From college classes to work projects, much of today’s communication is done online – especially through email. Writing a clear, effective email, particularly for educational or professional purposes, can be a valuable skill.
The emails you send may be the first impression to your new classmates or a potential employer. Whoever you are communicating with, a well-written email is an important part of effective communication, and improving this skill may help lead to professional growth.
Boost your email writing skills by following these six steps:
Identify your audience and purpose first.
Before writing an email, decide who your audience is and why you are sending them an email. Ask yourself:
- Is my email formal or informal?
- What is this email's purpose?
- Am I asking a question or providing information?
Prevent confusion or a delayed response by striking the proper tone with appropriate content they will differ depending on the receiver.1
Optimize subject lines with keywords.
The subject of an email tells the recipient the purpose of the message, and it summarizes the content.2 Identify the intent of your email using keywords, so the recipient understands the topic immediately. You will also be able to search for keywords later if the email gets lost in your inbox.1
Keep subject lines short and be direct. Examples of clear, detailed subject lines include:
- Final Project Guideline Questions;
- Resource Citation Help for Essay Assignment; or
- Financial Aid Application Deadlines.
Begin by personally greeting the recipient. Use their first and last names in professional emails. If your email is informal, use the name you would use to speak to the person on the phone. If you are unsure of the person's name, start the email with a generic greeting, such as:1,3
- Greetings, or
- Dear Manager, Dear Human Resources, etc.
Include a comma or a dash after the greeting. Use the same punctuation later in the close of the email.
Choose your words carefully as you write the body of the email to convey your message accurately. Only use words and phrases that you would use if you were speaking to the person face-to-face. Express emotions politely and appropriately, as the goal is to have the reader understand you without misreading your tone.2
Keep it short and concise.
People skim, whether it be blog posts or long emails. Keep the email to under five sentences whenever possible, and only include the essential details.2 Avoid wordiness, passive verbs (“My homework was eaten by the dog” vs. “My dog at my homework) and unrelated information.
Close with confidence.
Conclude your email in a positive way that reflects your personality and your relationship with the recipient. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Thank you,
- Kind regards.2
Include a comma or a dash after the sign-off before your name. Use the same punctuation that you used at the beginning of the email in the greeting.
Always edit your emails before hitting “send.” Check for spelling and grammar errors, format font and spacing inconsistencies, and look for capitalization mistakes. Proofread your writing also instead of relying only on spell-check. You might even send a copy to yourself first to make sure any attachments or links are visible and active.3
More Writing Tips from AIU®
Writing skills are an important part of professional and personal communications. If you need help with your writing communications, AIU offers Smarthinking tutoring services and many other resources to new and existing students.
If you are interested in learning more about AIU and our degree programs, request information from the Admissions Department.
1 “How to Write Effective Emails.” The Balance Careers. Retrieved from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/write-email-that-gets-response-3542570 (Visited 08/24/2020). 2 “How to Write a Proper Email.” Grammarly. Retrieved from: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/email-writing-tips/ (Visited 08/24/2020) 3 “How to Write and Send Professional Email Messages.” The Balance Careers. Retrieved from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-write-and-send-professional-email-messages-2061892 (Visited 08/24/2020).