Most people who work full time probably write hundreds of emails every month, if not week. And yet, lots of us are adrift, not knowing how to write a good email to make sure we communicate effectively and helpfully with our colleagues, customers and suppliers.
This article explores some of the good practices of email writing, and explains why they are worthwhile.
Tip #1 - Read your email before you send it
You might think this would be obvious, but the number of emails I’ve received that read like some kind of cryptic crossword clue, were riddled with typos, or in one case, switched to caps halfway through a sentence (and continued that way until the end of the email), leads me to believe that plenty of people don’t even take a glance at their email before sending it.
Not reading what you've written risks all kinds of ambiguity and even statements opposite to what you intended if you simply drop a 'not' and even a quick skin read will catch the most glaring errors.
Tip #2 - Use useful subjects
Many of us receive hundreds of emails every week and we often need to refer back to them to check details and find files that have been sent. When doing this, accurate, descriptive subjects are a godsend and make life so much easier.
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." – Benjamin Franklin
Tip #3 - Be brief and to the point
The longer the email, the less likely anybody is going to read it. You need to work hard to be clear in the fewest number of words, but it’s worth it and saves everyone time.
Tip #4 - When to use BCC and CC
CC stands for Carbon Copy and BCC for Blind Carbon Copy. If you’re sending an email to several people, all of whom need to respond, then you simply put their addresses in the ‘To’ box. But if the email is for one person, but you need someone else to see it for their information only (your boss for example) then you’ll use CC. This indicates to the person in the CC box that they don’t need to take any action.
BCC is for use when you are sending to a large number of recipients. This is because their email addresses are sensitive information that they might not want shared with everyone else on your list. Don’t use BCC simply to hide that fact that someone else is copied into the email, as it’s deceptive.
Tip #5 - Remember that email isn’t private
Plenty of people have been disciplined or even fired for writing inappropriate emails and in the majority of cases, your company has the legal right to read any emails you send using your work address.
On top of that, the Internet is not secure and hackers can relatively easily intercept and read your emails if they want to badly enough.
A good way to think of it is to look at emails like postcards – and don’t put anything in one that you wouldn’t put on a postcard.
Tip #6 - Use a signature that includes contact information
There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving an email from someone that’s requesting a call, and having to hunt all over the place for their phone number. Set up your auto-signature to contain your phone number, and preferably web and postal address as well, and your contacts and colleagues will thank you for it.