Many of us send several, several dozen, or even hundreds of emails a day. We receive even more, and somewhere in this rush, we forget that certain rules also apply to this kind of correspondence, especially if our messages are formal. Looking through the emails we receive every day. We are sure to come across several recurring mistakes. I will suggest how to avoid them. Here are few best practices for writing email lists.
First of all, email subject line.
It should be informative enough to help us find the email in our inbox later on. The sender’s address and date are also important. A mistake that I often encounter is a wrong email address, which may cause some embarrassment when we have to send someone an answer or information again to receive it correctly. This also applies to attachments: they need to have proper names with no special symbols or numbers (spaces are OK).
Learn more about email subject capitalization here!
The body of your message should be as short and clear as possible.
If you attach documents, please don’t forget to mention their size and type in Kb (Kilobytes) because readers usually don’t want to spend time looking for a file with the right name only to find that it is too big or uses an obsolete format. This also applies when we are sending pictures. It would be best not to attach them at all: try to explain what you want us to see in words, and if it is necessary, provide a link where they can be downloaded directly from the source. If your message is more than one page long, do include the page number in parentheses at its end so that readers know how far through your text they have read.
You will probably notice that I mentioned key points but didn’t define what should appear in the body of your email in detail. That’s because good practice varies depending on circumstances: there are times when we need to add a clear reference (to an earlier conversation or email), and there are times when we want to tell the reader briefly what they need to know. Of course, good judgment is required in these cases, but I will give you a few examples to see how different people write different emails.
A Formal Email Sent From Employer To Employee:
Dear Mr/Mrs. X,
I’m writing on behalf of our company regarding your application for the position of XYZ, which appeared on our vacancy page at 10 AM on 22 August 2013. We announce every new job opening via this site together with all the essential information about it. The quote below shows your application status: “Your CV has been received.” We will contact you if we consider further action.
A Formal Email Sent From An Employee To a Superior:
Dear Mr/Mrs. X,
I’m writing in connection with the vacancy for XYZ, which appeared on our website on 22 August 2013 and received your application via this site. I want to inform you that your CV has been selected among all other applicants and therefore would like to invite you to come for an interview at 3 PM tomorrow (25 October 2013). All job-relevant details are available in the following document: “Vacancy announcement.” If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Best regards, Your name.
An Informal Email Message Sent By a Friend or Relative:
I’m just writing to tell you that I have finally moved into a new flat on the fourth floor. The place is quite small but neat and cozy. Let me know what you think of it when you come over (do let me know if this date doesn’t suit you).
A Formal Email Sent By a Student To An Adviser:
Dear Prof X,
Thank you for your advice which helped me prepare much better for my class presentation than on my first try. Please see attached the revised version of my presentation “XX.” If I may ask one more thing, could I have permission to use this presentation at tomorrow’s seminar?
Best regards, Your name.
What Do Good Emails Contain?
Good emails are brief, clear, and contain relevant details. Those details can be in the form of links to documents or attached files, but they should not make the email text itself so long that it becomes a burden for its recipient. You probably know someone who spends more time composing an email than you need to read it, which indicates a lack of suitable writing skills: most good emails are quicker to write than their recipients imagine at first glance.
Although they seem like a less common type of message nowadays, formal business emails still exist. Many people have difficulties because professional relationships resulting from cooperation between companies tend to be simpler and softer than those based on personal trust (the difference is even bigger if we consider educational and government institutions). It is effortless to see what formal emails should contain: look at the email you have got from your boss or some other superior and then try writing one of your own. Although email addresses are important, you will notice that good practice in this sphere is surprisingly close to the best practices for personal email messages.
In general, each type of message contains three parts:
Opener (email subject line)
These sentences immediately convey the main idea of the message while briefly outlining its content;
An extract from a longer conversation/conversations if they exist (and give them whole);
closer (“thanks”, “kind regards”, etc.)
These words show that the recipient’s attention has been duly noticed and that their consent is assumed.
Note: if you are writing to a friend or you’re superior, the second and third parts might not be necessary (although they are always worth including informal emails).
So How to Write an Email?
First of all, make sure you have correctly copied the recipient’s address. If an email arrives at its destination with no reply, most likely it’s because it wasn’t sent to the right place. If you have any doubts about what email address someone has, look them up in the telephone directory or ask them for help. They will probably scan through their messages to find your email and let you know what to do.
Choose an Appropriate Email Subject Line and Content of Your Email
Whether it is a formal or informal message, you also have as good a knowledge of the readers as possible (for example, writing to someone from another department in your company). Use the “From” field to specify your name/position and company as well.
Provide a Short Description,
Any attached files with information about their relevance and size to get the reader’s engagement (one sentence per file should be more than enough).
Write in Plain Text.
The best option during the first stages of cooperation; however, HTML messages are acceptable so long as they are not too complicated – even those who don’t use email regularly should not have trouble with HTML.
Be Honest, Personal, Brief, and Decisive
Especially when writing to someone from your company or institution. Prolonged correspondence is unnecessary – people should keep in touch occasionally but in bigger groups rather than regularly exchange messages that are supposed to be read by only one person. Unless you’re trying to build a business relationship, email is hardly the best way to communicate: phone calls or meetings work much better. The best way of keeping lines of communication open is a combination of telephone conversations and scheduled email exchanges (emails sent daily). What’s more, email records can help you avoid misunderstandings that might arise after a conversation.
