Dear 3040 and Beyond:
Help! I’m in big trouble at work. I just graduated from college and I’m leading a really big project. I want to impress my boss, but he says my emails confuse everyone and that I’m basically doing everything wrong. I was afraid to ask what that means. I have to send out lots of complex information to the people on the project every week, so I can’t help writing so much! Do you have any advice about how to write a great email?
New and Confused
Dear New and Confused:
You are preaching to the (young professional world) choir with your call for help. Writing emails can be tough, I promise that you are not the only person struggling with this task! However, moving forward you must alter your attitude to a mindset of “practice makes perfect.” Looking at all that you have accomplished, from recently graduating college to already landing a really big project at your new job, I know that you are capable of writing a great email. View those previous emails as practice and get ready to be perfect!
To reach that level of perfection, I want you to first imagine listening to a friend tell a story and he/she including every possible detail. Let’s be honest, while listening all you want to say is “cut to the chase.” When you are writing workplace emails, I want you to cut to the chase. Give the crucial information, not the pointless details.
And here is how this is done:
- THE Subject Line
Those few words in the subject line have power. They are a determining factor of if the email is opened. Why is this? Well, that little sneak peek in the subject line represents the email as a whole. If the receiver has an inbox that is overflowing with unread emails, when the subject line leaves an impression that the email is unimportant then it will be treated as unimportant.
To make sure the subject line leaves a perfect first impression use specific, key words to describe the content of the email, and put the most important words first. For example, if the email is a reminder for a meeting simply say “REMINDER: meeting name and date/time.”
- Due Dates
Think about what an invitation looks like. Typically there is a line that is dedicated only to the time and date of the event, which emphasizes this information. In an email, treat due dates like this.
To provoke the reader’s eyes to jump to dates, bold the text or change font color to red. This will make it so even with lengthly emails, important dates are seen!
- Make Lists
How overwhelming would this content be if I wrote it all out in one lengthy paragraph? Pretty overwhelming. When making any type of lists in an email use bullet points. By saying good-bye to the comma and hello to the bullet that complex information will be presented in an concise and organized fashion.
- Simple sentences
Writing an efficient email can be as simple as…. Writing simple sentences! (Or that is at least that is an important part of it!) One of the best ways to write simple sentences is to avoid extra filler words. Examples of filler words are;
just, very, literally, quite, perhaps, in order, rather and stuff.
Before you press send, go over what you have written. Read it aloud or even send it off to a friend to double-check that all of the information is not only accurate but also makes sense. (Heck, you can be that I am going to reread this before pressing send!)
New and Confused, as I conclude this response by signing my name I must mention the importance of a proper salutation and closing. Be sure to address the receiver(s) with the respect they deserve. Starting every email with a “Dear ____” sets yourself up for success! And just as I am about to do, always sign your name.
I am crossing my fingers that next time you write me, your name is no longer “New and Confused” but rather “Practice Made Perfect!” Best of luck to you!
3040 and Beyond – Tessa Snow