In the course of a regular business day. you probably send dozens of emails. Email has become so common that many people don’t always think about what they’re sending. Taking the extra time to apply proper email formatting can make you a better business communicator.
Let’s review a few tips that will make your emails easier to read, more concise, and more likely to get a response. Whether you’re asking a coworker for help with a problem or reaching out to a potential business contact, here are simple ways to make your emails clearer.
1. Include a Descriptive Subject Line
The subject line of an email is more important than most people think. When someone has a dozen unread messages in their inbox, they’re going to glance through them quickly. A blank title, or a generic one like Request or Hey doesn’t give the recipient any clue what your message is about. Thus, they’re more likely to ignore it.
Someone sent me an email at work… the ENTIRE message was in the subject line, and just "please" in the body of the message.
— Mark (@markykelley) March 21, 2017
Also, lots of people don’t take advantage of the folders in Outlook or Gmail to organize their emails. Without this, they have to search for emails when they need to recover them. If your message doesn’t have a descriptive subject, they might never find it. Thus, you should take a second to think about how to boil the essence of your email into a phrase, and make that the subject.
Something like Request for Help With the Marketing Project or Clarification on Wednesday’s Meeting lets the recipient know what to expect as soon as the message arrives. Keep it concise, and writing a specific line will pay off.
2. Avoid Strange Formatting
Standard email fonts like Arial are a little boring, but they’re the defaults for a reason. Those fonts are easy to read, and look good no matter what device you read them on. Some people eschew these and use all sorts of hard-to-read formatting in their emails. While this might seem like it’s a way to stand out, it does more harm than good.
I am starting to think most successful people are really bad at email.
This makes me feel better about being really bad at email.
— Micah Redding ???????? (@micahtredding) November 6, 2016
Using handwritten fonts, multiple fonts, or colors other than black makes your email looks silly and hard to read. You should also avoid making the entire email bold, italicized, or in all capitals. Stick with the basics and your email won’t become an eyesore.
3. Use a Signature
If you need to be in contact with people to do business, then having easily accessible contact information is important. An email signature is an easy way to ensure that nobody you contact has trouble reaching you. These also make your messages more professional and help you represent your business when you contact those outside it.
A good signature includes your name and position at your company, along with your email address, phone number, and any other relevant information. The same guidelines with text formatting apply here — don’t put your name in neon green.
4. Watch for Typos
Everyone makes mistakes, but typos in professional email can reflect poorly on you and your company. Before you send off your message, check for any misspelled words, grammar errors, or other issues. It only takes a moment, and typos make an email feel much less professional. The recipient might get the impression that you didn’t care enough to catch proofread the message before you sent it.
All modern email services have a spellcheck built in, so be sure to at least check for underlined words before sending. Also, don’t include emoticons or abbreviations like “thx” — the brevity could come across the wrong way.
Before sending, double-check that you’re sending the message to the right person! Your email app may have auto-filled someone else’s name by mistake. Additionally, remember to use the BCC field if you don’t want the recipients responding to each other.
5. Preview Emails to Catch Line Break Issues
Sometimes despite your best efforts, an email ends up garbled when you send it off. Sometimes this is because of the recipient’s email program, which you can’t help. Other times, this happens when you paste something into your email. It might look okay when viewed in your email program, but receiving a message that looks like this is frustrating:
> When you get an email that's broken up like this > it is > really hard to read. When someone receives it and > it looks > unprofessional, they > probably aren't > going to respond to your email, which is a problem.
To prevent these line discrepancies, send the email to yourself first for review. You can also copy and paste the email into Microsoft Word or a similar program to check if it looks different when viewed outside of your email app. Online tools like Format-It can also help with this — they set a fixed width to prevent the line break issue.
6. Avoid Overusing High Importance and Requesting Read Receipts
Marking an email as High Importance should be thought of as “High Urgency.” Plenty of communications may be important, but do not require urgent attention and should not be flagged. Before marking an email as High Importance, consider whether it will really be urgent for the reader. A reader scanning an inbox will be drawn to the high importance emails first. But if they come in too frequently, it will turn into the boy who cried wolf and defeat the purpose of using this feature.
Likewise, avoid requesting read receipts. They are unreliable at best as many people configure their email client to never send read receipts by default. Those that do not know how to do this may question why you want to be notified when your message is read and could take it the wrong way.
Email Formatting Matters!
As common as email is, many professionals misuse it. By spending a few minutes to review these key aspects of your email before you send it, you can write more effective emails. They’re easier for the recipient to understand and more likely to get a response.
If you’re got an essential email tip, please share it below in the comments!