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How to write a clear and professional email

By Manisha Sachdev
Last updated on: December 24, 2015 10:08 IST
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Your e-mail must be crisp and impactful. Before hitting send, take a moment to read what you've written.

E-mail is the most used form of business communication these days.

That is because you don't have to be available at the same time as your conversation partner to communicate.

As a professional, one is used to receiving scores of e-mails on a daily basis and if not drafted well, there is a possibility of the message being misinterpreted by the receiver.

It is therefore very important to write e-mails which are clear and impactful.

Here are ten tips to write an effective e-mail:

1. Use a simple and clear subject line

If your subject line is vague or if you leave it blank, you have missed your first opportunity to inform or persuade your reader.

Before you hit the 'send' button, take a moment to write a subject line that accurately describes the content, giving your reader a concrete reason to open your message.

Ensure that the subject line is clear and crisp.

Follow the standard e-mail hygiene of refraining from using capital letters -- which is perceived as 'shouting'.

Your subject line should clearly indicate the purpose of writing the e-mail.

2. Greetings and Sign-offs

Always use a greeting and some kind of sign-off.

Don't just start with your text, and don't stop at the end without a polite signature.

The standard way to begin an e-mail is with 'Dear', the person's name (with or without a title) and is considered a part of routine workplace communication.

3. Reflect on the tone of your message

When you are communicating via e-mail, your words are not supported by gestures, voice inflections, or other cues, so it may be easier for someone to misread your tone. Hence be very careful with the choice of your words

4. Watch your spelling and grammar

If you send an e-mail with spelling and other grammatical errors; it tells the reader that it's not that important.

Always run your e-mail through a spell check, and proof read the e-mail before sending it out.

As a general rule, avoid abbreviations and acronyms as they may confuse the reader

5. Limit your audience in CC and BCC field

When sending out e-mails, mark them only to the ones that it is necessary, try to keep the recipient list to a minimum.

An e-mail with more than four recipients in the CC list is considered as not important, people usually think that one of the other recipients are going to take care of the e-mail.

Also, use BCC instead of CC when it's not important for the e-mail recipients to see whom the e-mail was sent to and to help keep everyone's e-mail addresses private.

6. Avoid attachments unless really important

Rather than forcing you reader to download an attachment and open it in a separate program, you will probably get faster results if you just copy-paste the most important part of the document into the body of your message

7. Save the whole story; stick to the facts

We tend to say too much in e-mail, it's like an inner compulsion to describe all the details and disclose the whole of our existence so that the receiver can understand the whole picture.

Truth is, unless you already know this person well, they really don't care.

Simply stick to the facts -- it'll help you keep your message short.

The shorter you can keep your e-mail while still relaying your message or question the better.

8. Font and formatting matters

Fonts that are too small, too large, or otherwise hard to read (ie. 8 point, times roman font, all bold.) makes it difficult for the recipient to read the e-mail.

Beware of your fonts and use easy to read fonts (ex. Arial), and use a standard size.

Do not use extravagant colors. Use bullet points, numbered lists, and keep the paragraphs short. Highlight keywords (bold or italic) but ensure that you don't overdo it.

9. Use a clean signature

Your signature becomes your identity in an e-mail, it therefore becomes very imperative to have a properly structured signature.

Your signature should carry your complete name, designation, organisation name and address and any URL to your company website.

You may choose to mention your contact number. Avoid cluttering the signature block with a quotation or any artwork.

10. Follow 'one thing' rule

People often tend to treat e-mails as same as meetings. In business meetings, the more agenda items you work through, the more productive the meeting.

With e-mails, the opposite is true. The less you include in your e-mails, the better.

That is why you should always follow "one thing" rule. Restrict your e-mail to that one thing only. If you need to communicate about another project, write a separate e-mail

Remember -- your words speak on your behalf in an e-mail. Make sure you leave a good impression by writing like you speak !

The author Manisha Sachdev is head-training, ITM Group of Institutions.

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Credit: eef ink/Creative Commons

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Manisha Sachdev