Writing Email with Clarity and Impact – 21 Tips

Email Writing Courses

These 21 tips for business email writing are the essence of the training presented in the Business Writing Center email course materials.

Professional Email Writing Guideline 1

Follow good business email etiquette

  • Write business emails containing only content you would be willing to send to everyone involved.
  • Don’t write gossip, very personal issues, or sensitive issues in email.
  • Business emails are commonly forwarded and circulated, so write as though everyone involved is going to read the email.
  • Write nothing in business email with a hint of disparaging, slandering, or negatively referring to someone’s gender, race, nationality, or other such identity.
  • Respond to business emails promptly, even if to say “I’ll write more later.”

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 2

Choose times to review and act on emails

  • Don’t read and respond to business emails every moment of the day. If something is urgent, the person should call you.
  • Respond when you read the email. Avoid reading an email more than once.
  • Delegate and forward business email if appropriate and tell the reader what you have done.
  • Answer simple emails immediately. Don’t make readers wait to figure out whether you received the email.
  • Decide when you can respond fully to business emails that require time. Tell the reader when you will accomplish the task.
  • Respond to every business email, if only to say you will not continue responding.

Professional Email Writing Guideline 3

Know what you want the reader to know, believe, or do

  • Be clear about what you want to accomplish through your email writing.
  • Write your objectives in reader terms: “The reader will . . .”
  • Write emails using the objectives as a guide. Check your email writing when you’re done to be sure you will accomplish your objectives.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 4

Give the reader everything he or she needs or has asked for

  • Identify in the request what the reader wants, under what conditions, by what time.
  • Prepare a plan for your email writing based on the words the reader used in his or her request.
  • Arrange your business email to provide everything the reader is asking for.

Professional Email Writing Guideline 5

Write a subject line clearly describing the business email contents and importance

  • Write a subject line for every business email.
  • Change the subject line when the contents of a new email change from the subject line used for previous emails.
  • Convey the sense of urgency if there is one with words such as “URGENT” or “RESPONSE NEEDED.”
  • Use the key terms for each topic in a business email in the subject line.
  • Begin the subject line in your email writing with the prominent words for the message.
  • Put “you” oriented statements in the subject line.
  • Don’t write a message in the subject line or begin the message and continue it in the body.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 6

Write a cordial beginning or buffer to your email writing when appropriate

  • Give your business emails a positive, encouraging one by adding thanks and other cordial statements at the beginning.
  • When writing email containing negative information, begin with a buffer to set the tone as positively as is warranted.
  • Build the team spirit and your relationship with the reader by acknowledging when you have received something you asked for.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 7

Tell the reader why he or she is receiving this business email now

  • Let the reader in on as much background as necessary, but not too much.
  • Include only information in you email writing that is relevant to your objectives and the subject.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 8

Organize your email writing before you begin to write

  • Always think through your business emails before writing, while you can still focus on the big picture.
  • Write notes you will follow in the email writing. Writing a whole business email and then trying to organize it is like trying to repackage an item you want to return that just doesn’t want to fit in the box.
  • Organize your email writing notes. Decide the order in which you must give the reader information so the reader understands.
  • Put the notes in levels. Level 1 topics are the main ideas. Level 2 topics support the main ideas. Number the notes.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 9

State the critical point or actions in the beginning and the end of your business email

  • State critical points after you explain the reason the reader is receiving this email writing now.
  • State actions you will perform or the reader must perform at the beginning of the business email.
  • For actions, state what, who, when, where, and how the action must be performed. Avoid vagaries such as ASAP.
  • Restate the critical points and actions at the end in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re patronizing the reader.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 10

Write business email in clearly organized information blocks

  • Identify the main ideas that support or explain the central idea when you are writing email.
  • Number the main ideas Level 1.
  • Identify the ideas that support the main ideas.
  • Number the supporting ideas Level 2
  • Continue to number the ideas so you have an outline before you begin writing email.
  • Make the Level 1 blocks stand out from one another with white space, headings, and transitions.
  • Make the Level 2 blocks stand out in the same way.
  • The reader should see a clear blueprint in business email by looking at the way the writer has structured it.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 11

