Email Best Practices & Tips

July 27, 2018

For some reason, people can’t get emails right. So, to put an end to bad emails, follow the best practices below as you compose, respond to, and manage your emails.

Keep the message brief

People receive many emails a day and will appreciate it if yours is short and to the point – and they will be more likely to read it. Take time to tighten up your language and whittle out unnecessary information.

Don’t confuse being concise with being vague

While you shouldn’t send massive, rambling emails, you also don’t want to send nearly empty messages that result in misinterpretation or tons of follow-up questions. In the end, the rework and back-and-forth will take more time than writing or reading a longer, more effective email. The key is to communicate all necessary information clearly and quickly.

Make the message easy-to-read

Use short sentences. Break up blocks of text into short paragraphs and bullet points. Use bold to call out critical points, such as the date an assignment is due or which people are responsible for each action item.

Use bullet points often

Bullet points help itemize tasks/information, break apart your email, and make for an easy “to-do” list.

Keep your writing professional

Don’t use colorful / playful fonts, emoticons, or slang. Don’t overuse exclamation marks and emphasis (bold, underline, italics). If your email has emphasis, it should make the message clearer not chaotic. Avoid ALL CAPS as it can come across as shouting.

Consider how the reader may interpret what you write

Remember your “tone” won’t communicate well, so including sarcasm or humor can be risky. If something you write can be interrupted multiple ways, refine it so that your meaning is clear and the reader doesn’t have to guess.

Adapt your writing style based on the reader

If your manager writes formally to you, have your emails reflect that style. If you get to know someone well and they use a friendly writing style in their emails to you, you can write more informally – but stay professional.

Re-read your email

Check your grammar and spelling. Make sure you included all of the important information, a subject line, the correct recipients, and any attachments referenced in your email. Remove unnecessary information and check for possible areas of misunderstanding.

Remember that emails are permanent

Emails can be reread, archived, and forwarded. Make sure your emails reflect well on you. Be careful with any sensitive information that you don’t want the recipient to share with other people.

Keep track of important communication

Develop a system to manage your emails – and your resulting action items – through labels, folders, or other methods. This will help ensure that you don’t forget about something and can easily retrieve important information from past emails when the need arises.

Check and respond to your email regularly

People want quick responses to their emails and many professional settings expect a response within 24-48 hours. If you need more time to complete the assignment from an email, respond early to acknowledge that you received the message and are working on the task.

Make sure to check out our other post on 8 keys to writing a professional email!

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