Essential components of an effective email
Article written by Colleen Kelly, Kelly & Associates s.r.o. for EURid
As we rely more and more on written communication, polishing one’s writing style will engage people as they are more likely to read your email and respond.
During the next three weeks, we will publish a series of articles, which will bring you the basic information on how to write clearly to avoid confusion and miscommunication.
Here are 7 components for an effective email:
1. Have a strong subject line to convey the main point of your message or the idea you wish the recipient to consider. Remember to update the subject line as necessary in an email chain.
Weak subject line: Information you requested
Strong subject line: Accounts Payable information for Q2
2. Use these openings/greetings when you know the name of the person/s you are writing to:
Formal: Dear Mr. Green/Dear Ms. Black /Dear Professor Armont/Dear Committee Members,/To who it may concern
Informal: Dear Bob/Dear Sheila/Dear All/Good morning, Everyone
*limit the use of ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ to those you know well. When in doubt, it is better to address the recipient more formally to avoid offending them
3. State the purpose of your email in the opening sentence and put things into context, giving the recipient a frame or reference.
Weak opening sentence: ‘I am responding to your email’.
*Be respectful of peoples’ time by putting the topic into context for the recipient in the first sentence.
Strong opening sentence: ‘I am responding to your email of 15 April 2020 concerning the changes in the Employee Support Program criteria’.
*this example is informative and is on the road to clear communication!
When replying to someone else’s email it is helpful to include or restate the sender’s message. Look at this example:
Dear Mr. Carmichal,
‘Your email of 4 April 2020 addressed to the accounting department has been forwarded to me for a reply. In your email you state that your invoice due 15 March 2020 is overdue……’.
4. Separate your thoughts by using white space to visually separate paragraphs. If you have several points to include, write these in a bullet format.
Weak version: ‘As you are aware tomorrow we will be meeting so that each department head can deliver an update on each project currently underway. Be sure to arrive on time and bring any materials that you’ve been working on since our last status meeting such as presentation slides, client communiques, reports, schedules, relevant emails.
*This version is text-heavy and does not flow making it boring and difficult to read.
Strong version: Subject: Project status meeting tomorrow 9 am in Room 123
Good morning, Everyone
For tomorrow’s project status meeting please bring the following:
- Presentation slides on your particular project
- Project schedule
- Relevant client communiques
- Q1 project report
Thank you for your attention and I look forward to seeing you all.
*This version is much more readable and flows well, making the recipient more likely to respond as the writer wants.
5. Turn positives into negatives
Native English speakers tend to present content using a more positive tone.
Look at these examples:
Weak version: ‘If you don’t submit your business trip expense report by Friday we won’t be able to reimburse you’.
Strong version: ‘Providing you submit your business trip expense report by Friday we will be able to reimburse you’.
6. At the end of the email have a call to action/state the desired outcome
If you are asking the recipient to respond to your email, let him/her know what type of response you require (meeting time clarifications, a reference letter, an email reply, explanation of a situation….) Consider this example:
‘Finally, please let us know if it suits you to meet on Tuesday at 15:00 or Thursday at 8:00.
Thank you for your attention’.
If you are requesting something from the recipient that has a due date be sure to highlight that due date where it will be clearly seen:
‘In summary, please be sure to submit the ABC report on or before 30 April 2020 to allow us to meet our deadline of 15 May 2020 to the European Commission.”
7.Closings for emails
Formal: Sincerely,/Respectfully yours,/Yours sincerely,/Sincerely yours,
Fred Foghart (Mr)
Informal: Kind regards,/Best regards,
Jennifer Mason (Ms)
Stay tuned for our next week’s article on `The tone of an email: formal v informal`