If you work in an office, you probably spend much of your day reading and replying to emails. We all have different styles, some of which leave significant room for improvement. I’m sure you’ve seen some bad emails in your worklife.

They range from the cryptic email writer, who skips the subject line and sends vague emails requiring the reader to decode their meaning, to the wordy writer, who drones on and on for pages, boring the reader and muddling their message.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle, and we can all remember a few tips to improve our email game. Keep reading for ten simple things you can do to send clearer emails sure to get the response you need.

Work Email Tips

1. Include the project name in the subject line.

Receiving an email with an unhelpful subject line is almost as annoying as receiving an email with no subject.

I like to use the name of the project I’m working on plus a word or two describing the reason for the email (e.g., “Brady – research question”).  This helps you keep your emails organized and provide a frame of reference for your reader.

2. Follow office norms.

Do your colleagues skip email greetings and just get to the point? You should too.

Is everyone very polite, prefacing each request with a please and closing with a thank you? You should too. 

Pay attention and follow suit. If there don’t seem to be many dos or don’ts in your office, follow these: avoid overuse of exclamation points and never use weird fonts or backgrounds.

3. Skip read receipts.

Unless, of course, they’re the norm in your office (in which case: ugh). 

Personally I hate getting emails with read receipts. It makes me feel like a clock has started on my response. Generally, you can assume that your intended recipient got your message.

4. Acknowledge receipt when appropriate.

This tip goes hand-in-hand with number three. If you receive an important email from a client or an assignment from a supervisor, or any other email to which the sender can reasonably expect a response, send one.  Even if it’s just to say “Will do” in response to an assignment.

5. Use the “important” flag sparingly.

We have all worked with somebody who cannot resist adding that little red flag to almost all of their emails, rendering it essentially worthless. Again, pay attention to your office norms here and if something is truly urgent, try picking up the phone.

6. Be aware of email archiving rules.

You may receive dozens if not 100+ emails a day. Make sure you know how your office handles old emails – are they deleted after a year or two? If so, put some kind of foldering system into place.  

Deletion or archiving rules may also apply to your sent box. For this reason, you may notice that some people CC themselves on key emails so they can then folder them for the future.

7. Keep your emails short and sweet.

Get to the point quickly and clearly. Occasionally, long emails are necessary. If so, break them up with paragraphs or even headers. Just avoid a wall of text.

8. Proofread.

This seems obvious, but the number of typo-laden emails I receive makes clear it is not: Make sure your email program is set up to spell check the body of your email AND the subject line.

9. Fill in the “to” field LAST, after drafting and proofing your email.

We’ve all done it – accidentally hit send while mid-draft, before proofing, or prior to attaching a key file. Sometimes it’s no big deal – you can just fix and resend – but sometimes it is majorly embarrassing if you prematurely email an important client or stakeholder.

The easy way to avoid this is to wait to fill in the “to” field until after you are done writing and proofing your email.

10. Always include an email signature.

Make it easy for people to reach you and to figure out who you are. I suggest including a signature for your reply emails too – at least your phone number and title – so people can easily place you and call you if needed.

Enjoy these work email tips? Check out our other career advice here

Pic Credit: Thomas Lefebvre (via Unsplash)

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