A lot of otherwise smart people don't have a clue how to write business email that makes them look good and gets results.
Their business correspondence is awkward, too short or too long, sloppy or rife with misspellings, and doesn't make a good impression.
Whether it's a resume cover letter or a request to meet with a new client, this simple advice for writing business emails and business letters will help you write emails that get read and get results.
- Use an engaging subject line that makes sense.
People are bombarded with email, and you need yours to stand out. Include the name of the person to increase your chances of your email being read. A blank subject line or just "Hi" makes your email look like spam. Better to use a subject line like "John, Susan Park suggested I forward you this report," which will make John instantly curious to open the email.
- Start on a friendly note.
Starting off with "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir" is far too impersonal (not to mention potentially offensive). Business communications are more casual now, so it's better to begin your business email with "Hi, John" or "Good morning." Make sure you get the name right; misspelling or calling someone by the wrong name is alienating.
- Speak in plain English and write like you talk.
There is no reason to write in a formal or complicated way. You'll get your message across better when you use plain and simple language. Just write the way you talk (without the ums, ahs and slang). As an easy test, read what you wrote out loud to make sure it flows and is easily understood.
- Be clear about why you're writing.
Don't assume that a busy person will know what your email is about or even remember who you are, so summarize it at the start. "I'm writing to follow up on our conversation last month at the ABC training to give you the link to the company I recommended." Now the recipient understands the intention of your note right away.
- Keep it to a few short paragraphs.
People are busy. Don't try to impress or fluff it up with a lot of unnecessary words, and don't let the text be too dense to easily read. A paragraph of more than five lines becomes difficult to read. Add important white space between paragraphs by hitting two returns.
- Watch your spelling and punctuation.
Even if your job doesn't require great writing skills, you will be judged by the quality of your business emails. Turn on the spelling and grammar check in your email program. QuickTips: There is one space after a period or comma, and no space before. Don't capitalize random words. Limit exclamation marks in business email.
- Be specific with your requests.
If you have a request of the recipient, make it easy for them and be direct and specific about what you want. "I'd appreciate any help you can offer" is too vague. You'll get better response if you say "I'd appreciate if I could get a ten-minute phone call with you to discuss this strategy."
- Use a friendly sign-off.
"Sincerely" and "Very truly yours" are old-fashioned and don't reinforce a personal connection. "Cheers," "Best wishes," "Have a great day" or "Thanks very much" make you sound like a much friendlier person. If the correspondence is formal, then "Best regards" is a safe choice.
- Create a signature line for your emails.
You can use a signature line that includes your name, title, phone number, email address and any other information you want. Build this into your email software setup to make it easy. If you're a jobseeker, include your LinkedIn profile link, and if you're in business, include your website.
- Review carefully before you click "send."
Always take the time to review what you wrote to make sure it comes across the way you want. If it's a controversial or sensitive topic, or if there is anything in there that you feel upset about, wait and review it again, and if necessary, ask someone how it sounds to them.
The easiest advice for writing business emails boils down to keeping it simple, direct and friendly, which will get more responses and a better reception.
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