“Everybody can write.” Right? Well, no actually! Even though it’s an essential part of our professional lives, many find it a struggle and dread having to write an email. Follow our tips for those who find email-writing a challenge.
Billions of emails are sent every day (more than 292 billion, to be precise) and some are most definitely better than others. Email writing can be a chore but here’s how to ace it:
Think about the purpose of the email: is it to inform the recipient, or is it for you to get some information that you need? There’s going to be a reason for sending that message – so make sure your intentions are clear for both you and the recipient. This will help in determining the style and length of the message.
Who’s the email for? This is essential to know as it will determine the way you write the message. Is it a formal message, or less so? Do you know the person you’re emailing? What is the appropriate language and tone for this person?
If you’ve received messages from this recipient before, you can mirror their style. Don’t be overly chatty if they’re not, for example, or don’t use excessive emojis if they’ve never used them in a previous message. Understanding a person’s personality type can improve our emails. And remember: manners cost nothing, so always be courteous and nice!
Ahem… Find your voice
Knowing (and being comfortable with) your voice is important. Does your tone of voice reflect your brand and how you wish to be portrayed? Is your tone of voice natural to you? If not, it can come across as forced and the recipient will spot inauthenticity – and that’s never a good thing.
Write as naturally as possible, in a style that’s comfortable for you. If you’re not an overly formal person, it’s OK to not adopt a super formal style. Conversely, if you’re a little more conservative, it’s OK to not be ‘down with the kids’ or use phrases that you’re uncomfortable with in a bid to appear more ‘chill’ than you really are. Keep it real, people!
Also, it’s important to really understand your brand and know your audience. If you’re writing for a millennial customer, for example, you’re going to need to use a different tone than if you were writing for a different generation. Your writing, as much as possible, should reflect your brand voice.
Keep it simple
When it comes to highfalutin language (that we think ‘might’ make us sound clever!) or simple language, always opt for the simple. Emails are often skim read and they need to be easily digestible and clear. Always use the active voice, over the passive and make your point leap out.
Don’t overwrite or write for the sake of it. Emails should be precise and have a purpose. Don’t use complicated vocabulary when there’s an easier way of saying something. Keep sentence structure short, and a really good rule of thumb is to keep in mind that you should be writing for the literacy level of a 12-year-old. There’s a general consensus that this is a level that the vast majority can understand easily. One way to lose readers quickly is if they can’t understand you.
Your first draft doesn’t have to nail it immediately! You can (and should) take your time. When faced with a task you hate, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – especially when a blank message box is looming in front of you. Break the task up if you need to and do a little here and a little there. If you break it up, your end goal won’t seem so daunting. Don’t leave it to the last minute – if you know you have an important email to send, take the time to get it right. Nobody likes the ‘dash it out, hit send and then regret and self-recriminate’ feeling! Once we hit send, there’s no going back, so get it right before sending.
Check, check and check again
Check your spelling and grammar. And then check it again. And again. Nothing will lose you professional respect quicker than a grammatically poor email! First impressions count: get it wrong and it WILL haunt you. If spelling and grammar aren’t your strongest skill-set, there are so many online tools available that can help. Check out Grammarly and Grammar Girl. Both are fantastic, free resources.
Give your subject line a little love
Last but certainly not least, spend some time on your subject line. Avoid anything too clever and be clear what the email’s about. See our blog on how to get subject lines right.
Following the tips above should have you knocking out emails like a pro! If there’s anything we can help with along the way, please get in touch.