How to Write Better Emails: 17 Tips to Upgrade Your Email Communication
Did you know there were 4 billion email users in 2020, and that number is predicted to grow to 4.6 billion in 2025? What about that in 2021, 319.6 billion emails were sent and received every day, and that number could rise to 376.4 billion daily emails in 2025?
Bottom line: email is big and it’s here to stay. But no one ever teaches you how to write a good one.
Below, we’ll dive into how to write better emails with tips and techniques to improve your communication. So, whether you’re keeping colleagues up to date, pitching new leads, or reaching out to your CEO, you’ll land in their inbox the right way.
1. Write Descriptive Subject Lines
Your subject line is the first thing someone sees when they get your email. And if the person doesn’t know who you are, the subject line will often decide whether they open the email or ignore it all together.
Avoid writing vague subject lines like “question,” “meeting,” or “pitch.” Instead, include a little information about what your email is about.
Even if you’re sending emails within your team, it’s still helpful to use descriptive subject lines to let them know what you need from them in the email and to keep email threads organized.
You need to keep it short, though. According to research from Adobe, subject lines with seven words have the highest engagement rate. That’s about 41 characters, so you really don’t have a lot of space.
Pick the overarching topic or the single most important action in your email and make that into your subject line.
Subject line examples:
- Agenda for September’s Marketing Meeting
- Contract for New Hire: Review by 5/11
- Pitch: the Best Vegan Restaurants in Rio
- Edit Requests for Sales Presentation
- Locked out of Asana: Send Help!
2. Get Your Greeting Right
How you kick off an email says a lot about you. Don’t go overboard, though — sometimes a simple “Hi [name] is all you need.
If you don’t know the name of the person you’re emailing (perhaps you’re reaching out to a general email address with a sales pitch, for example), consider “Hi there,” or a simple “Hi,”
According to a survey from Perkbox, the best-rated email greetings were “Hi,” “Good morning/afternoon,” and “Hello.”
And the worst-rated? Over half said not having a greeting was the worst way to start an email. This was followed by the overly formal “to whom it may concern.”
While a little personality is good, especially among team members, don’t go overboard with an attempt at a humorous greeting, especially if the email contains important information or you’re asking the recipient to do something for you.
3. Keep Your Emails Short as Short as Possible
There’s no need for a long-winded essay every time you email someone. In fact, the longer the email, the more likely people are to not respond, not do what you asked of them, or simply get distracted halfway through reading and never make it to the end of your message.
So, wherever possible, keep your emails short and succinct.
If you need a lengthy email to explain something, consider calling, hopping on a Zoom call, or organizing an in-person meeting.
Be warned though, you don’t want to go so far the other way that you stop including important information in your emails and the recipient has to ask for an important document you didn’t send or ask more follow-up questions.
That defeats the point. Simply trim the fluff and be clear with your emails.
4. Break Up Your Text
Sometimes emails need to be long, but that doesn’t mean they need to be hard to read.
Breaking up your text into short paragraphs can help readers get through the message more easily.
When you look at your email overall, you should see plenty of white space, not a wall of text.
You can also use bullet points, numbered lists, or bolding to convey information more clearly. For example, if you’re asking multiple questions or making several requests, you can separate them out.
Not only does this make it easier to read, it reduces the chances of someone forgetting to reply or action a request.
5. Don’t Bury the Lead
You don’t have to jump straight into a request, but you also don’t want to bury the most important part of your email within paragraphs of text, or leave it until the very end.
Be clear about what you want the recipient to do — e.g. review this report, send you the meeting notes, set up a call.
If you’ve had to share a lot of information, consider writing a quick summary at the end of the email as bullet points, so nothing gets forgotten.
6. Be Polite
This one is an obvious one, but it’s so easy to miss, especially if you’re trying to clear through 68 emails in the 15 minutes you have free before your next meeting.
But when you’re emailing someone, they can’t see your facial expression or hear your tone of voice. All they have to go off are your words. And if your sentences are demanding and without any pleasantries, it can easily come off as rude.
You don’t need to spend too long being polite, though (see tip number three). A simple “hope you’re well” at the start of your email and a “thanks” at the end can go a long way.
Other pleasantries you can add include:
- Hope you had a great weekend.
- Enjoy your time off if we don’t speak before.
- Thanks for the speedy reply.
- This is great work, I really enjoyed reading it. Please see my edits in red.
7. Add Personality
While you want to keep emails professional, of course, and how you write them will depend on who exactly you’re speaking to, don’t be afraid to add some personality.
Ditch the “dear sirs” and “yours sincerely” in favor of more casual, yet professional language.
Even better? Avoid cliched email phrases like “circle back” and “per my last email” and write how you’d normally speak.
