Ten Ways to Improve your Work Emails

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

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”).  It will help 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, assume that your intended recipient got your message.

4. Acknowledge receipt when appropriate.

  • This goes hand-in-hand with number three. If you receive an important email from a client or an assignment from a supervisor, or another 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 all or almost all of their emails, rendering it essentially worthless. 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 it 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 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.

  • This lowers the chance that you will accidentally hit send on a draft or before adding an attachment.

10. Always include an email signature.

  • Do this for reply emails too, even if it is just your name and direct phone number. Make it easy for people to reach you.

Pic Credit: Thomas Lefebvre (via Unsplash)

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