Expert Shares 8 Best Tips for Writing Emails Effectively
Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, emails are an unavoidable part of life.
Even if you don't communicate primarily via email right now, you'll absolutely need to at some point in the near future. This more formal way of corresponding is a great tool for expressing concern for something or asking for something you want (in a much more professional context than text). If crafted correctly, emails can help you gain respect from superiors or people you don't know on a casual basis.
To help master the "art" of the email, we reached out to Samara Bay, a dialect coach and host of iHeartRadio's feminist podcast, Permission to Speak. Keep reading for her eight tips to writing emails effectively.
1. Get Straight to the Point
"Unless it's to catch up with a friend, emails tend to be pretty practical," Samara says. "Ask yourself what you want from sending it. And then ask yourself if you're more likely to get what you want from the recipient by using 'hedging words' like 'just,' 'some,' 'sorry,' 'I mean,'—or if they'll respond better to a more direct approach. I'm legit not judging one way over the other; I'm saying those are tools and you should wield them as such. If the person you're writing to will respond better to a gentle approach with lots of hedging, go for it. Maybe the recipient is someone you need to win over, or is more old-fashioned and expects you to be deferential. But if not, practice writing exactly what you want, like your alter ego is composing this email. Sasha Fierce does not apologize for sending an email. Sasha Fierce says what she wants."
2. Avoid Unnecessary Questions
"This is one of the best secrets for a strong email: Don't ask any questions you don't need to ask," Samara says. "If you can phrase what you want as a statement, you'll come across as more confident and it may actually help you get your question answered without even asking it."
For example, instead of, "Can you tell me when…?," try "Let me know when…" Instead of "how are you?," try "I hope you're doing okay." Instead of, "Would you be available to meet?" try, "Tell me when you'd be available to meet." Instead of, "Can we maybe…," try, "I'm wondering if we can…"
3. Avoid Small Talk
"Put your reason for the email right up top," Samara advises. "After an initial hello and maybe a single, short acknowledgment of the pandemic or whatever you and the recipient last discussed, jump right in. This is where hedging is almost never helpful. Instead of, 'I was just wondering…' or 'I don't know if this is a good time to bring this up, but,' try 'I'm writing to see if…' or, 'I'm writing to let you know…' "
4. Keep Your Correspondence Short and Sweet
"If lots of backstory is needed for context, trust your instinct and include it, but include it below the sign-off," Samara says. "At some point in the actual email, reference 'more info below' and throw the additional text after your signature. Long emails scare people off, and if they don't read your words closely, you might not get what you want."
5. Don't Overthink It
"If you feel yourself explaining too much ('I'm only asking because…' or 'Again, sorry if this is a bad time, I was just hoping…'), think about your recipient again," Samara explains. "Are they going to need this? Do they have a history of misunderstanding you? Then, okay. But sometimes we over-explain because we don't trust ourselves. Take a deep breath and check in: did you already say what you want? If the answer is yes, leave it at that. One of the most empowering things we can do in life is state what we need or what we have to give, and not take it back."
6. Avoid 'Sorry' Unless You Owe Someone a Legit Apology
"If you're writing an apology email because you did something you truly feel bad about, that's the best reason to use the word 'sorry,' " Samara says. "Second best reason is if you're kissing-up and, as I said in my first tip, that kind of language will help you get what you want ('I'm so sorry to bother you'). Otherwise take out any "sorry"s. Your alter ego, who's a badass, knows she deserves to send someone an email and deserves the time it takes that person to read it. She does not need to apologize for taking up space or time. Period."
7. Adhere to a Standard Email Template
"Especially if you're writing to teachers or other authority figures, it really does help to stick to the classic structure," Samara suggests. "This is a greeting plus their name up top, main body (just a few lines total, either separated or together as a single paragraph, depending on if the topic changes in the middle or not), and then a sign-off that feels thoughtful. This is a good spot to use phrases like, 'I'd be grateful for your help' or 'thanks so much' or 'I hope you understand' or 'I'm excited to…'
I like to check that my emails have no more than one(ish) exclamation point and one word of thanks. More than that and it can seem like you're trying too hard, which is another way of losing your power."
8. Give Your Email a Few Final Glances Before Pressing 'Send'
"Read your email out loud before you send it," Samara says. "Unless it's a job interview in some extremely formal industry, it's almost always best to write conversationally so it flows. But most important: Say what you mean, like you deserve to say it, and then stop."
Craving more expert advice? HERE's what one professional says you should do if you've hit a quarantine wall.