Writing better emails

Imagine that any email you send was given to every employee at your company. If this thought makes you nervous, and it isn’t due to privacy laws, you may need to reevaluate your message.

How can I write better emails?

If you constantly worry that your messages have not even been looked at, you are not alone. There are many reasons your email was overlooked, and more often than not, you can change that.

The first possibility, if your email isn’t straight to the point, chances are as soon as someone clicks it open, and sees a wall of text, they will say “I don’t have time to read all that, I’ll check back later”. If they don’t have time now, it is quite likely that they either forget or still don’t have time to come back to it later.

With a few simple adjustments, you can become a more effective electronic communicator in the workplace. IT is also an excellent tool during a job hunt, as your email may be the first impression they receive. Poor spelling and sentence structures may cause them to think you are not computer savvy, or even worse, that you don’t have an eye for detail.

Stay on subject

If you want a fairly quick response, make sure they have a fair idea of what you want before they open the message. If they can respond simply based on the subject line, it is a lot easier for them to fire back a reply. Of course, some subjects can’t be simplified, but if they have to think about it, and it doesn’t jump out as important, people will assume it can wait until later. It also helps tremendously if they see the subject line and it makes them remember they had been putting off a response. If the title is “Hey . . .” they probably won’t think twice about deleting it, or skipping it.

Staying focused on the subject also helps avoid confusion. Don’t slide something important into an unrelated email, or you could be asking for it to be skimmed over, giving you the feeling it was ignored when they actually didn’t even see it.

Short emails are more effective.

Most of the time your message doesn’t need fluff. Depending on your work culture, some of the formalities can be forgone in the second or third reply in a chain. If your answer is “I’ll be there, see you at 3 Bob.” then you don’t have to rehash all the details that were mentioned before. This is especially true if the subject line is relevant, such as “Meeting in the Break Room at 3 pm Tuesday”. The information is already there, and its in written form. Conversationally we like to mention things again before we end a talk, but with the email, its right in front of their face.

If your work environment always calls for greetings and closings, you don’t have the choice to cut those out. You may be able to get by with shorter phrases however. You may be able to skip saying your job title, phone number, and email address (not kidding, I see email addresses all the time in email signatures.)

Other formatting tips are:

  • Using bullet points. 
  • Keep section titles short, so content looks less like a block of words.
  • Take out excess fluff words

Always stay professional

It never hurts to be polite, and using please and thank you can help form the tone of an email. 


The main thing you should remember is that email and conversations are not the same thing. You don’t need to reiterate text, as it hasn’t gone anywhere. In speech you are often in the habit of throwing out reminders before you end the conversation, just to make sure it was heard.

One last tip for the road: If you work close enough to talk to a co-worker, and they are available, then cut the email out and pay them a visit. You will know whether or not they are available and if the personal conversation is more effective for your work environment. Personal communication is often better, because you can get a response right away for simple matters.