25 Professional Email Writing Tips
1. Preparation, preparation, preparation
To avoid poorly written documents, ask the following questions before beginning:
Who will read this letter?
What do I want to achieve?
What information does the reader need?
Why do they need it?
What do they already know about the subject?
2. Choose your style
Which of the following best characterizes your writing?
Abrupt - If you cannot handle the project …
Unhelpful - We are not able to assist you …
Pompous - I have worked on many jobs like this …
Undermining - I am not sure you can do this job …
Authoritarian - You must complete this job now …
Democratic - When you have time, could you …
Co-operative - We are willing to look at …
Supportive - I think you are doing this job well …
Unassuming - I will do my best on this job …
Persuasive - I really think this is your project to manage …
3. State the most important point first
Organize your material by its importance: the most essential first (that which answers the
who, what, where, and how questions). Follow this up with the why and supporting information so that your information pyramid looks like this:
4. Keep it short
Keep it succinct, delete unnecessary words. Sentences should not be more than 20 words. Also, limit compound sentences, conjunctions, and connectors
5. One idea per paragraph
Keep paragraphs short and easy to read. Two sentences are perfect try not to go beyond three.
6. Use simple words
Don’t use jargon or technical words unless you know your audience will understand them.
Don’t use multi-syllable words where a simple one will do instead. Your aim is to be
understood not to win a literary prize.
There are a number of ways to write dates but whichever choice you make, write them the
same way all through your document. Your best choices are:
December 7, 2009
7 December 2009 (note, no comma after December)
Separating the day from the year (as in the second example) is less confusing.
Adding a suffix to date is both confusing and difficult to read. It is also unnecessary.
Eg. 7th December 2009 or December 7th, 2009.
8. Be accurate
There is no room for obscurity in business writing. If your reader does not understand your
message mistakes are likely and money is possibly lost. Avoid ambiguous words like EOD, soon, at the earliest, as soon as possible (ASAP). Give a specific time and date.
9. Always be closing
Create deadlines even when there are no deadlines. If someone asks you to do something, ask them when do they need it, if they do not give a timeline, create one and get their confirmation
10. Avoid word weeds
Remove vague, over-used, and wordy phrases. Your message is not enhanced by such phrases as:
· As a general rule
· With reference to
· On the basis of
· It is my understanding that
· It is understood that
· Research indicates that
· We refer to
· It can be considered.
· Please do the needful
· The fact of the matter is
11. Verbs are better
Use verbs as they are short and also action-oriented for example:
12. Eliminate exaggerations
Words like very, in fact, little, pretty, rather, and totally are, in fact, totally redundant. You
don’t need them. Your writing doesn’t need them. Eliminate them and every word like them
just taking up space yet adding nothing.
Most people hate being addressed as ‘sir or madam’ and thanks to databases, there’s now no need for it. Use people’s first names whenever appropriate, and their surnames when it’s not.
14. No need for marital status
Don’t differentiate between Mrs, Miss, or Ms when addressing women in business. It is sexist to do so. Why? Men aren’t referred to by their marital status, so neither should women.
Exception: If you are writing a personal letter to an older woman, you know prefers to be
addressed a certain way, by all means, do so.
15. Make it conversational
People will respond best if you talk to them in a personal, friendly tone. Imagine they are
sitting next to you. Write as if you were speaking to them. You don’t use long
or formal words in conversations, so don’t use them in writing.
16. Turn your negative messages into positive
If you have a negative message to communicate, do so in a positive way. You are more likely
to get the result you are seeking. For example, instead of saying Don’t Run, say Please Walk or “No child is allowed without an adult” say “Children are welcome when accompanied with an adult”
17. Always tell them what you can and not what you can’t
Instead of saying what’s not possible, say what is. Instead of saying what goals were not met,
say what needs to be met. Instead of saying what someone can’t have, say what they can.
Keep away from such negatives as we can’t, our policy doesn’t permit and that’s not possible.
18. Tell them what they need to do clearly
Every piece of business communication needs an action of some sort. What is it you want your reader to do:
· Remember something?
· Do something?
· Go somewhere?
· Arrange something?
· Tell someone?
This is your call to action and it should be clearly stated. Don’t expect people to work out for themselves what you want them to do. Tell them.
19. Give them a motive for an action (motivation)
If your intention is to persuade your reader to take some action, you will need to state solid
reasons why they should do as you ask. List the benefits or rewards they will receive by
acceding to your request. This is generally more effective than making threats about what
will happen if they don’t.
20. Avoid clichés like plague
Cliché-ridden writing is lazy writing and has no place in business documents. Phrases like at
the end of the day, like the plague, win-win, do not hesitate to contact the undersigned, and
many others are so over-used that their impact has been eroded. Check your writing carefully
for clichés and hackneyed phrases, and replace them with something more meaningful and
21. be clear about the importance of your message
Sometimes you want someone to do something. Other times they must do it. Be clear which is which.
· Must expresses requirements that have a definite need.
o The plan must be in place by January 31.
· May or can indicates a certain amount of choice.
o The company may allow employees to take part in the event.
· Should indicates a strong preference for a particular action.
o All staff should take their breaks at the specified time.
22. Outdated words and phrases
Times have changed and business communication has moved on. Eliminate from your writing these tired old expressions:
· In the near future
· Attached please find/ Please find attached/ PFA
· I would like to thank you
· Just to thank you
· Thanking you in advance
· Acknowledge receipt of
· As per your request
· Please feel free to call
· Please do not hesitate to call
· It is evident that
· As far as I know
· More than happy to
· As I’m sure you know
· In all honesty
· It goes without saying
· May I take this opportunity to
· Permit me to say
· This is to inform you
· To tell the truth
There are many different ways to rephrase these tired, boring and outdated phrases. Use your imagination by writing as you would speak.
23. White space is good
The layout of a document has a bearing on its readability.
Make sure there is plenty of white space so that the text does not look dense and off-putting.
The aim is to make it easy to read.
Bullet points are an excellent way to break up text and highlight important points.
24. Exclamation marks
Do not over-use exclamation marks! They are usually unnecessary and merely render your
writing more difficult to read. Replace exclamation marks with words or phrases which convey your meaning.
25. Leave the editing till you’re finished
Don’t try to edit your copy as you write. Get all your ideas down on paper first, then go back
and see if you’ve been clear and concise. It’s highly likely your work will need considerable reworking. Don’t think this is wrong. Even novelists like Stephen King rewrite their work a
number of times before they consider it finished.
Learn more with our instructor-led online training program.