Lesson 1: The Basics of Writing Emails Professionally

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    Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex … it takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.

    Albert Einstein

    Starting from the headline and introduction, all through the body, conclusion, closing, and signature, professional emails must be properly crafted to generate effective and positive response from your recipients.

    Here, we shall quickly discuss eight important tips for making your professional emails very effective.

    If you get this right, your emails will get faster and more favorable responses. Eventually, your interaction with clients via email will become hitch-free, because there will be clearer communication, which fosters business interaction.

    1. Ensure You Have a Professional Email Address

    You should have a business or company email address ([email protected]). The technology world calls this custom email address.

    Examples are [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

    If you do not have a business email, get a Yahoo! or Gmail equivalent e.g. [email protected]. Avoid emails like [email protected] or [email protected].

    This is the first step in writing professional emails.

    2. Write Actionable Subjects

    Your email subject is your first step to capturing the attention of your clients, associates and partners in business-to-business emails. This is especially important in emailing people you have not previously interacted with. It is also your first impression on the reader, determining their disposition towards the content of your email.

    Remember, business owners (your clients) receive a lot of emails just like you.

    Your email headline must stand out to grab their attention. You should avoid using ambiguous and annoying headlines like Important, Urgent, Emergency, etc.

    Your headlines should be succinct and meaningful; It should be individual and professional.

    Time is precious. Executives today receive hundreds of emails daily and often have little time to decide which of them is worth reading. So, ensure your subject is not ambiguous and is straight to the point.

    For example,

    Request for Advertising Quotation

    You should always believe that your recipient is very busy and likely has over a hundred emails to attend to along with your email.

    Avoid using subjects like,

    • Very Urgent
    • Read Immediately
    • Fwd:
    • Balance:
    • Documents
    • Quick Question
    • Important

    These are bland and are not helpful to your recipients who may have a lot of e-mails to read every day.

    Instead, use actionable subjects like,

    • Afrodash Server is Down… Activate Backup
    • New Stock Arriving Tomorrow… Call Fumigation Unit
    • Confirm or Cancel Pending Order
    • Container MSCHLA56GH1 Has Arrived… Must Clear in 7 Days
    • Download Kansas Business Directory [Attached]

    With this kind of email subjects, your recipient already knows what he or she needs to do and can now read the email for details.

    In fact, it is sometimes advisable that you write your email subjects after writing the content of the email. That way, you will be able to highlight the summary of your message in the subject and ensure it is actionable.

    Note that blank or bland email subjects will get easily lost among the tens of hundreds of emails received every day by many businesspersons.

    Later in this section, you will see that email subjects also form part of your checklist before sending out emails.

    3. Trim the Fat, but Keep the Meat of Your Email Body Intact

    As we said earlier, you must assume your recipients are very busy and have over a hundred emails to attend to. So, write succinct and clear messages.

    I usually advise that you begin your response to an email with a brief compliment like,

    • Good job.
    • Thanks for the links.
    • Great speech.
    • May I ask a favor?

    Then, politely and directly communicate your message. Avoid stuffing more than one request in one paragraph. Instead, separate your requests into short paragraphs delineated by blank lines. Also, avoid using fancy fonts.

    If you have too many messages to communicate; instead of stuffing all your points into one email, write individual emails for them. That way, the recipient will be able to reply, forward or archive each message as required.

    Here’s an example of a succinct, professional email body:

    50, 000 Isa Brown birds are arriving tomorrow from our Bellaway factory. The birds were hatched today and will be vaccinated against Mareks tomorrow. Call the fumigation unit to clear the residual formalin in the brooding house.

    Also ask the fumigation team to come over to our Bellaway factory afterward to clear off the remains of the hatched chicks. The sanitation unit will be present to help them dispose off their wastes.

    In addition, ensure you always revise and proofread the body of your emails before sending to your clients. When doing this, note the grammatical correlation and message clarity.

    4. Don’t Send Your Dog’s Food to Your Cat’s House

    Ensure you copy your email recipients judiciously and be careful not to click ‘reply all’ unnecessarily. Many people find it very irritating to receive unwarranted emails.

    It is important that everybody that receives your email immediately and quickly knows why he or she has been copied. You should also bear in mind that people who send emails to you may have sent copies to some irrelevant emails mistakenly. You shouldn’t repeat the same mistake. Always make sure you double-check before clicking ‘reply all’.


    Note that using BCC prevents your recipient from knowing the other people in the thread. So, avoid using BCC unless you are sure you don’t want your recipients to know the other email recipients on the list.


    5. Highlight the Most Important Messages in the Attachments to the Email

    If you are sending an attachment in your email, it is advisable to highlight the summary of the attachment in your email. This primes up the reader and encourages him to read the attachment. Even if he doesn’t eventually open the attachment, he would have known the principal thrust of the attachment.

    Here’s an email example highlighting the contents of the attachment:

    Siva, I would love to discuss Business Modeling and Business Strategy techniques with your top executives as I promised Dr. Fansidar. The Business Model Canvas and Strategy Canvas I explained in our last business retreat are more relevant as we break into the Africa market, and it would be good to get everyone on the same page.
    
    I have attached the PowerPoint presentation that I will be using during the training for your perusal. Please find below the contents of the presentation and let me know the date that is convenient for the training.
    
    - Introduction to Business Modeling
    - Business Modeling
    - Business Model Canvas
    - Broadlink Approach
    - Strategy Canvas
    - Broadlink Strategy
    - The Big Picture 
    
    If you have any difficulty downloading the attached PowerPoint document, please let me know.
    
    Thank you. 

    6. Be Narrative but Succinct in Explaining Events

    If you have to explain a dispute or an important event in your email, make it a story with a distinct start, middle, and end; Ensure you narrate how the events unfolded coherently. You should intend to help the recipient understand the different stages of the event and not tell a “super story.”

    7. Requesting for Something? Ask a Direct Question Instead.

    You make it easy for your recipient to answer when you ask a direct question than when you make a statement that requires an answer. Also, using a question makes the request important to you. As such, your recipient will likely answer directly. That means, sometimes, you should replace ‘let me know if…’  with the corresponding direct question.

    Instead of – Let me know if I should send the PowerPoint [a statement],

    Go for – Should I send my PowerPoint slides on business modeling and strategy?

    Also instead of – Let me know if we can meet for lunch tomorrow to discuss the training,

    Go for – Can we discuss the training during lunch tomorrow?

    8. Review Your Emails before Sending Them Out

    Like I said earlier, business emails should be taken seriously and always reviewed before sending to your recipient. This is important for many reasons:

    • If you mistakenly omit some words like NOT, you may cause a business disaster in some situations.
    • Having grammatical errors in your email portrays you as a clumsy or carefree person.

    So, always carefully review your emails, taking your time to proofread for grammatical errors and revise for message coherence and clarity before sending them out.

    Ensure you maintain the standard capitalization and punctuation rules in your emails. Writing your email subject or body all in capital letters implies you are shouting at the reader, whereas writing them all in small letters may imply that you are carefree or that you have low respect for the recipient.

    Also, grammatical errors are more common when you are sending a message from your phone or tablet, so always double-check your grammar when sending emails from handheld devices.

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