If you’re speaking with a team member, add a quick personal note — are they off on vacation soon or did you just see their latest design project? If so, wish them well or let them know they did a great job.
People want to help nice people, so a quick compliment or dash of personality can go a long way to people not dreading your emails appearing in their inboxes.
And when you’re sending cold emails, it reminds the recipient there’s a human behind those words and makes them more likely to feel a connection with you.
8. Be Specific With Who Needs to Do What
If you’re emailing several people, or CC’ing someone into an established email thread, be clear about what actions you need those people to take.
There’s nothing worse than emailing a group for approvals on a report, for example, only for everyone to think it’s someone else’s responsibility.
Call out people by name in the body of your email to avoid any confusion.
- Here are the end of month sales numbers. Brandon can you add Facebook ad spend to the report and Sarah can you send me the final numbers from influencer marketing by the end of the week so I can include those as well?
- Just cc’ing in Sam as she’s taking over this account next month. Sam, please see below the latest figures and let me know any questions.
- George, can you follow up on these unpaid invoices with the accounts team?
9. Use Exclamation Points and Emojis Sparingly
You might want to come across polite, upbeat, and friendly, and one exclamation point and a well-placed emoji (to the right audience) can make that happen.
But you don’t want to overuse these. Ending each sentence with an exclamation point (or worse, multiple exclamation points) can make it look like you’re shouting or overly excited.
And too many emojis can look unprofessional and get in the way of your message.
Stick to one exclamation point per email and only send one emoji per email to close colleagues.
10. Be Careful of Reply All
We’ve all heard the horror stories of someone responding to an email with a joke or snide comment and hitting “reply all” so the whole company sees.
Only use reply all if you really need to reply to all.
Even when you’re not sending anything rude or humorous, replying all and including everyone on messages that only one person needs to see will just clog up other people’s inboxes and won’t make you very popular in the office.
If you’re sharing any sensitive information, double check all email recipients are allowed to see it.
11. Schedule Emails to Be Sent Later
Scheduling emails to be sent later is handy in a few cases.
You might be catching up on emails on a Sunday and not want your reply to go out until Monday morning. Or you might be emailing a direct report on their day off and don’t want to be “that boss,” but you still want to send an email about something before you forget.
12. Schedule Meetings the Efficient Way
Anyone who has ever tried to schedule a meeting, especially with more than one person, knows it can involve quite a lot of back and forth to find the right time.
There are a few ways you can improve your emails about meetings to save some time.
You can also list a few available times in your email. So, instead of just suggesting Tuesday at 10 a.m., you’d give a few time slots — or better yet a range — like Tuesday 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. or Wednesday at 11 a.m.
This way, you’re increasing the odds of the recipient being free in one of those times and cutting down the amount of back and forth needed to set up the meeting.
13. Keep Topics Separate
Inboxes are messy places and information can easily get lost. To keep things more organized, start a new email thread for each new topic, even if it involves people you’ve recently been emailing.
For example, if you’re emailing Tom and Lucy about Wednesday’s legal meeting, and then you need to email them to organize Jen’s leaving drinks, consider starting a new email thread (with a new subject line) to keep all the information organized.
14. Think About Mobile Readers
Mobile email makes up almost 37% of email opens, so there’s a good chance whoever you’re emailing may read your message from their phone.
Many of the tips in this article will help you write better emails for mobile readers. That includes:
- Keeping it short
- Breaking up your text into short paragraphs
- Using bullet points
15. Sign Off the Right Way
How you end an email will all depend on who you’re emailing and the kind of industry you’re in. Sometimes, it’s better to not overthink things and a simple “thanks” is all that’s needed.
Other email sign-offs include:
- Thanks for your help
- Thanks in advance
- Hope to hear from you
- Let me know any questions
Again, follow the golden rule for emails: keep it short.
16. Include an Email Signature
Email signatures are a great way to include more information in your email without taking up much more space in the body of your text.
If you’re emailing external clients or leads, a slick email signature can also make you look more professional and make you more memorable.
Be sure to include the basics of your name, job title, and company website, and consider adding in a headshot or other methods of communication like your work phone number
If you can design your own email signature, add some brand colors.
Send yourself an email and check it’s all formatted correctly when viewing it from both your computer and phone.
17. Double-Check Everything
Now you’ve written up the perfect email, it’s time to click send. But before you do, be sure to double-check everything.
That includes proofreading for spelling and grammar mistakes, checking you’re sending your email to the right people (and have addressed them using the right name), and have included any links or attachments that you said you would.
You can also adjust the “undo email” settings for your email provider. This will give you some precious time after sending the email to quickly reread it and undo sending it if you spot any errors.
Emails are sent so often you’d think they’d be easy to write, but there are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for. Follow our tips above to write the perfect email every time.