Sending a clear, concise and grammatically correct email seems like a no-brainer. We all send them, whether it’s to colleagues or external workers; from our phones, homes, or desks, and yet consistently, mistakes are made. Most of the time, these mistakes are minor, quickly forgotten as the key message of the email is taken and acted on, but other times, they can be disastrous.
Like turning up to a job interview in shabby attire, sending well-written emails is about presentation and professionalism. You don’t have to be the next Shakespeare, or even a particularly eloquent writer, but it is easy to write an email that is correct, and makes sense. Here are four common mistakes to avoid.
1. Incorrect names or titles.
While spell checkers and auto-correct are important tools in eliminating spelling and grammatical errors, they can trip you up when it comes to writing names accurately. Ensuring you spell people’s names correctly, use their preferred title, and address them as the correct gender (yes, it’s happened before), is about basic research.
Be sure to cross-reference your knowledge with previous emails, email signatures, refer to available online resources, and run it past colleagues or people in the know.
For some, being addressed incorrectly can be an insult of the highest order, and will make them unlikely to view your request favourably.
2. Emailing when you’re angry, and using an inappropriate tone.
It’s fair to say that work isn’t always rainbows and lollipops, and there are occasions when we leave a meeting with boiling blood, read an email and feel our face redden, or are tempted to slam, instead of hang up the phone. This is ok! But it’s important to acknowledge these feelings as responses to certain events, and not let the frustration bleed into email writing. Take a deep breath, consider your recipient, and the content of the email, and write to that point. Remember – long after your anger is gone, the email will live on in someone else’s inbox as a relic of your bad mood.
3. Forgetting to change the subject line.
Your subject line needs to grab the attention of prospective readers quickly, and convey what your email is about succinctly. Sending a subject line that simply says, “article 1,” might make sense to you, but it’s not appropriate when you’re submitting it to an editor who receives emails about articles almost exclusively.
A better subject line would look more like this, “John Brown – How to write emails – version 1.” In the latter example, it’s clear who’s sent the email, what it’s about, and some specifics about the content. A descriptive, yet succinct email subject also lets the recipient know how urgently your email needs to be actioned, which is something you as the sender will benefit from too.
4. Sending an email to the wrong person, or hitting “Reply All” or “Forward.”
Whether it’s electing the wrong “Adam” when five exist in your address book, or accidentally clicking “Reply All” instead of the more humble “Reply,” avoiding this mistake also comes down to having a good review system in place. The same goes for clicking “Forward.” Sending an internal email to an external contact is loaded with potential disaster, so, after you’ve proofread your email text and are happy with it, quickly check the addressee section, to ensure it’s only going to be read by required eyes. If in doubt, like correcting spelling and grammar errors, get a colleague to check for you.