Use an Informative Subject Line
The subject line is the first thing that a recipient sees in an email. Most of the time, they see it before opening the email itself, as depending on the email client, the subject and recipient is shown before the entire message.
The subject should provide enough information about the email so the recipient knows what it is about it before opening. A subject such as “Review” or “Document” is very vague and doesn’t really help. However, a subject such as “Review Requirements Document” is more specific and gives the recipient more information about the email.
Greet The Recipient Appropriately
Start off your email by providing a greeting – don’t just launch into the email. There are a few occasions where you can simply reply to the email with a quick answer, but in almost all cases it’s better to have a greeting.
How should you use a greeting in an email? Well, this email is formal but not as formal as a business letter. Using “Dear John” is too formal. Something like “Hi,” or “Hello,” or “Hi John,” is usually acceptable. It would need to be adjusted if there is more than one recipient. I tend to include both names if there are two people, or the word “all” if there are more than two. For example, “Hi John, Peter,” if it’s two John and Peter, or “Hi all,” if it’s to John, Peter and someone else.
Keep It Short And Necessary
In this world of computers and technology, it’s tempting to turn the email into an essay and write anything and everything in there for your recipient. I’m not sure if you’ve ever gotten a long email before, but if you have, how did that make you feel? Did you feel interested in reading it, or did it turn you off and make it seem like it was a lot of work? I know how I feel when I receive a long email – it’s not a good thing.
In some cases, choosing the right communication method may mean you don’t even need to write the email. However, if you do, one of the hardest things to do when learning how to write a business email is to keep it short and concise. You need to be able to get your point across effectively, without getting into too much detail or unnecessary information. It takes some practice and experience, but try to think of yourself as the recipient when reading the email. A tip that I mention later on is on reviewing the email – while reviewing, you can see if it’s a good length.
Put Your Main Point In The Opening Sentence
As well as trying to keep the email short and to the point, there is something else you can do to help the recipient and get a response from the email. You can put the main point of the email in the opening sentence. This point could be a request (such as “I’d like your approval on the following action” or “Could we meet to discuss the plans for the new employee?”) or even just some information (such as “Please find below the details on the server outage on the weekend”).
This will help the recipient read the email and improve the way the email is used. Further detail in the email can go below, to support this point.
Be Aware Of The Recipient’s Knowledge
A big part of how to write a business email in the IT industry is the difference in knowledge between employees. There is obviously a lot of technical information in different areas of IT – and not everyone knows what it all means. This is something to consider when writing emails to other users.
It might be OK when writing within your own team or when you know the person is aware of the subject of the email. However, when writing to others, it’s important to be aware of the recipient’s knowledge. This knowledge can be in two areas – knowledge of the technology, and knowledge of the business context.
Knowledge of the technology involves all the IT stuff we know and love – servers, networking, programming, databases, configuration – all that stuff. These kinds of things other IT people would most likely understand, but not always. Just because someone knows about how switches and routers are set up for the network, doesn’t mean they know about database email1and1 configurations. You may need to explain the point of your email to them in non-technical terms.
Knowledge of the business context involves software systems, business processes and teamwork that isn’t relevant to the technical part of your email. The recipient may understand why you want to change a configuration on your server to accept a new application, but they may not know what the application is or why it needs to be accepted. This is just an example where explaining the issue or request in context may help the recipient.
Don’t Use All Caps or Text Speak
Using all caps in an email makes you LOOK LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING. Sure, you may have it on accidentally, but make sure you review the email to check. The only exception to all caps is for acronyms or initials – which should be used sparingly. Keep your emails to sentence case – as though you’re writing a sentence.
Also, don’t use “text speak” in an email. Acronyms and words that might be acceptable in text messages, such as LOL or PLZ, should not be included in the email. If you feel you need to use them, you’re not writing an effective business email. Keep it to full words as needed.
Use Correct Spelling and Grammar
Spelling and grammar is important in an email – it’s expected that it is correct. Some people may not notice incorrect spelling and grammar, but for a lot of people, bad spelling and grammar stands out. It can actually ruin the impact of your email and makes you look less professional.
Make sure you are using the correct spelling and grammar for an email you’re writing. Your email client should do a reasonable job of correcting the spelling and grammar, but you shouldn’t rely on it. Especially working in a technical environment, it may try to translate or “correct” things that shouldn’t be corrected. If you’re in doubt, ask a colleague to look over it to check that it is correct.
Say Please and Thank You
If you’re asking someone to do something, it’s a good idea to use the words “please” and “thank you”. It’s something that we learnt in early school days, and from our parents – using please and thank you is polite and people will respect you for it. It isn’t something that is implied in an email, so if you specifically mention “please” and “thank you” it will be appreciated.