Writing Business E-mails
Mar 16, 2009 English for Special Purposes (ESP) 3939 Views
E-mails are much less formal than official letters. They are quick and easy to send. They also allow you to communicate to a large group simultaneously. Sending e-mails can prevent playing phone tag and save time. However, if you are writing e-mails for business, you need to be more careful with your writing than if you are writing to a family member or close friend. Business e-mails reflect on both your employer and you. Make a good impression. Here are some guidelines which will make your e-mails winners.
Be professional. The first thing to remember if you are sending a business e-mail is that this is business. Therefore you want to put your best foot forward. Make sure your writing is clear, concise, and professional. Use proper English including punctuation. Capitalize as appropriate - do not use all lowercase or all upper case. Use complete sentences and spell out words. Do not use "twitter speak". Be accurate about your topic and anyone you mention in the e-mail.
E-mails are official documents. Remember that e-mails are part of the official record of any business or government. The e-mails can be recovered for investigations or for inspection by legal authorities. Think of the e-mails the company president of Peanut Corporation of America sent to his management team telling them to release products which were shown on a large screen during his testimony before Congress.
Write for a wider audience than those of the addressee list. E-mails regularly get forwarded beyond the group to which you initially send them. Keep that in mind the next time you feel tempted to say something derogatory about someone else. The person you least want to read an e-mail may see it, so make sure what you write is something you can defend and you would want to have shared with others.
No slander or slurs of any sort. Absolutely no racial, ethnic, or gender biased comments. Do not make sexual references. A business e-mail needs to focus on business.
Count to ten before you send. If you are tempted to send an e-mail when you are angry, be very careful. This is the most common circumstance under which people make mistakes and write things they regret later. Give yourself some time. Breathe deeply. Go for a walk. Talk to your best friend. Do not send a reply to that outrageous piece of vitriol you just read until you can write a measured response which shows you to be the consummate professional you are.
Greetings. You can start an e-mail with a simple greeting like "Hi" or Greetings", "All" or just list the names on your "To" list. Use titles unless you are on a first name speaking basis with the addressee. Dr. Armstrong or Major Kent will be more responsive to you if you treat them with the professional courtesy they deserve. Also, if you are writing to a senior person in an organization and providing copies to others, address the senior person respectfully. Do not downgrade their position or undermine their authority. This type of communication creates a tension and uncomfortable situation for both the senior person and the others reading the e-mail.
Spell Check. Take the time to use spell check and grammar check, if you have it. If these functions are not included in your mail software, write the body of your e-mail in a word processor. After you have checked your document, copy and paste the text into your mail software. Read the document through again to make sure the spell check has not skipped over a word which exists but is not the word you meant to use (i.e. to versus two).
Sign-offs. Include a brief conclusion to your e-mail. Appropriate options include the phrases: Best regards, Regards, Sincerely, Respectfully, Yours respectfully, Yours truly, Many thanks, or Best wishes.
The signature block. Be sure to include your full name and contact information in your signature block. List your company name, phone numbers, fax numbers, mailing address, and website. You want to make it easy for your recipients to contact you.
Avoid doo-dads. Do not add cute graphics, colored backgrounds, quotations, or other distracting elements. All of these items make the e-mail a larger file to send and store. They take longer to load and most business people do not want to waste their time on slow-loading e-mails.
By following these tips, you will write business e-mails which reinforce your company's and your own image as a true professional. You will show competence and courtesy to co-workers, customers and suppliers alike. You will create a welcoming working environment which people will appreciate and will return to for more business.