Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

5 tips for writing emails that won't bore, confuse or irritate recipients

Emails are a quick and easy way to communicate in the office. According to Bob Ackroyd, marketing instructor and co-ordinator of the second-year business communication course, and human resources management instructor Roger Gunn, both with the JR Shaw School of Business, emails are simply electronic memos.

Or, they should be.

“I’ve seen emails that go on forever,” says Gunn, “and those emails don’t have any line breaks, space breaks and not much white space." They simply have too much information. Keep it “short and sharp,” he adds. If you can’t, have a meeting instead.

Here are 5 other tips on keeping email professional and effective.

  1. An email should be like a good PowerPoint slide, containing only a small amount of information, says Gunn.
     
  2. If it does get long, use line breaks between sentences and bullets to list important points, he adds.
     
  3. Be direct with subject lines, keeping them less than 5 words long. For example, if your email is about a change in office policy, write “New policy change.”
     
  4. For long email threads, Gunn suggests changing the subject line so it is specific to your response and lets the recipient know the nature of the new information you've added to the conversation.
     
  5. “It can be so easy to press the send button,” says Ackroyd, but resist. Proofread first, paying close attention to the following:

         - Did you spell the recipient’s name correctly?
         - Are there any other typos?
         - Are the attachments included?
         - Is it well written? “Good business means you need to have very good, clear and precise communication,” says Ackroyd. Don’t let your email read like a hastily written text message.

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