Substance and Soul

How To Write An Email

Samantha WetterholmComment

Monday, 20 May 2013

My idea for this post emerged from a rather frustrating week of having to read {way too many} bad emails. I am constantly checking my multiple email accounts and I have found that I am much more responsive to well-written and professional-sounding emails. I get rather annoyed having to read emails that sound like text messages. 

So I present to you,

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You may not find this useful, but I hope that you take a few of these notes to heart. :]

1 :: First, start with a good subject line. This should be short but include the relevant information so that the person reading knows exactly to what the email is pertaining. For example, “Biology 302 Question” would be a good subject line if you are writing to a professor. Another effective subject line could be “Request for Meeting on June 3rd, 2013” if you are trying to arrange a meeting with someone. You get the picture. The idea is to let the reader know what to expect in the email but not be so wordy that it takes up several lines. 

2 :: Include a proper salutation. THIS IS KEY. You can grab the attention of the recipient if you address him or her respectfully and professionally. Even if you are writing to a friend or family member, including a nice salutation is very important. I might say, “Good morning Dr. Anderson” or “Hello classmates and colleagues” to convey an inviting tone. You took the time to compose the email, therefore you want the person to read the entire thing. This starts with a good greeting. Also address the person as Mr./Ms./Dr., unless you know that you are on a first-name basis with that person. 

3 :: Start with a light or complimentary sentence. Although you don’t want to send unnecessarily wordy emails, you don’t want to go right into your request as it may sound demanding. I usually start with something along these lines, “I hope that you have been enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having” or “I really enjoyed your lecture this morning in Biology 302”. If you are emailing after business hours, start with a simple “I apologize for the late hour of this email” or “I hope this doesn't inconvenience you”. It’s better to be overly-formal in an email than informal. 

4 :: Write the body of the email. Try to keep this short and sweet. As someone who gets 30+ emails per day, I zoom through reading them and I will not spend too much time reading the lengthy emails until I have more time. As a reader, I want to know what you are trying to say in as few sentences as possible. If you need to convey more information, have a small first paragraph that summarizes everything then go into more detail in subsequent paragraphs. Just make sure to have the key information right in the beginning. 

5 :: Close the email. Usually this sentence should allow the reader know that he/she can contact you or ask any follow-up questions. I usually say, “I look forward to hearing back from you” or “If you have any questions, please contact me.” You want the recipient to feel part of the conversation. 

6 :: Use a proper valediction. You want to end an email as you started: respectfully. This can be really simple. You can close with, “Sincerely,” “Best,” “Respectfully”, or “Thank you”. Don’t just sign your name.

7 :: Include a signature. If you have been emailing the person back and forth, or if this person knows you well, you can include just your name. But if the person receiving your email may not know who you are or if you are writing a business/professional email, you will want to include a signature. It’s easy to set up signatures in your gmail/iMail/etc to be included in every email from that account. 

Mine is set up to say: 
My name
My school and graduation date
My contact information

{I might also include my leadership position if my email relates to that organization.}

Additional hints :: Make sure that there is a valid address for the recipient. Make sure you spell check and grammar check {please!}. CC the proper individuals if necessary. 

I hope that you have found this useful! If you have any ideas for my next “How to” post, please leave a comment!

Have a great week everyone! 

Stop by tomorrow for a look around my wee, little apartment.