Can’t Write an Email? I Can Help!

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,

I remember when I got my first cell phone and had the new ability to text all of my friends. Sending all the “sup’s” and “LOLs” made me lose all my knowledge I had of correct punctuation and grammar. When I would email my teachers regarding class work, they would not even respond to them because they were so poorly written and the tone was “demeaning”. I too had to learn the importance of constructing a good email so that my coworkers or superiors. And since you are the leader of a big project, it is essUnknownential for you to learn the importance of tone and organization. I am going to give you the best advice I could give anyone on how to write a good and meaningful email.

My first suggestion to you is to take your time when writing these emails. According to Forbes magazine, they say that “It takes time to formulate your thoughts, to figure out what you’re actually trying to say, and to write your message out in a clear way”. If you are rushing through your emails and trying to respond to so many in a certain time frame, it is very likely that your emails will be poorly written. Your coworkers that are in the previous generation probably read your emails and find the tone to be disrespectful or arrogant. As said by Forbes, an email is a form a communication, not a task. Learn more about how to write a good email here.

Would you talk to a person face-to-face as you would in your emails? You should. It is, after all, your voice. I know I speak for a good amount of people when I say that when I am reading someone’s message or text, I can hear their voice in my head reading it to me. So if I’m reading an email from you that says”this needs to be done by 5:00″, you are going to come off as demanding, to
me at least. A more appropriate way to ask that is with sincerity and respect, while still maintaining your authoritative position. Instead, you could say”if you could please get this task done by 5:00, i would greatly appreciate it. Thank you”.

As I stated earlier, using abbreviations really hurt my communication skills. So always remember to avoid using abbreviations and slang while communicating through your business email. Nancy Freidman states that “Since a casual message to a coworker could easily be forwarded, it’s best to practice the same high level of professionalism no matter who you’re writing to”. Professional communication in all emails is a very good habit to build. Over time, you will become more efficient with the way you communicate and how you organize your emails. If you are using slang in your emails at work, how can you expectimages anyone to take you seriously? If you would like some more tips on other ways you can strengthen your virtual communication, check out Nancy’s article here.

One last important tip I have for you is this: always remember to structure your emails. Since you have a decent load of information that needs to be relayed to your coworkers, it is crucial that you carefully organize the structure of your messages. Meredith Levinson at CIO claims that “the purpose of the e-mail should be clear in the body, along with any details or actions that need to be taken”. This may take a little longer to get your emails out, but the amount of how much less confusion there will be will save more time overall. You can see Meredith’s recommendations here. I hope you found this informative and I hope it helps you with your work!

Best Regards,

Bill Adams


3 thoughts on “Can’t Write an Email? I Can Help!

  1. Hi William,

    Holy cow, your writing style made me feel so comfortable when seeking advice from you! Thank you for right away making it feel like New and Confused was not alone with this call for help. By making the comparison of talking to a person face-to-face with writing an email, I was able to further conceptualize your suggestions. As you mention about how much I appreciated the tone you used in this blog, I thought it was neat how you also mentioned that your voice in person should be similar to your tone in emails. You were practicing your own suggestions! Your suggestion of using a similar professional tone in an email as you would face-to-face also relates to your point about not using abbreviations. I wouldn’t use an abbreviation when talking to my boss; therefore I have no clue why I would use it in an email to him or her! Good suggestions all over the place, thanks!

    Tessa Snow

  2. Hi William,
    I liked how you started off by bringing up the point of texting and how it has had an effect on many peoples knowledge of proper punctuation and grammar. I think that this is a point many people do not recognize or even really think about when trying to write a professional email. The importance you put on tone and organization is very helpful in regards to giving new and confused advice that will help her improve her writing skills. Also, I appreciated that you suggested to take your time when writing these important emails, because many people jump to the conclusion that an email can be written in five minutes.

  3. The way that you started your post drew my attention immediately. I loved how you related it back to when you first got your cell phone. It made me think back to that time in my life and made me chuckle a little bit to be honest. You are right though, it quickly changes from texting “sup” to someone to needing to know how to write a professional email. The point that you mentioned from forbes magazine, “email is a form of communication not a task” is a very cool statement to me. It states the importance of email in a unique way that makes it resonate with readers. Your post was interesting for me to read and I enjoyed it. Nice work!

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