How many times have you opened an email from someone, and within seconds found yourself judging that person?
"Seriously? They don't know the difference between your and you're?"
"Why is this all sent as one paragraph?"
"I don't have time to read all this..."
As easy as it might be to send (and receive) emails, we forget that, in essence, emails are personal letters. Sure, it might be digital. Sure, we might not be sitting by candlelight with quill and ink before handing the envelope to the mail carrier. But the same principles stand: our words reflect who we are. And withjust a few simple tweaks, your emails can go from unprofessional, lazy, even rude, to clean, cordial, deliberate and even warm.
And guess what?
That's good for business.
1. It's All About Format
We are a very visual society. Design is heavily important to us, as consumers.
As much as we would all love to believe that design and words have nothing in common, they actually do. In fact, many fail to realize that they judge the way something is written before they've read a single word, simply by the way it all "looks" to the eye. If something appears poorly formatted, we automatically assume it is subpar--and rightfully so. Conversely, something could be very well formatted but, in essence, say nothing, and many would call it professional.
Formatting is crucial when it comes to effective email writing. Don't go on and on for a million paragraphs. Don't skip the little things like proper punctuation, capitalization, etc. A correct format looks like this:
[Header] Hey <name>!
[Primary Paragraph] Establish intention of email here. Bulk of your message.
[Conclusion Paragraph] Final thought or two, tie things together.
Even the simple act of correctly inserting spaces between paragraphs to separate thoughts can go a long way, and make the other person feel like you took the time to make the message easy to read for them. Do not discount this practice. It won't take you more than two seconds to execute, but drastically impacts the way the person on the other end perceives you.
2. Proof Before You Send
Before you hit send, please proofread your emails. If you know you are awful at grammar, ask someone else in your office to help you every once in a while--especially if you want to leave a good impression on the person to whom you are writing.
Gmail has this function if you are in desperate need.
The other thing you need to question when proofreading, more than even the spelling and grammar itself, is your tone. Are you coming off as too pushy? Do you sound upset? Agitated? Passive aggressive? Especially when it comes to emails between coworkers in an office, this is where things get tricky. How many times have you received an email that says something like, "Hey Becky, if you could get me that report you promised me yesterday which you didn't send when you said you would to me in the next hour that would be great. Thanks for understanding!"
This is how unnecessary fires start. Remember: Emails are letters. So whatever mood you're in when you write that email will most likely be subtly communicated through your tone.
Before sending off that email, have someone else take a look. The last thing you want is for your message to be received the wrong way.
3. Know Your Target Audience
Something that took me a really long time to understand, especially when emailing high profile people, is that a short email doesn't mean they're upset, or impatient, or aggravated. You need to understand your audience, because that impacts how you read what they've sent you.
People who are very busy often times respond quickly to emails on-the-go. They don't think much about formatting. Now, I am the type of person where even when I'm writing an email on my phone, I still put some effort into formatting a respectful email--no matter how short. Why? Because again, going back to the first point, I know that the format is the design, and the design is the first thing that gets judged. It's always better to leave a positive first impression.
However, some people (especially those who truly don't need to respond to your cold email) say more just by responding at all. That is where you need to know your audience--both in terms of how you read their message, and how you write them. For example: When emailing someone that is extraordinarily busy, and even more so if you are asking them for something, it's probably not a smart idea to send them a five paragraph long email. They don't have time for that.
Instead, go with something so short and concise that they have finished reading it before they've even thought to themselves whether they should read it at all. This, in many ways, shows the respect you have for their time.
I have gotten a lot of high profile people to respond to my two-sentence emails. Because I wrote them in a way that said, beneath the surface, "I respect your time." And that goes a long way.
4. Fix Your Signature
I swear, there is nothing more annoying than someone whose signature is five separate poorly pixilated social icons attached as images in the footer of an email. I want to give you points for trying, but the fact that (again, going back to the design aspect) it looks so poorly formatted immediately devalues you as a professional.
If you don't want just plain text in your signature, and are looking to separate yourself (or create branding around your company, for example), use something likeWiseStamp to create a more professional email signature. For example: WiseStamp comes with a Chrome plugin so that you can easily integrate it with your account, and allows you to do things like add an auto-update RSS feed to your signature--where you can share your latest blog post, YouTube video, etc. It's such an easy fix, and will take you less than five minutes to implement.
What people don't realize about email signatures is that they are, very much so, the digital equivalent of your hand signature. Have you ever seen someone write their name, or sign something, and it looks so sloppy and bad that you immediately judge them?
That's what happens when someone looks at your poorly formatted email signature. Again, I can't stress this enough: people judge the design before they read a single word.
But even more so, your signature is one of the easiest ways for you to show off your credibility. It's practically a marketing channel in itself. So if you aren't taking advantage of sharing your content there as well (like a blog post or video, as mentioned above), you are missing out.
5. Automate Everything You Can
The first key to great email writing is making a message highly personable.
The second key to great email writing is finding a way to automate it.
One program I know quite a few people use is Mailshake. Think automated email sequences but for your personal email exchanges. So imagine if you are cold emailing a bunch of potential clients, but you have automation streams set up based on how they respond (or don't respond) to your outreach emails. You can use their pre-written templates for certain types of outreach or responses, but also can create your own.
The most important thing to remember with automation sequences is not to lose your personality. While software can make aspects of our lives much easier, it needs to be remembered they are tools--not miracles. The whole key to successful email etiquette is the art of writing itself. You want to make the person on the other end feel warm, welcome, and even excited to write you back. Automating that process only works if the writing is on point.
All 5 of these fixes are extremely easy to implement and can have an exponential impact on the relationships you have with your consumers, your coworkers, potential clients and more.