E-mail has been around long enough now that it’s hard to believe that people still need tips on how to write an effective one. But you’d be shocked how many people send me emails that are vague, unhelpful, or at-out unprofessional (or all of the above). Don’t be that girl.
Write a super-clear and direct subject line
Duh, it’s the first thing people see, so make it count. We all open emails mostly based on a subject title, or at least use it to decide which we open first.
If it’s actually urgent, write “URGENT” in the subject line
If it’s not, use something specific, accurate, and direct like “Recommendations for the Press Kit” or “Wednesday Morning Meeting *Canceled*.” If you are following up with a person you just met, use their name in the subject line. Do you notice that marketers will do that to entice you to open their solicitation because it pops out like they know you? They do that because it works. Try something like “Great to Meet You, Ellen.” If the contact is a little more on the personal side rather than a potential hirer, I like to think of something catchy, like “AWESOME . . .” in the subject and the rest line of the e-mail saying “. . . to meet you!”
Add the email addresses LAST
Oh yeah, I’ve been there, and I’m sure you have, too. You start drafting an email and you don’t finish it before you accidentally push Send, especially if you have a few email draft windows open at once. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not the best practice at work to have to send another note to apologize for being too trigger happy. Even if it gives off just the slightest whiff of sloppiness, that’s the kind of perception you don’t want. The foolproof way to avoid this snafu is to get in the habit of adding in the email address of the recipient last. If you’re replying to a message, delete the recipient address before you start drafting it, and add it back later.
Quadruple-check before you “reply all”
Emails with a ton of people copied on them can be annoying, especially if everyone keeps hitting Reply All with reactions or things that aren’t relevant to you and clog up your email box. You might not be able to “be the change” here, but you can at least refuse to contribute to the email thread disease by replying only to the person or people who actually need to know this information. AND check ten times to make sure you are not BCCed on an email that you think you are CC’d on instead. I’ve had employees put me on BCC strategically to just show me that something is done, but I’m “not supposed to be there.” I’ve been too trigger-happy on my phone with replies that I’ve “replied all” to e-mails I’m BCCed on, and then it just gets awkward. Also, there’s really no need to reply all “Thanks!” As you know, I’m a big fan of saying “Thank you,” but in this case, all fifteen people copied on the e-mail don’t need to know how grateful you are. Instead, why not pop your head in and say “Thank you” to people in person instead of assaulting their in-boxes?
Being in the media, I get a lot of random emails, especially from publicists trying to pitch their clients. Having received a zillion of those emails over the years, I can tell you which ones I read and which ones I skip or relegate to my low-priority list.
Chill with the exclamation points
With your friends sure, go exclamation point crazy, but keep it classy at work or you’ll come across looking childish or immature. I KNOW you are excited by all the amazing work you’re doing but keep that excitement to yourself and show it with only one little but powerful exclamation point. (!!!)
Come up with YOUR sign-off
A ton of e-mails are signed “Best,” or “Best Regards,” or “Regards,” which is fine, but I know you can be more original than that. Whatever you choose for your “signature” signature, be consistent. Mine is always “Warmest, Nicole.”
A final note
Take a beat before sending any e-mail; reread it from the beginning. Did you include everything you wanted to say? If you sent a list, let’s say, of tasks or follow up items, did you remember all of them? Did you give all the details needed for a meeting? Sure, something else might come up that you may need to add, specifics might change, but try to avoid the “Me, again!” email cloggers.