We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: communication is key. When you’re writing an email, no matter how short or long and no matter to whom it’s addressed, you’re writing with a purpose. That purpose is to say something and to have it be understood.
Email can be a great tool for getting your point across, but not if you use it improperly. There are certain practices which can make your readers grow to dread your emails, or even disregard them outright, so if you want to be looked at with respect and have your emails read to completion, avoid making these common mistakes.
1) Sending Emails With No Point
Whether you’re sending a professional or personal email, there should be a reason you’re appearing in your reader’s inbox. Arbitrary messages that don’t really say anything, even ones that might seem polite or kind, can be more of a nuisance than a courtesy. If you simply want to ask your readers how they’re doing today, or wish them a good morning, consider a phone call or text message instead. Email likely isn’t the best platform for this type of conversation.
Likewise, an email with an unclear point can be just as unproductive. If you do have something important to say, then get to the point quickly and don’t bury it between an abundance of pleasantries or offtopic distractions. Your recipients will find it annoying if they have to dig too deeply to figure out why you emailed them in the first place.
A polite intro and conclusion may be in order, but if you want to ask a colleague a business-related question don’t start your email with a paragraph inquiring about his or her weekend–just go ahead and ask the question.
2) Not Using Any Greeting
An excessively long greeting, or even a bad greeting, can be a turnoff for your reader, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any greeting at all. A simple greeting like “Hello, [Name]” is a nice way to open your conversation, and it helps you make an immediate connection with your reader. It’s personable without being distracting.
3) Excessively Long Emails
There’s certainly a time for long-form emails, but for most people that time if fairly infrequent. If your email is more than a couple paragraphs long, check that everything you’ve written is really necessary. You may have droned offtopic or included some excessive wording throughout the email.
Consider cutting back on flowery language and tangents so that your recipient can read and comprehend your email more quickly. Nothing frustrates readers like making them feel you’ve completely wasted their valuable time.
4) Spelling and Grammar Errors
This one should not come as any sort of surprise. Bad grammar and poor spelling can make you look unintelligent or uninterested in the email you’re sending, so make sure you always proofread before hitting that send button. If you want to appear respectable, then your emails should be error-free. It’s critical to being both understood and being respected as someone whose emails are worth opening.
5) Sounding Too Emotional or Angry
Whether in person, over the phone, or via email, nobody enjoys being scolded. There certainly may be situations where you need to fix a problem someone else has caused, and that might be just cause for you to be upset, but don’t dwell on your anger or frustration in an email.
Get to the heart of the issue, explain why you’re upset, and provide solutions to the problem instead of a tirade that could just make the situation worse by making your reader angry at you too.
6) Using a Dull or Uninformative Subject Line
The first part of getting people to read and value your emails it to get them to actually open them. To that end, you’ll want to use a subject line which is succinct and interesting. Quickly address the point of the email you’re sending so that your readers know what they’re getting into before they even start reading the body of your message. Your readers should have, at the very least, a vague sense of how important your email is just by reading the subject line.
Email is a great tool to communicate with friends, colleagues, customers, and just about anyone else, but if you’re constantly sending dull, convoluted, poorly written, or pointless emails you’ll quickly develop a reputation as someone whose emails should be ignored. Don’t fall into the habit of making these mistakes, or else you may find your recipients have stopped reading and responding to your emails.