Looking for a way to improve your (or your employee’s) business communications? Download this 10-point checklist in .PDF format to use as a desk reference for writing better emails.
An Easy Tool for Improving Every Email You Send
Write better emails. It’s something we all can do. It’s something we all should do; and yet, most people simply cannot find the time to invest in improving their ability to write clearly, concisely, and effectively.
Like anything else, when it comes to communicating in writing, small changes can add up to make a big difference. While there are focused, in-depth ways to significantly improve your writing style and overall ability, a good place to start when you’re constantly busy is to implement a checklist in your day-to-day emailing activities.
10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hitting “Send”
You should be able to answer, “Yes,” to each of the following 10 questions before you hit “Send”:
1. Did you address your recipient by name?
Always, always address your recipient by name. It’s professional, it’s personal, and it shows respect. For groups, consider “All:”, “Team:”, or any other appropriate collective noun.
2. Did you avoid shorthand?
Abbreviations that may be appropriate for text messages or social media posts are not appropriate for business emails. Use complete words (and complete sentences) to get your point across professionally.
3. Did you proofread?
You can (almost) never spend too much time proofreading. Your first draft is just that—a draft. Review it, reconsider it, and make any changes necessary to clarify your key points while cutting unnecessary fluff.
4. Did you run spell check?
It is a good idea to run a spell check—though you should not rely on spell check exclusively (spellchecking is not proofreading). There is no excuse for obvious errors, and developing a habit of spellchecking can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes.
5. Did you harmonize the formatting for any copied-and-pasted content?
If you copied and pasted content into your email, take the time to reformat it to match the font, size and color of your standard email text.
6. Did you consider your reader’s current level of knowledge?
Will the person reading your email understand it? Or, are you assuming a level of knowledge that he or she may not have? Every email should be written with the recipient’s perspective in mind.
7. Did you emphasize the key points?
For longer emails in particular, stating your conclusion up front can help improve the recipient’s comprehension of what is to come. If there are key points embedded within paragraphs or lists, consider using boldface to make them stand out.
8. Did you keep it as short as possible?
Is your message longer than it needs to be? Critically assess whether you’ve duplicated any content, you can say something in a more-concise way, or you’ve said anything that simply doesn’t need to be said.
9. Did you use the right email address?
This is not a writing tip so much as a tip on professionalism generally. If you have multiple email accounts, make sure you’re sending from the right one. This is especially important on mobile devices, where business and personal email accounts will often be merged into a single application.
10. Did you sign your name?
Finally, always sign your name. If you have a standard signature block, this is easy. But, a simple “Thanks,” or “Sincerely,” followed by your first name (above your signature block) adds a personal touch—and this can go a long way.
Additional Resources for Writing Better Emails
For a more in-depth discussion of many of the points covered in this checklist, I encourage you to review the following articles. This checklist is also available for download in .PDF format:
- How to Get Your Employees to Write Better Emails: 5 Tips for Improving Internal and Outbound Communications
- Write Better Emails: Do These Three Simple Things Before You Hit “Send”
- Download this checklist in .PDF Format
Writing Training Programs for Corporate and Non-Profit Organizations
If you are interested in an on-site writing training program, I’d love to hear from you. I am a former private practitioner and in-house corporate attorney who now writes professionally. To discuss your needs—whether on an organization-wide or departmental basis—please send me a message today.