Like They Always Say, “Practice Makes Perfect”

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:

  1. 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 is2-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-hands-desk-swatch-Damian-zaleski 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.”
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Reread
    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

10 thoughts on “Like They Always Say, “Practice Makes Perfect”

  1. Hey Tessa!
    I enjoyed how you began your response by relating not only to “New and Confused” but also to the general audience of the young professional world of millennials. The lighthearted tone is generally a good way to speak on the same level as your audience in turn, allowing them to have a better understanding of your material. Clearly stating how to incorporate user-centered design through your headers is helpful because it allows the reader to scan your post and grasp a general idea of how they can integrate this phenomenon in their writing. Overall, very clearly written and I was able to relate to you on a personal level.

  2. Interesting post! I never really considered the structure of an email as being important before, but I think that you made good points. Specifically, I like how you mentioned that people typically look for due dates first in addition to other important information. In the future, I will keep this in mind and try to emphasize the most important in bold print or a different font color. I also very much enjoyed the structure of your post. The numeric style really made things easier to read. They also made your points pop out (you took your own advice) and quickly noticeable

  3. Hey Tessa,
    I really liked how you started off your post to New and Confused in a very approachable way. Especially highlighting the fact that they are preaching to the young professional world, with may be comforting to know she is among peers. Also, the fact that you stated that basically everyone struggles with writing emails at some point made you relatable. Pointing out the fact that practice makes perfect and having a good attitude is all a part of the process was uplifting. Most of all, I really enjoyed how you laid out your post. It is very clear and easy to interpret the overall meaning you are trying to convey. Especially how you said “here is how this is done” and then continued to highlight the main points that are required when writing a business email.

  4. Tess!
    You are so encouraging! I can just hear you saying this out loud, and I love it! 🙂 Beginning a piece with encouraging words like “you are capable” is such a breath of fresh air. It is easy to get right in to correcting others’ in pieces like this, but I loved how you took a minute to build confidence. I also loved the paragraph talking about the importance of a good subject line. I myself forget that sometimes this makes all the difference in getting people to read your email. Keeping things short, sweet, and key are some of the best ways to a good subject line.

    You rock!

  5. You have done a really good job with structure and format in your post. By using numbered subheadings you organize the information in a concise and easily readable manner. Your use of bold text, underlining and crossing out words throughout the post is very successful in creating emphasis on your main ideas and points while still remaining professional and uncluttered. You also do a good job of giving ample information while also keeping your post brief and concise. By laying out the issue then going through the steps to eradicate the issue you come full circle and create an effective post. Overall good job!

  6. Hi Tessa! This post of yours was refreshing in both the way you structured your pieces of advice as well as in your actual words of advice. It was easy to read and had a nice flow to it. I like how you took some of the pieces of advice you were giving to the writer of News and Confused and actually used them yourself in writing your post. It definitely made your points carry more weight when demonstrated right there in the post. My only piece of advice, and this might be just a preference thing, was to maybe use less bold and underlined phrases. Even though many of the ones you did underline were solid points to direct the readers attention to, I just got a little distracted with how many there were throughout the post. But again, that’s just me. I really liked your post as a whole and the way you ended it was superb. Good stuff.

  7. Hi there, Tessa! The organization of this piece is flawless. Numbering the important things that go into an email really outlines what to pay attention to. Your advice of making lists that include bullet points when writing emails is a great idea. It is so true that paragraphs of information are overwhelming and often lead people to miss a key point. I also like how you emphasized the importance of proofreading. If the writer of an email does not proofread, the email might not make any sense at all. Overall, I think this post was a terrific example of how an email should be written and you did it in such an organized and understandable way. Great work!

  8. Hi Tessa,
    This post was very well written and relatable to millennials. Your tone was very upbeat and made it feel that you truly believed in your readers ability to take your advice and become better writers. This made me want to not only read on, but also take what you said to heart and see how it could help me. Further, the organization of the post enhanced the content and made it easy to read, reference, and pick out what was most important. Lastly, I liked how you showed the reader that you were practicing the advice you were giving and not just making up points to fill content. This added to your credibility and really sealed the deal for me. Overall a great post, I’m excited to see what advice you have for us next!

    Nate Roadman

  9. Hey Tessa!
    I really like your voice in this piece. I’m very engaged in what you’re saying because it sounds like you are genuinely concerned with helping the writer. You do a really good job of highlighting the key points throughout your piece by using different typography elements to make them stand out. I also like how you are relating to the user right off the bat, because it adds credibility to your advice. Your point about using lists in the email is great. I think that’s a good way to help organize a lot of information, and makes it easier for the reader. Keep up the good work!

  10. I really enjoyed reading this post, right from the title, as it’s something that almost all your readers can make a connection to in one way or another. Also your use of bold words was both visually attractive and was a nice way to highlight some of you most important points. The way you structured your post into five steps was another way to make the information clear and simple for your audience to read. In step four you used the slash effect on the filler words that should be avoided. This was a really cool way to give further attention to an important issue that many of us, me included, struggle with.

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