Writing Professional Emails: Dos and Don’ts


by Stacey Richardson

     Subject line: Report

     Come to my office. This report wasn’t done as I asked and we need to meet NOW!  

Have you ever received an email like this—one with a vague subject line, no greeting, passive-aggressive tone, and use of all capital letters? Emails like this tend to provoke the receiver and cause unnecessary conflict. How do you avoid writing an email like this?

To understand how to communicate more effectively through emails, I set out on a search for tips and tricks. For the “dos” of professionally communicating with colleagues, I found this article informative. These were the more useful points:

  1. Understand the personalities you are dealing with. Consider the personality type of the recipient of the email. Do they prefer to discuss issues as they arise? Or do they prefer to understand the project entirely prior to beginning to avoid future questions? When you understand this about your employees, you will be able to understand how much information to provide them at a time and whether they need primarily email correspondence or face-to-face explanation.
  1. Revise, revise, revise! If you send an email to a client full of typos and grammatical issues, you will lose their confidence. Your writing inspires a vision of how people see you. If you never meet your recipient face-to-face and send them correspondence with errors, their image of you may not be positive. I cannot stress enough the importance of reading and revising emails before inputting the email address for the receiver and hitting the “send” button.
  1. Be clear and concise in your language and avoid using extra words. Do they need multiple adjectives to describe their tone in the last report they submitted? Do they need all of the details concerning the project? The more information you bog the reader down with, the faster you will lose their attention. If words aren’t kept simple and the message isn’t clear in the beginning, the reader will spend more time trying to figure out your meaning. Cut the unnecessary information.

In order to understand what not to do, I found this article’s tips to be the most valuable:

  1. Avoid all capital letters. The use of all capital letters denotes yelling. Yelling at colleagues and employees is frowned upon, so avoid yelling at them.
  1. Avoid text speak, abbreviations, and acronyms. The use of any of these make it easy for the reader to lose your meaning. Also, they’re unprofessional. Would you really say “ROFL” to your boss? Avoid the unprofessional jargon.
  1. Be polite. Don’t underestimate the power of a polite and gracious attitude towards your recipient. But be sure mean your words. Don’t be sarcastic or snarky – this is the one-way ticket to pissing off the recipient of your message. Say “please” and “thank you” but genuinely mean it.

There are four ways, and only four ways, we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.

— Dale Carnegie

If we want to be seen by the world as competent, intelligent, and capable beings, we must make sure we showcase our best abilities. Within digital correspondence we can only show what we say and how we say it – be sure that what you say and how you say it projects the image of you that you desire.




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