5 tips for better emails

This morning our office landline has rung once. It was my wife. She wanted to know where I'd put the car key. My email account has been pretty lively though.

For better or worse, the bulk of business communication now happens over email. In fact, if you take conference calls out of the equation (which barely count as communication anyway), many office phones lie dormant much of the time.

That means how you email is important. One or two clients have praised our email style and it's gone to my head. So much so that I feel qualified, no, damn it, I am qualified to offer these five tips for writing smarter, sharper business emails. 

1. If you have nothing other than "yes", "no" or "I don't know" to say, then say nothing else. Brevity makes you look smart, important and busy! But remember: no one is too busy to say “thank you”.

2. If you want the recipient to do something as a result of reading your email, put the request at the very beginning or the very end.

3. If you want someone to do a whole bunch of things, don't just send them an interminable email. Call them too. Your 12-point plan probably merits some discussion.

4. Format your email carefully. Use bullet points and avoid paragraphs of more than say 60 words. And remember that a 150 word email received on an iPhone looks like a terrifying essay. It may be resented, or on a Friday, ignored.

5. If your email concerns a tangibly different subject to the one suggested by "historic" subject line, then start a new conversation with a new subject line. Also, throw your recipient a bone by making the new subject line searchable (i.e. both relevant and distinctive.)

The car key, in case you were wondering, was exactly where I had left it. In my trousers, in the tumble dryer.


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