10 tips for writing a business email

July 5, 2009

Email is a great way to communicate with a business partner. You can collect your thoughts, say exactly what you need to say, and speak your mind in a non-disruptive manner. The recipient can respond/address the issue when they have the time, reply, and then rinse and repeat. As a project manager, I spend several hours everyday writing and reading emails and I really appreciate (and try to write) thought-out and to-the-point emails. Here are a few tips for ways to improve your emails.

1. Make sure your email should be an email

Before you sit down to write your email, make sure that email is the appropriate venue for your message. Should you be picking up the phone instead? Maybe a face-to-face meeting is the best way to address the issue? Think about what you're trying to accomplish and be certain an email is the best tool for the job. But hey, oftentimes it is!

2. Write a meaningful subject line

In this day and age, it's likely that the recipient of your email sends and writes over a hundred emails per day. There's a chance that yours gets lost in the mix and the subject line is your first (and best) chance to prevent that. Make it relevant and a call to action. First impressions matter, especially in emails.

3. Use 'URGENT' and 'IMPORTANT' sparingly

This goes along with #2. While people will probably read an email with URGENT or IMPORTANT more often, the first time you use it inappropriately, you lose your credibility and won't get nearly as quick of a response the next time. Even when this time, it actually is as important as you say it is.

4. Address the person individually

If you know the name of the person you're sending the email to, use it. Not only will the email look more personal, but you'll better grab the recipient's attention. Use first names only when appropriate and get their title right, they spent a lot of time and effort getting that 'Dr'.

5. Length: keep it short

This goes for both the email as a whole and the individual paragraphs and even sentences. As people read an increasing number of emails, their attention span is getting shorter and shorter. And your emails should too. Don't write a novel when a short story will do. Don't write a short story when a few bullets will do. The goal of your email is to get a response with the information you need. Don't wear out your reader by writing more than you have to.


Use caps lock, underlining and exclamation points. But use them only when you have to. I suggest only capitalizing a word or a phrase at most. The same goes for underlining. And don't put an explanation point at the end of every sentence. You and I both know you aren't THAT excited!

7. Don't assume they'll figure it out

Don't forward an email chain and let the recipient figure out what you want from him. Forward the chain and at the top, summarize the important information and what you need. Don't force them to read through the whole conversation and try to read your mind. It's not as obvious as you think.

8. The Internet allows for more than just text

Insert relevant links to help convey your message. Show pictures instead of explaining them. Utilize the resources that the Internet gives you. Don't rely on only text when you don't have to.

9. Know your audience

Choose your tone and wording depending on your audience. Don't joke around too much (no matter how funny you are) unless it's appropriate. Don't use lingo that your recipient may not understand (they might not find it funny, LOL).

10. Once it's sent, it's sent

Read over what you've written. Fix spelling errors and typos. Make sure you're not accidentally 'replying to all'. Because once you hit that SEND button, there's no taking it back. And you don't want to have to explain yourself again. But this time, with your foot in your monitor.


Hope these helped out. What other tips have do you have? I'm sure I left some out!

Leave the first comment