In this digital age, many of our interactions take place online, and email has become a preferred means of communication for many individuals and organizations.  

Everyone has their unique style when it comes to writing emails, and a good email does not need to follow a cookie-cutter format. That being said, here are several practical ways you can make your emails more effective and less stressful.

 1. Pick the Right Tone

  • Identify Your Recipient

    You would not need to speak to an AI robot the same way you would to a friend or coworker, and vice versa.  Likewise, you would not address a potential employer with the same familiarity as a close friend.  Being aware of relationship dynamics, and letting these dynamics guide the words and expressions you use, can be an important way to form the right connection with your recipient.

  • Take Time to Include a Greeting

    Including a salutation with the person’s correct name, and title (such as “Doctor” or “Professor”) is an easy way to strike a friendly tone at the beginning of your message. Adding a line of well-wishes, such as “I hope your week is off to a pleasant start,” can be a bonus.

  • Be Mindful of Tone

    Without the in-person benefit of voice pitch, body language, and facial expressions, written words can sometimes be misunderstood or may give offense where none is intended. You don’t need to use exclamation points and smiling unicorn gifs after each sentence, but maintaining a respectful attitude and avoiding language with negative connotations can keep your conversation going in a productive direction.

2. Draft a Clean Message

  • Pick a Clear Subject Line

    Have you ever needed to reread an email that you received more than a couple of months ago? Chances are, you would perform a keyword search in your inbox to find it.  Having an email with a concrete title like “Notes from October 5 Staff Meeting” is going to be easier to find than an email with a vague “Notes” as the subject line. 

  • Avoid word walls

    A very long paragraph with no breaks may cause your reader to lose attention. Breaking up your message into smaller paragraphs or using bold section headings, bullet points, and lists can keep your reader’s interest engaged more effectively.

  • Review Before Sending

    While the rules of spelling and grammar have relaxed somewhat over the years, it is important to reread your message to ensure it makes sense. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader, and ask yourself whether there is any ambiguity or missing context that could be better explained.

3. Test Your Attachments

  • Is the Correct File Attached?

    This may seem like a no-brainer, but be sure to double-check your attachments once you have added them to your email. If you have several drafts of the same document with very similar names, be sure to check the timestamp of when the document was last edited to make sure the most up-to-date document has been shared.

  • Can Your Recipient View Your Link?

    If you are sharing a file through an online link, you may need to check the document’s share settings to ensure the recipient can view, edit, or make suggestions as appropriate on your file.

4. Avoid Common Pitfalls

  • Sending the Draft Before You are Ready

    This can be avoided by removing the recipient from the address bar until proofreading is complete. You won’t be able to accidentally hit “Send” if there is no recipient listed!

    Many email providers also have a setting which will delay the sending of your message for a few moments. You will then be able to cancel the sending of the email if you notice any last-minute mistakes.

  • Replying All

    This is not always a social faux pas, but if you need to respond to just one person out of the whole group originally emailed, be sure to select “Reply” instead of “Reply All.” Similarly, be sure to “Reply All” when you need to respond to the whole group.

  • Forwarding Too Much Information

    When an email is forwarded to a person outside of the original conversation, that person will usually be able to view the entire email thread that has been sent before. Before adding in another person, scroll down through the conversation’s history and make sure there is no sensitive information visible.

5. Don’t Sweat

Anxiety about writing emails is a common phenomenon but doesn’t need to become an obstacle to effective communication. Practicing kindness towards others and towards yourself can help keep email writing a positive experience for everyone!

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