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12 Tips for Writing More Effective Business Emails

12 Tips for Writing More Effective Business Emails

Last week, I shared tips for better email newsletter marketing. Today, we’re talking about simply writing effective emails. After all, sending an email that gets to the point and gets results isn’t always as easy as you might think.

Sometimes our messages get buried in a sea of unread mail. Sometimes they’re opened only to be forgotten as soon as the text changes from bold to normal typeface. And sometimes our confusing messages simply leave recipients scratching their heads.

These 12 tips can help you use email as a powerful small business tool — whether you’re getting in touch with an employee, a client, or a vendor.

1. Use CC: and BCC: Wisely

Inboxes are already overflowing these days. Copying and blind carbon copying excessively isn’t just annoying; it’s confusing. If the information wasn’t specifically requested, think twice about sending any email that leads off with the phrase “just FYI.”

2. Be Concise

People say this all the time, but I’m going to give you a goal to strive for: try keeping your emails between 50 and 100 words for the rest of the week. It might be difficult, but I promise your recipients will thank you.

3. Include a Call to Action

Sounds a bit like I’m talking about a sales letter, but I’m not. Unless your email is a reply, it should have a call to action or a direct question. Be clear about why you’re writing and what you need, and put that information at the beginning of your email.

4. Cut Quoted Text

Strings of irrelevant conversations from the past aren’t helping your cause. Delete unnecessary quoted text and e-mail signatures, or start a new message thread.

5. Mention the Attachment

Adding an attachment for clarification or one that requires action? Mention it specifically in the body text.

6. Write Concisely

What’s that? You think this looks a lot like #2 on the list? I’m sure there’s a reason for that.

7. Don’t Assume Anything

Part of writing with clarity is including all of the necessary information. Use reference numbers, invoice numbers, check numbers, and other identifiers to make life easier for anyone who receives your email.

8. Use Hyperlinks

Referring to a specific URL or website? Take five seconds to include a hyperlink (and then check to make sure it works).

9. Be Considerate When Formatting

I probably don’t need to remind you not to send an email written in all caps, but do be sure to use headings and bullets or numbered lists — especially when your call to action includes 3 or more steps.

10. Make Sure You’re Emailing the Right People

Update your contact lists immediately when you are notified that your point of contact for a project or vendor has changed.

11. Keep It Professional

E-mail forwards are so 1995. Sending unimportant messages is a sure way to get others to ignore your important messages.

12. Pick Up the Phone Instead

Sometimes email just isn’t the best method of communication for the task at hand. If you have attached so many files you can’t send your email, consider a better option. If your message is 10,000 words long, maybe you should make a phone call or schedule a face-to-face meeting.

How do you write more effective business emails?

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About Emily Suess

Emily Suess is a full-time technical marketing writer in the software industry and a part-time freelance copywriter. To learn more about marketing your small business online, check out her copywriting blog, Say It With Me. Read more about Emily.
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9 Comments on 12 Tips for Writing More Effective Business Emails

  1. I have to add one more to this list: give them time to read it. The best thing about sending email is that the other person can read it at their convenience. This is particularly useful to me because I’m sometimes working at hours that my clients are sleeping. So I can send information or ask questions while I’m awake and they aren’t.

    But I have this one client that sends me emails and then calls me five minutes later to ask if I got the email. That’s annoying for several reasons.

    • Excellent tip, Princess! People who want an immediate answer should probably avoid email and just pick up the phone.

      Many small business owners have a schedule for checking and replying to emails — with good reason. It’d be hard to get anything else done if we didn’t step away from the inbox some of the time.

  2. Really wonderful advice.
    Thanks!

  3. One thing I’d add is to be careful with the “reply to all”. I hate it when people have conversations on an email chain and reply to all when they only intend to have the other person receive the email. This can be even more awkward if the response includes confidential information. (I personally default to reply which sometimes causes issues if someone was on the email and I didn’t notice and therefore didn’t include them in the response but I’d rather have that than email a bunch of people I didn’t mean to.)

  4. Amen to that Chris!
    And when applying for a job using mail, make sure thay the mail has ONE (visible) recipient only. Nowadays I simply delete such sloppy applications. Sorry…

    Kind regards
    /Søren

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