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7 things you’re doing wrong when sending e-mails (and how to avoid them!)

The invention of e-mails revolutionised the way in which we communicate, not only at a personal level but also at a professional level. Offices have stopped sending regular posted letters to move on to the faster and more efficient e-mail, however, there are many things which are neglected when writing an e-mail because of the belief that it is a more “informal” mean of communication when this is no longer the case.

1 Non-specific subject line

Readers with lots of messages are not going to open any message where the subject line is simply “Urgent” or “Enquiry”. As Shirley Taylor suggests on her book “Model business letters, e-mails and other business documents”, compose SMART subject lines:






What you put on the subject line will make the difference between whether or not your message is read right now, today, tomorrow, next week or never!

2 No greetings or send offs

It is only a matter of simple courtesy to greet someone whether is in person, letters and yes, even e-mails! Especially when these are formal and used to communicate business related information.

3 Cc’ing without approval

It is extremely important to check with the person you are having an e-mail exchange with if it is ok to CC other people into the conversation regardless of how appropiate it may seem. This isn’t only a matter of courtesy but it also saves you from any kind of possible data sharing liability.

4 Sending emails at the wrong time

Many people believe it is better to send an e-mail as soon as they come up with an idea or solution for the problem at hand or perhaps you are an early raiser and would like to become productive as soon as possible. However, even in this connected world where people are online 24/7, people could take a look at the time stamp and consider you a workaholic at best, at worst they may have their work e-mail connected to their phone and actually be woken up by your random 3 am “Eureka!” e-mail.

If you feel your idea might be gone by morning simply write the e-mail and keep it in the “draft” folder and send it the next morning!

5 Numerous grammar and punctuation mistakes

Just because we are all e-mailing from our phones doesn’t mean we should allow for mistakes to be made, even if many people are rather accepting of one or two typos, more than that seems – to be honest, sloppy.

If the e-mail you are planning to send is so important you couldn’t wait to arrive to the office and send it, it should be important enough to double check before sending it.

6 Not having a signature

Email signatures are very important as they allow the recipient to know exactly who is sending the message, and we don’t just mean just what your name is as signatures also include your job title, contact information and if relevant – links to a personal website or any other social media profile page.

7 Vague messages

People complain that many messages they receive are vague so much so they have no idea of the objective of the message or what they’re required to do. Take the time to carefully compose the message, to read it through and make sure it is “reader friendly”, that way it won’t just be another wasted e-mail.

This is a model of a formal e-mail extracted from Shirley Taylor’s book “Model business letters, e-mails and other business documents”, featuring all the appropriate changes to the aforementioned issues with emailing.

To            ………………………………………………………..
From        ……………………………………………………….
Date         ……………………………………………………….
Subject     e.g. Customer Service
Dear xxxxxxx,

We are considering sending some of our staff on a training course on customer services. Do you have a suitable course available within the next few months? If so please let me have the dates and times plus costs.If there isn’t a regular pioneer course scheduled, can you tailor make a course especially for our staff? We could hold it in our conference room.Perhaps we can arrange to meet to discuss this – are you free next Friday 20 August at 11 am? I could come over to you, or you could come over to my office.  Please let me know.

Name & SurnameProject ManagerName of the companyTel: …………………….. Mobile: …………………….website address

Some additional tips

  • Make sure your messages aren’t written with all caps as internet etiquette deems it to be equal to shouting at the reader, this is of course rude and uncalled for.
  • Do not use excessive punctuation marks as it makes the message hard to read.
  • Informality is allowed in certain types of e-mails, if you are e-mailing some co-workers then replacing “Dear Iwona” with “Hello Iwona” or even “Hi Iwona” is ok. Replacing “Yours sincerely” with “Best wishes” is also equally acceptable.
  • Use short paragraphs, it is a good idea to condense the information enough to get the point across without being overly direct. Specially because people are more likely to read your e-mail if it isn’t too long.
  • Make sure your sentences aren’t too long, just as mentioned above, making it easy to read is a very important aspect of writing e-mails, if sentences are too long it makes reading and understanding the information a lot harder.
  • Use bullet points (but not too much!), make sure the information you are offering is attractive and easy to digest by using bullet points where necessary.

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