybe somebody you’re hoping to do business with,” Cooper said.
Even before you start typing, think about what exactly you want to articulate — what’s the purpose of the email?
“I think because we get inundated with so much information, trying to be as articulate as possible and getting your main point across quickly and clearly is the best piece of advice to give anybody,” Cooper said.
The same goes for the subject line.
“My rule of thumb typically is to try to figure out how to keep them short and sweet with just the appropriate amount of information in there,” Cooper said. “Considering all the emails a person can get in a day, it’s much, much easier to help find the email if your subject line is good. Just be as clear as you can and articulate the purpose of the email.”
Cooper also recommends including an automatic signature, which can be easily added in the email settings.
“It makes it easier for people, especially if it’s a subject where maybe it’s difficult for them to put in words what they need to tell you, to just pick up the phone if your information is right there,” she said.
Another thing: proofread, proofread, proofread.
“Proofreading is a must,” Cooper said.
Turn on spellcheck, read the email aloud to yourself or have another pair of eyes take a look if you need to.
Try also not to overuse capitalizations or exclamation points, Cooper suggested.
“Don’t worry so much about putting emphasis on certain things because then it could be misinterpreted, or that may not even be the main point of the email but that’s where the reader’s focus is going to go which helps it to be taken out of context,” she said.
Plus, it can be challenging to convey tone via email.
“Somebody may capitalize a word and you think you’re being yelled at and really that’s not what they meant at all — they just wanted to stress that,” Cooper said.
Life gets busy and it's easy to forget (or neglect) to respond to someone in a timely fashion, but you should try to. If you already clicked on the email and don't have time to respond right away, you can star it or mark it as unread as a reminder to respond later on.
If you know you're going to be away from your computer or out of the office for a period of time, you can create a simple "vacation responder" in your settings.
Something else to consider: think twice before hitting the "reply all" button. Reserve this for communications you believe everyone on the list needs to be clued in on.
Other quick tips are double-checking that you've selected the correct recipient and avoiding the use of wild fonts (keep it simple and standard).
One last thing to remember is that although email is a popular mode of communication, some topics are best discussed via phone or face-to-face.
“I think it can be easy to misinterpret emails, so I think anything that would be considered a little more personal in nature where maybe you’re having to give some constructive criticism on a project or if it’s really serious and there are very strict details that you need someone to follow, I think verbalizing those and then getting somebody to repeat back what those things are makes it much easier to communicate without being misinterpreted,” Cooper said.