10 Tips to Write Professional Email That Gets Noticed
by Catherine Pratt
Take a look at your email account. There’s probably a huge number of emails in your inbox all trying to get your attention. The same goes for the recipients of your email. People are overwhelmed by the amount of email they receive every day. So, how do you get your emails noticed and make them stand out from the crowd?
Here are 10 ways to be confident that you are writing professional email that gets noticed:
1. Be Specific – the subject line is important. Make sure that it refers to the topic of your email. People tend to scan the subjects. If yours is cryptic, too generic or doesn’t relate to what your email is about, it may not get read for a while. For example, don’t put:
This doesn’t provide enough detail. It could be referring to a meeting in the past or the present, could be the minutes, or could be a change in room location. It also doesn’t tell them what meeting. People go to a lot of meetings.
A better subject line would be:
Minutes from the Email Committee Meeting – July 15/05
People now know immediately what your email is about.
• Read Immediately, Very Important
Subject lines like this come across as annoying because what is important to you, may not be important to the reader. It is also similar to how spam email is sent out. It would be better to state what the emergency is. For example: “New Process for Email Begins Today”.
2. U R What You Write – while it may be okay to use shorthand like “u” and “r” when you’re emailing your friends, it’s not appropriate in the professional world. You also need to remember that when you’re in the work place you will be dealing with people from different generations. The “u” and “r” may make sense to you but not to someone who is older than you. You may also be working with someone who’s learning English as their second language. Using shorthand like this will make it very difficult for them to understand. It also gives the impression that you’re sloppy and not very professional.
3. Get to the Point – emails are time consuming. Provide value to your reader by making yours as short as possible but still clearly get your point across. Try to stick to one topic per email. Concise is the key word here. State what you want. Is your email meant to inform, do you need an answer, do you need approval? For example:
- This is to provide you with an update on the progress of the Email project.
- As requested, please find attached the minutes from the Email Meeting held on June 30.
Remember that reading an email on screen is tiring. Most people don’t read books online, same goes for long emails. People are more likely to read your emails if they know: it’s going to be easy for them to read, quick to understand what you need and fast to give you a response. If they know that you ramble on and on and it’s going to be a painful process for them to try and decipher what you want, you’ll be put at the bottom of the read list.
4. Make it easy to read – Use paragraphs that are quick to scan, use bullets when you can, and break up the information into easy to read chunks. Make it as easy as possible for your readers to quickly scan through your email and understand it.
5. Spell Check / Proof Read
– Before you hit the Send button, re-read it and use your spell checker. Ask yourself:
- Does this make sense?
- Will the reader understand this?
- Have I left out any relevant details?
- Have I left out any words? (our brains tend to think faster than we can type)
Sometimes we may know what we’re talking about in our head and leave out critical pieces of information. Also, sometimes what we write really isn’t what we mean. For example: if I typed:
“should have read the instructions first”.
Does this mean,
• “I should have read the instructions first” or
• “You should have read the instructions first”
These two sentences have very different meanings and one will look like you’re admitting that you made a mistake and the other seems to accuse your reader of making a mistake. It’s very easy to misinterpret emails because there isn’t a context for the reader. Those 30 seconds you spend proofing your email could save you from: upsetting a co-worker when you didn’t mean to, months of embarrassment, or even the hassle of having to compose numerous emails clarifying your initial point. Take the time to proof your message, you won’t regret it.
6. Stay on the Professional Side – as the above point shows words can easily be misunderstood. The tone of your voice is missing so what you think is funny or sarcastic may come across as insulting or rude to the receiver. So, if there’s a chance that your message could be taken the wrong way, don’t do it. Also, don’t forget to be polite. “Please” and “Thank You” go a long way.
7. To their Face – remember that your email is going to a real person. It’s easy to feel like you’re somewhat anonymous behind your keyboard. We can be tempted to send out much stronger emails than we would say to someone’s face. This can be a mistake. The rule to remember is if you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face, don’t say it. This includes writing comments about another person who you don’t think will see your email. That email just might come back to haunt you. There have been numerous cases of emails like this being forwarded on to the wrong person. Don’t take the chance.
As well, remember that:
Work Email is Not Personal – your work email legally belongs to the company, not you. They have the right to read your email. Some companies are now randomly checking employee’s email account as well as using programs to search for “key words”. Think of your email like a postcard. If you’re not comfortable with everyone reading it, then don’t send it.
8. Email is Permanent – people have a habit of storing email for a long, long time. Most likely even if you delete your emails, there may be a copy available on your system’s backup files. What you write today may come back later to hurt you. Don’t ever send an email in anger or when you’re annoyed. Take a breather and come back later to write it.
9. Think Before You Forward – do not mindlessly forward on an email you received or reply to it by including a huge distribution list. This usually just annoys the original sender of the email as well as people on the distribution list who may wonder why you are wasting their time by including them. You may find yourself cut out of the loop on receiving valuable information in the future if you don’t think first.
10. Would a Phone Call Work Better – email is easy but it sometimes causes us to lose touch with those we work with. People will email people on the other side of the cubicle wall. Why not get up and talk to the person face to face every once in awhile? In certain situation, this can actually be faster than emailing back and forth over and over. It will also build more of a relationship. If you only send email when you need to, this will also make your emails get noticed as people will know that what you have to say is important.
These 10 tips are simple to do and you’d be amazed at how people judge you by the words you send. You’ll find that you gain respect from your bosses, your co-workers and anyone who receives one of your emails. You will probably also notice that you get a quick response as your messages are getting noticed while other people are still waiting.
Email is a valuable communication tool. Use it properly and you’ll be far ahead of those who don’t.
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