Word Nerd: 5 quick and easy tips for writing great emails

15 Oct

5 quick and easy tips for writing great emails

There are no rules to winning at life, but here are 5 rules to winning at emails.

Do you groan at the thought of reading a long, boring email? If your answer is yes, you’re just like us. No one likes to go through a sloppy email without a beginning, a middle, or an end. Writing a great email is not a difficult thing to do, but it certainly is an important skill to acquire. Be it a friendly invite, a reply to your professor or boss, or a marketing pitch, getting it right will make a whole lot of difference. Now as with everything, writing a perfect professional email may come with a little practice. Here are 5 quick and easy tips for writing great emails.

1. Sharpen the subject line

Compare the following subject lines:

List of documents required for university admission


Admission documents checklist

To put it simply, only a specific number of words can appear in the unread email bar on a phone/computer screen. So, the clearer your subject line is, more likely your reader is to click on it.

2. Start with the right salutation

It cannot be emphasized enough that an email is nowhere close to a text message. Therefore, it needs to be written professionally – we mean fully spelt out words and no slang (mostly!). And it means starting it off with a proper salutation. How you begin an email shapes the recipient’s perception of you.

Usually, Dear works with both people you know and people you don’t. If you’re writing to a Professor or a Dean, do use their full professional titles. Avoid guessing a person’s gender – it’s ok to use their full name. As you continue emailing each other, you can graduate to Hi. Hey is nay for all professional communication.

Additional tip: Avoid saying Good morning or Good evening because you don’t know when the recipient will read your mail. Go with Greetings!

3. Structure your email

An email with a clear structure is simpler to understand and respond to. Follow the inverted pyramid principle for the email body:

Inverted pyramid style of content

For instance, if you are writing to your project group about an idea for your next assignment, mention the key idea at the top. Follow it up with some figures, facts, and why you all should work on it. Towards the end, talk about how you came up with the idea and add maybe a relevant link to an article.

4. Use the right tone

Remember, your words represent you. Keeping the tone polite yet professional is essential. Here are a few things to remember about tone:

Use Please instead of Kindly: Please implies a polite request, while kindly suggests an instruction to be obeyed. Kindly is an old-fashioned word that was used by people in authority (mainly the British) to instruct their subordinates. Please is less imposing, yet professional.

Use softeners (such as could, would, should): Softeners are words that make your speech polite to read and add a deferential touch to your mails. Say the following out loud and compare:

Please send me the file again

Could you please send me the file again?

Don’t you think the second sentence reads more positive and would naturally invoke a response? Read more about it here.

Be positive: Avoiding negative words and using positive phrases are your non-verbal cues (compare body language in face-to-face conversations). For instance, compare the two ways your Professor could respond to your deadline extension request:

Mr. Smith,

The deadline for your assignment cannot be extended under any circumstances. I may have to give you a failing grade in case you fail to submit your work on stipulated time.


Hi Patrick,

Unfortunately, the deadline cannot extended as the college administration has formalized it. What I can surely do is convey your request to the administrative head and support your case.

Signing off: When signing off, polite words such as regards, sincerely, and thank you are important. The simplest way to ensure your email includes them is by creating a signature and then adding your personal sign-off.

Use standard fonts and colors: Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Helvetica – the simple and sensible family of fonts is your best bet. Don’t make your emails an exercise for the eyes by using technicolor Comic Sans, or Lucida Handwriting. Those belong in memes.

5. Proofread and fact check

Have you ever received an email riddled with typos? Nothing is more annoying than that, right?

Using tools such as Grammarly often helps. Even the humble Microsoft Word will do a basic spellcheck for you. Double check or, in fact, triple check your complete email, not just the body. See that you have added a good subject line, addressed it to the right recipients, attached any file you need to, and don’t forget your signature.

So, there you have it. Your very own guide to make the internet a better place with cleaner emails.

Related articles:
The Art of Emailing at Work

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