How to write a good email
Native speaker, English learner, teacher - it doesn’t matter who you are, email writing is a vital skill to learn. However, writing a small, succinct passage of writing isn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, for some people, it’s a daily struggle. Incorrect grammar can undermine the importance of your message, misspelled words can lead to confusion, and forgetting a comma might end someone's life :)
Here are some basic rules to follow and some things to avoid so grandma doesn’t get eaten.
All emails should follow the same 5 basic structural rules.
- Body of email
The wording used, should depend on the register (formal or informal) that is required to address the recipient and also the importance of the email.
1 - Subject line
This is a really important part of an email. It’s often overlooked, but if you’re emailing someone for the first time, you need the subject line to ‘hook’ them - just like a newspaper headline should catch our eye from a full page of text.
A poorly written subject line with ‘Hi’ or, ‘What’s happening?’ Will probably go unnoticed, or even worse, end up in the SPAM box.
It’s considered that you should spend double the amount of time on your subject line compared to the body of the email, because
‘if the recipient doesn’t open the email, then it [the body] really doesn’t matter’.
Now, I wouldn’t personally spend double the time on the subject line - I suggest you find two to four words that can answer the question - WHAT?
This is enough to grab the attention of the recipient and open it.
If your ‘what’ question only needs 2 words, you can also answer the question - WHO? - Who is sending the email? Or, who is the email from?
2 - Greeting
I’ll be very clear:
Imagine you met this person in the street. Would you shake their hand, or hug/kiss them on the cheek?
If you answered:
Shake their hand - start your email with - Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr (their surname)
Hug/kiss them - start your email with either - Hi/Hello/Good morning/Good afternoon/ Good evening
If you’re emailing someone you don’t know and you don’t know their name, start your email with the word - ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
3 - Opener
Before you write the main body of the email, it’s important to write a quick greeting or acknowledgment of a previous email.
One sentence should do it.
- I’m writing to enquire/ask about...
- I wonder if you’re able to help with...
- I hope you’re well.
- I hope you’re OK.
- Thank you for your previous email.
4 - Body of email
The important thing here is be clear and concise. Avoid repetition. Nobody wants to read a 1000 word email.
Write the most important sentences. This should be no more than 5 sentences. If it needs to be more, keep it as focussed as possible.
If you want to know what time a meeting starts. Ask that.
If you want to find out when school is starting again. Ask that.
If you want to share an idea. State your idea, then explain ‘why’ you think your idea is awesome.
Again, keep it clear and concise.
5 - Closing
Ending your email with the correct tone is (almost as) important as the greeting of an email.
Always choose a friendly sign-off.
Again, consider the register of the email.
Here are a range of sign-offs that you can use. From more formal to least informal:
- Kind regards, Daniel
- Yours sincerely, Daniel
- All the best, Daniel
- Sincerely, Daniel
- Regards, Daniel
- Many thanks, Daniel
- Take care, Daniel
Choose a closing line that fits the situation and reflects your personality. Tailor it to the relationship you have with this person and consider the register to ensure an appropriate level of professionalism.
Finally, avoid ‘love’, ‘sent from my iPhone’ or ‘thx’ - especially in professional emails and emails to people that are your best mate or partner.
Now, move onto the writing homework.