Open every block of your business email with an indication of the contents of the block

  • Use headings liberally in email writing. As you are writing email, mark Level 1 blocks with headings.
  • For longer business email with pages for Level 1 blocks, mark the Level 2 blocks with headings.
  • Begin each block with the key terms that tell the reader what is in the block.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 12

Be sure you have enough, but not too much in each email writing block

  • Check the contents with a separate read-through after you finish a draft.
  • Be sure you have enough information in each block to accomplish your objectives with the reader.
  • As you are writing email, check to be sure you have no unnecessary information.
  • Refer to your objectives as you write and after you are finished. Are you giving the reader what he or she needs to accomplish your objectives?

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 13

Choose a visual format for your business emails to make the blocks of information clear

  • Use white space, headings, indentations, rules, and other devices to help the reader navigate your email writing.
  • Don’t write business emails that are large clumps of text, like a novel.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 14

Identify lists in your business email and break them out with ordinals, numbers, or bullets

  • As you are writing email, identify lists in the email. Break out lists with ordinals, bullets, or numbers.
  • Don’t write lists in paragraph form, with items separated by semicolons or numbers in parentheses. Break lists out into bulleted or numbered lists.
  • Write numbered lists for items that must be in a specific order. Use bullets for lists with items that do not have to be in a specific order.
  • Give the list a name, such as “recommendations,” “conclusions,” “times,” and so on.
  • If you cannot give a list a name, it likely should be in a paragraph, not a list.
  • Make list items parallel in structure. If items are sentences, all must be sentences.
  • Use punctuation in lists only if the items are complete sentences.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 15

Write a conclusion to your business email that achieves your goals

  • Reiterate important points in the conclusion to your email writing.
  • Reiterate actions in the conclusion. Include what, who, when, where, and how.
  • Be clear about what the reader expects and what you expect from the reader.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 16

Include your contact information at the end of business email

  • Include contact information to show the reader you genuinely want contact if the reader wants it.
  • Don’t rely on the email address in our header to give the reader contact information. Put it in the closing.
  • Include a phone number if you want immediate results.

Professional Email Writing Guideline 17

Use paragraphs to organize business email

  • Paragraphs help readers follow your email writing. You improve our clarity by improving your paragraphs.
  • Paragraph breaks say, “OK, I’ve finished that thought. Let’s go on to the next thought.” That helps readers.
  • Learn to see changes in thought where you can help the reader follow your thought by making a new paragraph as you are writing email.
  • Look for changes in thought at around seven lines. Don’t always break at seven lines, but use the seven lines as a cue to see if you have a new thought in your email writing.
  • Start the paragraph by letting the reader know what your new thought is so he or she can follow your explanation.
  • Don’t be afraid of one-sentence paragraphs. Putting a sentence in a paragraph by itself gives the statement emphasis and focus.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 18

Write business email using words the reader will understand

  • When writing email, use the same common, everyday words you would use if you were speaking.
  • Avoid uncommon, complex, and difficult words in your email writing.
  • Use contractions freely.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 19

Write clear, simple, straightforward sentences in your business email

  • Write using the same sentences you would speak to the reader, without overly casual statements.
  • Use active voice, in which you state the actor before the action.
  • Try to keep sentences to around 10 to 15 words on average. Have some shorter sentences and some longer.
  • Try to keep one idea in a sentence. Combine two or three ideas if you have a good reason to do so.
  • Avoid interrupting sentences with comments in the middle. Put comments at the beginning or end as  you are writing email.
  • If a sentence sounds strained or odd, revise it to make it clear and simple.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 20

Write concise business email

  • Delete words that don’t add meaning. Do include words that help clarity, though.
  • Delete redundancies.
  • Delete the obvious.
  • Use simple words in place of two- or three-word phrases.

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Professional Email Writing Guideline 21

Proofread your business email

  • Set your email system to proofread emails before you send them, but don’t rely solely on the spellchecker and grammar checker.
  • Read every email you write, word by word, before sending the email.
  • If you change the email, proofread it again.

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