10 Tips On How To Write A Business Email

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Published: 09th May 2013
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Email is part of the everyday routine of an IT professional. It’s found in offices as a significant form of communication, and some organizations use it a lot better than others. There's a big difference between a good email and a bad email. We occasionally can pick up bad habits from other companies or employees, causing our emails to fall under the “bad email” category. Have a read of these ten tips on how to write business emails to help transform your writing.

Use an Informative Subject Line

The subject line is the very first thing that a person sees in an email. Usually, they see it prior to opening the email itself, as based on the email client, the subject and recipient is shown prior to the entire message.

The subject must provide enough information regarding the email so the recipient knows what it's about before opening. A subject such as “Review” or “Document” is rather vague and doesn’t help much. On the other hand, a subject such as “Review Requirements Document” is more specific and gives the recipient more information about the email.

Greet The Recipient Appropriately

Begin your email by providing a greeting - don’t just launch into the email. There are a few occasions where you can simply reply to the email with a quick answer, but in nearly all cases it’s preferable to have a greeting.

How should you use a greeting in an email? Well, this email is formal but not as formal as a business letter. Using “Dear John” is too formal. Something similar to “Hi,” or “Hello,” or “Hi John,” is usually acceptable. It could need to be adjusted when there is several recipient. I have a tendency to include both names if there are two people, or the word “all” if there are more than two. For example, “Hi John, Peter,” if it’s two John and Peter, or “Hi all,” if it’s to John, Peter and somebody else.

Keep It Short And Necessary

In this world of computers and technology, it’s tempting to turn the email into an essay and write anything and everything in there for the person. I’m not sure if you’ve ever received a lengthy email before, but if you have, how did that make you feel? Did you feel enthusiastic about examining it, or did it turn you off and make it look like it was a lot of work? I understand how I feel when I receive a long email - it’s not a good thing.

Sometimes, choosing the right communication method may possibly mean you don’t even have to create the email. On the other hand, if you do, one of the hardest things to do when learning how to write a business email is to ensure that it stays short and concise. You'll need to be able to get your point across efficiently, without getting into too much detail or unneeded information. It takes some practice and expertise, but try and think of yourself as the recipient when reading the email. A point that I mention later on is on reviewing the email - while reviewing, you will see if it’s a good length.

Put Your Main Point In The Opening Sentence

In addition to attempting to keep the email short and to the point, there is something else that can be done to help the receiver and get an answer from the email. Place the main reason for the email in the beginning sentence. This point may well be a request (for instance “I’d like your acceptance on the following action” or “Could we meet to talk about the plans for the new employee?”) or even just information (such as “Please find below the details on the server outage on the weekend”).

This will help the recipient read the email and increase the way the email is used. Further detail in the email can go below, to assist this point.

Be Aware Of The Recipient’s Knowledge

A big part of how to write a business email in the IT industry is the gap in knowledge between employees. There's obviously plenty of technical information in various areas of IT - and not everyone understands what it all means. This is definitely something to consider when writing emails to other individuals.

It can be OK when writing inside your own team or when you know the person is aware of the subject of the email. Yet, when writing to others, it’s important to be aware of the recipient’s knowledge. This knowledge can be in two areas - knowledge of the technology, and knowledge of the business context.

Understanding of the technology involves all the IT stuff we know and love - servers, networking, programming, databases, configuration - all that stuff. Most of these things other IT people would probably understand, but not always. Even though someone is aware of how switches and routers are set up for the network, doesn’t mean they know about database configurations. You may have to explain the aim of your email to them in non-technical terms.

Familiarity with the business context includes software systems, business processes and teamwork that isn’t relevant to the technical part of your email. The recipient may understand why you want to change a configuration on your server to accept a new application, but they may not know what the application is or why it ought to be accepted. This is simply an example where explaining the issue or request in context could help the recipient.

Don’t Use All Caps or Text Speak

Using all caps in an email makes you LOOK LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING. Sure, you may have it on unintentionally, but make sure you review the email to check. The sole exception to all caps is for acronyms or initials - which should be used moderately. Keep your emails to sentence case - as if you’re writing a sentence.

Additionally, don’t use “text speak” in an email. Acronyms and words which might be acceptable in text messages, such as LOL or PLZ, really should not be included in the email. If you feel you should utilize them, you’re not writing an effective business email. Keep it to full words as required.

Use Correct Spelling and Grammar

Spelling and grammar is important in an email - it’s anticipated that it is correct. Many people may not notice incorrect spelling and grammar, but for many people, bad spelling and grammar stands out. It may actually ruin the outcome of your email and causes you to look less professional.

Ensure you are using the accurate spelling and grammar for an email you’re composing. Your email client should do a reasonable job of correcting the spelling and grammar, but you shouldn’t depend on it. Especially working in a technical environment, it might try to translate or “correct” things that shouldn’t be corrected. If you’re uncertain, ask a coworker to look over it to check that it is correct.

Say Please and Thank You

If you’re asking someone to take action, it’s recommended that you use the words “please” and “thank you”. It’s something which we learnt in early school days, and from our parents - using please and thank you is polite and other people will respect you for it. It isn’t something which is implied in an email, so if you specifically mention “please” and “thank you” it will probably be valued.

Include an Appropriate Signature

Putting a signature in the bottom of your email is possibly the biggest thing you can do when looking for how to write a business email. It’s right up there with an email subject as a vital part of an email. This is important for a few reasons:

It provides contact information for you, so the person knows how to contact you.
It will make you look professional. Having only your name at the end of the email is one thing, having a signature with all of your details is a step above.
It allows others to contact you if they see the email in the future, or if it’s on a chain of emails.

There are a few things you should include in a signature - your complete name, your position, your department, and your contact number. You don’t need to include your email address, as the recipient can just press Reply. Stay away from quotes or images in your signature - there’s no need to include any of this and it only fills up the signature.

Also, be sure to send it out with each and every email you send. A lot of email clients contain a function to immediately include an email signature, and I would advise you use it. It means you don’t overlook to add it and it’s one less thing to think about.

Review and Edit Before Sending

The final step before delivering the business email is to review it. You'll want to review the email for a few reasons:

Be sure that the spelling and grammar is correct.
Make sure that the point of the email is being delivered.
Ensure the email is not too long.

It might be easier to just prepare the email and send it. If you spend a minute re-reading and reviewing the email, you could find things that you didn’t before, and it should lead to a better email. It can also help to improve your quality of work - if others think your emails are always accurate then they should have a high impression of your actual work.

Bonus Tip on How To Write A Business Email

Yes, I’m including a bonus tip - suggestion number eleven.

This extra tip is to only send the email to those who need it. It can be appealing, and quite easy nowadays, to add a lot of contacts into the To and CC field of the email. However, you need to be careful with this. It’s the top cause of emails clogging up people’s inboxes - being sent emails that they don’t need to see.

It's best to only send the email to those who need to see it. Depending on the email and the subject matter, and the team you work in, this could be any number of people - but the less people the better.

I hope these hints on how to write a business email are helpful for you and help the way you write emails.

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