how to write better emails

8 tips for writing effective emails

July 21, 2023
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Did you know that during a typical day, the average person spends more than two hours writing and reading emails?

Learning how to more quickly and effectively write emails can help you reclaim some time and ensure your messages are as clear and strong as possible.

Keep reading for our recommendations to help improve your email writing.

Write better emails with these 8 tips

Here are eight tips to help you write better emails:

1. Use clear and concise subject lines

The subject line is the first thing people see when they receive an email from you. So it's important to make sure it's clear and concise to ensure recipients know exactly what they're opening.

Avoid using vague or generic subject lines like "Meeting" or "Hi." Instead, use descriptive language that accurately reflects the content of your message. For example, instead of "Meeting," you could try "Agenda for Monday's Team Meeting."

2. Remember the 8-second rule

Research shows you have just eight seconds to capture someone’s attention before their focus starts to drift. So it's important to quickly and clearly make your point at the beginning of your email, without wasting space on too much set up. If you do need to provide significant context, include it after you've already stated your primary purpose.

3. Say more with less

Unlike in school, where the name of the game was adding words to reach a certain word count, the name of the game in email writing is concision. How can you say more with less?

The Elevate brain training app, available on iOS and Android, has an excellent game called Brevity to help you practice communicating more concisely. Watch this 1-minute video to learn more about it:

As mentioned in the video, the Brevity game teaches you to spot and remove unnecessary words from sentences like these:

  • They might possibly go to the store today.
  • The gathering commemorated the group’s successful achievements.
  • He’s learning the basic fundamentals of carpentry.
  • How are we celebrating our annual anniversary this year?

Were you able to figure out which words you can remove without altering the meaning of each sentence?

4. Remove qualifiers

Whenever possible, remove qualifiers, like "really" and "very" from your emails. While qualifiers are often used to emphasize a point, there are plenty of stronger, more precise words you could replace them with.

For example, "I'm very tired" could become "I'm exhausted. And "I'm really excited" could become "I'm ecstatic."

5. Write in active voice vs. passive voice

Writing in active voice instead of passive voice adds instant clarity to your writing—and it often cuts word count, too.

Active voice means the subject of your sentence is doing the action, rather than having the action done to it. Here's an example of how to easily flip a sentence from passive to active voice:

  • The meeting attendees were delighted by the presentation.
  • The presentation delighted the meeting attendees.

6. Use patterns to your advantage

Your brain automatically scans materials for patterns that can help it process and understand information faster.

You can take advantage of your brain's inclination to search for repetition to increase the effectiveness of your emails. Identify your main point, and then repeat it a few times leading up to the call to action. That'll help ensure your recipient can quickly and easily understand what you're trying to convey.

7. Use bullet points

Bullet points are a great way to quickly communicate ideas. They help break up long blocks of text and make information easier to scan and digest. Plus, they can give readers a better sense of the structure and flow of your email. When used effectively, bullet points can make your message more concise and help ensure your point is communicated clearly.

8. End with a call to action

Always include some type of call to action at the end of your emails. A call to action is a short phrase or sentence that encourages the reader to take a specific action. This could be something like "Please reply with your thoughts by Friday," or "Let me know if you have any questions." Clearly outlining the desired outcome of your email helps ensure that the recipient understands what you need from them so that they can act on it.

Proofread Your emails with these strategies

Using those eight tips, you've now crafted the perfect email. But before you hit send, take a moment to proofread it for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Because even the most well-crafted email can be undermined by careless mistakes.

Here are a few strategies to help you catch errors:

  • Read your email out loud. This can help you catch awkward phrasing or typos that you might have missed otherwise.
  • Use spell check. Most email clients have built-in spell checkers that can flag misspelled words.
  • Take a break and come back to it later. Sometimes stepping away from an email for a few minutes (or even hours) can give you fresh eyes and help you spot mistakes you may have otherwise missed.

Remember, taking the time to proofread your emails shows that you value the recipient's time and attention—and it can prevent embarrassing mistakes that could damage your professional reputation.

Consider the tone of your email

After you've proofread your email, consider the overall tone you've used. Because the tone of your email can greatly affect how your message is received by the recipient.

The first thing to consider is whether the tone is appropriate for the recipient and situation. For example, if you're emailing a colleague about a mistake they've made, you'll want to use a professional and respectful tone. But if you're emailing a friend about weekend plans, a more casual and relaxed tone may be more appropriate.

It's also important to be aware of cultural differences when it comes to tone. What might be considered friendly in one culture could be seen as rude or unprofessional in another.

Be mindful of the timing of your emails

And finally, it's important to be mindful of the timing of your emails. While it may seem like a good idea to send an email late at night or on the weekend when you have some free time, doing so can actually create a negative impression in some situations. Or, it may result in your recipient not seeing it, as it may get buried in their inbox.

To ensure that your emails are actually received and received positively, try to send them at a time that makes sense for your recipient. If you do need to send an email at an odd hour, consider using features like delayed or scheduled send, so that it arrives at a more optimal time.

Play fun brain games to improve your writing skills

Writing effective emails is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with practice—and once you get the hang of it, it can save you a ton of time and add significant value to your communications.

By using clear and concise subject lines, taking advantage of patterns, removing qualifiers, and utilizing bullet points, you can create emails that are easy to read and understand. Additionally, being mindful of your tone and the timing of your emails can help ensure that your messages are well-received.

To further improve your email writing skills, consider using the Elevate brain training app, which you can download and try for free on iOS or Android. Elevate takes a game-based approach to teaching concrete communication and writing skills, which can level-up your email writing even more. With Elevate, you can learn new techniques for writing more effectively while having fun at the same time. Try it out today!

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