In the 90s, my teenage life gave me great country music, Nirvana-style flannels and one of these:
This is an extension cord for a wall-connected phone. My extension cord was so long, and the speakerphone worked so well that I could talk with my friends for hours anywhere in my room and bathroom after talking to them all day at school. I spent hours on the phone until I would fall asleep to my best friend talking or someone hung up the three-way conversation.
Fast forward to 2022, and I would much rather spend hours crafting the perfect email instead of punching in a number on my cell phone and having a real voice conversation. Nevertheless, emails work great for content writers like me, so it is my go-to communication style.
Emails are convenient. You can get your point across on your time. Email makes having awkward conversations easier, and you don’t have to worry about flubbing your words with spell check.
Emails showcase professionalism and should reflect nothing but a person’s best work. This blog post will discuss common mistakes and how to write a professional email that sells itself.
Common email mistakes
Unfortunately, mistakes are easier to notice in an email versus a phone call. In a rush to get things checked off of the to-do list, email etiquette and effectiveness can slip. Some of the most common mistakes I see in rushed emails include:
- Abbreviating words that don’t need shortening (i.e., because becomes ‘cause).
- Emails get too wordy. Either too much irrelevant information gets shared, or extraneous words like ‘that’ and ‘just’ creep in.
- The main point gets lost.
- Manners disappear, including forgetting to include a please and thank you.
How to write a great email
I’m guilty as anyone else when writing an email; I just write it. Although this works for casual emails to friends and family, this type of writing won’t fly when it comes to your work. To make an email that will successfully sell your ideas, it should address the six questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.
Your email must have a purpose, and keeping these questions in mind while writing your email keeps you focused on the point of the email. If your email answers these important questions, pop the cork on the champagne because you will have written a thoughtful and successful email.
Good emails are structured similarly to a letter and should be personable. When a person reads your email, you want to leave them with a good, professional impression of yourself. Here are the steps to ensure you come across as nothing less than your best in an email.
- Stay upbeat. No one likes a downer, even if you are tackling a challenging situation. Start the email with a greeting that recognizes the person and their time with an inviting, warm tone.
- After you’ve acknowledged the recipient in the greeting, recognize that person again. Show your appreciation for their efforts and that they add value. AKA, greasing the wheel.
- Get to the point. State why you are writing the email and give all the information or reasoning the person needs to know. Be sure to keep this as concise as possible.
- Provide a summary of the situation and your understanding. This section is where the numbers go—essential details such as costs, time and dates.
- Show your availability and willingness to talk things through. The email should state when you are available and how they can reach out to you. Tell them you are available to answer any questions. Better yet, let them know you are available by….PHONE.
- Don’t get lazy with your conclusion. Even though the recipient can find the email address by replying, include your contact information in a signature line anyway.
Etiquette Email Tips
- Please and thank you go a long way, so include them in your email.
- Don’t beat around the bush. Your questions should get to the point. For example, instead of saying, “If you are okay with the timeline I propose,” say, “I expect the project to take two weeks. Does this timing work for you?”
- People still want human connection, so never use pre-made emails or email forms that automatically insert a person’s name. People are smart and can fish these tools out. This is especially important when communicating with Gen Z, who appreciate the value of connecting with others and building community first before getting the job done. Remember, how you do the job is just as important as getting the job done.
Final Step: Edit
After you draft the email, it is still not ready to send. I’m an editor, so, of course, I will recommend going back and rereading and editing your email. Make sure you have no spelling, grammar, punctuation or formatting errors. Don’t rely on the built-in spell check tool alone.
- Did you answer the six questions Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?
- Have you eliminated any unnecessary words such as that, be sure to, just or in order to? For more tips about this, read my blog post: https://rivetservice.com/post/quick-tips-to-improve-your-writing/
- Do your sentences get straight to the point, or did you include unnecessary details and fluff? If so, remove the excessive wording.
- Read your email out loud and use your common sense to make sure what you’ve written makes sense.
- Double check the recipient name’s spelling and essential details such as dates, times and dollar amounts are correct.
- Make the email easier to read by including white space and bulleted lists.
Emails are invaluable when you need to send written information quickly, tackle difficult situations or explain details. However, people should defer to phone conversations first since it builds connections, grows relationships and solves problems quickly.
Phone calls are far from dead. According to Hiya’s 5th annual State of the Call report, the phone call ranked first for remote interactions among 12,000 consumers and 2,000 businesses, and these companies predict their phone usage to grow in the next year.
When you choose to write an email, recognize the person’s value and build a connection, similar to a phone call. However, because email allows more time to construct an argument thoughtfully, step up your game by ensuring your email presents the essential facts and details concisely and addresses the person and their contributions.
Did you know I’m on call for clients to help them improve their emails? It is a simple process where the client calls me and tells me they have an email for me to review. I then edit, proofread, provide suggestions and return it clean for the client to send. It gives peace of mind to the client, who is usually too busy and overwhelmed to see if their writing is clear, clean and effective.
If you are interested in learning more about how I can help you become a better writer or look more professional in your writing, please reach out to me here: https://rivetservice.com/contact-rivet-service/