Writing professional emails can be down right painful sometimes. It’s that awkward ritual of having to ask someone that you have never met before, or have only met once or twice, but don’t really know that well for a favor, money- or even worse – a job. It’s enough to give anyone an anxiety attack. Before you start slamming your head against your keyboard in frustration, read through these four steps. They’ll help you standardize the format in which you write your work emails, making your life 10 times easier.
1. Leave the details of your life story for your novel
High level business professionals don’t have a whole lot of free time to lounge about in their enormous desk chairs and dive into your lengthy email. Get to the point. They will most likely be reading your email, if they even open it (more on that in a minute), on their smartphone. They won’t scroll continuously to read your five paragraph request for sponsorship or donations or whatever the purpose of your email is. The shorter the better. Use a sentence to introduce yourself then dive right into the call to action. Keep paragraphs to three sentences. I cannot emphasize this enough. The shorter the better.
If your paragraphs are looking too lengthy, break them up with bullet points or numbered lists. Use bold text (sparingly). Make sure the sections of the email the reader really needs to pay attention to are at the beginning of the email.
2. The subject line matters
Whether or not your email will be opened depends on what you choose to put in the subject line. Think of this as the cover letter to your resume. It is a necessary evil. The whole point of the subject line is to get the reader to open the email. It needs to have a clear call to action but still entices the reader to want to know more. Tricky, right?
From my experience, short, descriptive subject lines that grab the reader’s attention are the most effective. Avoid subject lines that contain words that might get your email flagged as spam. Leave out the terms “free,” “help” and “percent off.” Also, don’t use CAPS or exclamation points. This reads as too sales oriented and cheesy.
Bad example: HELP Local Charity By Sponsoring Our Event!
Good example: Get Involved to Benefit Indianapolis Kids in Need
3. Be personal/personable
Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely need to maintain a certain level of professionalism in your email, but you also need to be yourself. When you read your email, does it sound like how a face-to-face conversation with a client would actually go, or does your email read like a robot wrote it? Be friendly! Add personal touches like, “Have a great week,” or “Enjoy your weekend.” People really respond well to authentic kindness. What a concept, right?
4. Make your availability crystal clear
Don’t forget to include the specific dates and times you are available to chat at the end of your email. You don’t want someone calling you when you aren’t even in your office. That’s extremely frustrating for both parties.
If your email is designed to trigger a direct response don’t send it on Friday. People may or may not be in the office the entire day and once the weekend hits, there’s a slim chance they will be looking at their email inbox. Send those really important emails on Tuesday or Wednesday. This will give the recipient a few days to respond before the week is over.
Writing effective emails doesn’t have to be a stressful process. If you follow these steps you’ll create a format you can use over and over again. You might have to go through some trial and error with subject lines, but once you find something that works, stick with it. Remember, you want your emails to be short, sweet and to the point. You’ll set yourself up for increased email open rates and more meaningful replies.
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