Top 10 steps in writing an effective e-mail

Below is a listing of our top 10 tips for writing an effective e-mail. Following these suggestions will get you a better response from your e-mails and make e-mailing more enjoyable for you and your recipients.

Keep your e-mails short

Less is more. The shorter you can keep your e-mail while still relaying your message or question the better. At most we suggest no more than three paragraphs of text.

Make the subject line clear and easy to read

The subject of the e-mail should contain enough information to let the recipient know what the e-mail is about.

Make the e-mail personal

Always include the name or alias of the e-mail recipient. If you want the e-mail to be even more personal include your real name in the e-mail as well.

Watch your spelling and grammar

E-mail with spelling and other grammatical errors tells the reader it's not that important. Always spell check, keep the below suggestions in mind, and proof read the e-mail before sending it out.

  • Always use proper punctuation and capitalization.
  • Never use shorthand or acronyms people don't understand.
  • Do not WRITE IN ALL CAPS; it gives the impression you're YELLING.

Don't forward jokes and other e-mails

While you may find a joke funny or find an e-mail interesting or disturbing most people don't enjoy getting forwarded e-mails. Never forward e-mails to all your friends and family.

Remember e-mail isn't private

Realize that e-mail is not encrypted and can be forwarded to other people. Never send personal or company confidential data in e-mail.

Reply to e-mails effectively

When replying to e-mails keep the below suggestions in mind.

  • Try to reply to e-mails as quickly as possible.
  • Use the "Reply to all" option cautiously. Really make sure if there are multiple recipients in the CC that everyone really needs to see your reply.
  • Keep the e-mail thread (previous messages) in the body of the message and your response at the top. This helps remind the reader what the e-mail was about.
  • Do not over use e-mail program options such as "high-priority", "automatic replies", "read receipts", etc.

Keep the CC and BCC to a minimum

When using CC to send to e-mail to multiple recipients try to keep the list to a minimum. Often when someone sees more than four in the list they will disregard it as not important or think one of the other recipients are going to take care of the e-mail.

Also, use BCC instead of CC when it's not important for the e-mail recipients to see whom the e-mail was sent to and to help keep everyone's e-mail addresses private.

Use plaintext instead of HTML

Always send your e-mails as plaintext. It may not be as pretty but it does allow the e-mail to be read easier and is often less distracting.

Use a clean signature

Signatures can be an effective method of displaying your contact information at the bottom of e-mails. However, follow e-mail signature etiquette when creating your own signature.

Additional information

  • Top 10 tips
  • See our e-mail definition for further information and related links on this term.