If this whole thing still seems confusing; here are two examples that explain the general format:
Email newsletter from an author to a book publisher about getting their books noticed by more people (further action is necessary).
Hello, my name is John, and I am writing you because I want to get your attention concerning a series of spy novels written by J. Smith from 1995 onwards. The first book, “I hate George Washington,” was initially published in German and appeared in English, French, and Hungarian translations. It has received many positive reviews, and as far as I know, the second novel, “You’ve got enemies,” has already been translated into several languages , including Russian. Furthermore, a third party will be published this year, and all these novels have many fans who have written many positive reviews/comments and gotten the book quite popular.
Here is another example – an email from a new customer to an online store with an attached order:
Hello, my name is Brian Alexander, and I live in New York City.
Last week I placed an on your website order for four pairs of socks, and the next day, they were delivered to my apartment. For a long time I have wanted to purchase such reliable service as yours and now that the goods have arrived all this waiting was worth it. Congratulations! Because you deserve it. With best regards. P.S.: Do you ship on Saturdays? [message body] => Hello, my name is Brian Alexander, and I live in New York City. Last week I placed an on your website order for four pairs of socks, and the next day they were delivered to my apartment. For a long time I have wanted to purchase such reliable service as yours and now that the goods have arrived all this waiting was worth it. Congratulations! Because you deserve it. With best regards. P.S.: Do you ship on Saturdays?
If there is No Answer From Someone in 1-3 days, write them again (if the email got into their junk folder). The only exception is if you did not get any confirmation message about your message being received – then wait another day or two before sending another one.
Reply to Incoming Messages the Same Day, But Better Late Than Never.
Reply to all messages you receive, regardless of the reason. Be friendly, polite, and above all, honest. Previously, email marketing agents used a lot of shortcuts when replying to customer emails: from ignoring them completely (sometimes intentionally) or sending plain text answers that said nothing about the problem at hand – because, for some companies/institutions, no response is better than any response; it doesn’t cost anything. But now things have changed. Nowadays, customers are more demanding and unforgiving – they want their problems solved promptly by competent people who take responsibility for their mistakes and don’t give excuses like ‘I’m busy.
If someone writes you an email complaining about something you’ve done wrong, try to respond with a proper apology – but also make it clear that you’re not going to do the same thing again in the future. Include some guarantee or free service with your replies, like a refund or an upgrade for the next order – whatever it takes. But if someone sends an email to compliment or give hints on how to improve your business/service, always thank them and reply personally.
Use HTML Formatting in Emails.
In marketing email, many things depend on what type of email client will be used by customers; however, most people use HTML formatted mail these days (Free Outlook 2007/10 can only view plain text messages). And even though you may think that all those funny fonts, colors, and other styles don’t matter – don’t be fooled! If your message is hard to read or has strange characters, it won’t be opened.
In Most Cases, Try to Stick With the Plain Text Message.
Even if you think that all those HTML standards are a waste of time and don’t matter – it’s easy to create an email with formatting problems – so it still pays off to use them only when you have no other choice. The plain text style can guarantee that many customers will see your email (many people disable HTML in their email client for security reasons). Still, on the other hand, this means fewer colors and fewer formatting options available for you. However, sometimes even these few colors can make a big difference: >”The new changes look great. You have a beautiful site now. I like the new colors. They are so much easier to read. Great Job” ~ Terry Collins
Use Simple Templates.
Don’t try to create a fancy layout with Flash or other visual effects. Instead, keep your email design simple. Just use <table> tags when appropriate (make sure they’re closed properly) and avoid using Word clipart and other unnecessary elements (no one will print your emails anyway). If you want to make an image larger than a given text area, the easiest way is to click on Image Properties in any picture processing software package; here, you can set its size by pixels without affecting the quality (but don’t use this method unless you have to).
Try to Keep Your Message Under 100 KB.
It’s much better to shorten and condense some writing than to make it too long for most email clients (most gateways will reject big messages). If the size of your message is significant, avoid using pictures and stick with text only – or try using Google Docs as the place where you can write drafts and send them later on.
Make Sure Your Subject Line Doesn’t Exceed 60 Characters.
Readers pay attention more to headlines – so when they see a subject line that is too short, they may think that it’s SPAM and therefore delete it without reading what follows; in contrast, if people see something with a long, hard-to-read headline, they tend to get suspicious and delete it right away. So make people want to read your email – this is one of the most important rules in search engine optimization.
Create One Message per Email.
Suppose you have lots of pictures or other special characters. In that case, there’s an easy way to reduce your message size – use multiple messages: instead of sending all that stuff in one message, cut them into short pieces and send them separately (it will still be as effective for customers). However, don’t abuse this method because if you send too many messages from the same domain, some ISPs may suspect SPAM and block your account.
Encourage Readers to Unsubscribe From Your Mailing List.
Include a simple link at the end of each message so that people can easily remove themselves from your database; however, no one will act on this information if you only say, “you can unsubscribe here.” You’ll have much better chances if you add a sentence explaining how to do it: “unsubscribe instructions are below. Thanks!”
If you want to learn how to write best unsubscribe emails, check out our other articles!
Offer Your Readers an Incentive to Subscribe.
Many people are skeptical towards unsolicited offers or email marketing campaigns and ignore them – but if they get something in return (like a discount on the first order, free shipping, or some other benefit), they may think more about whether to join your database or not. Consider that this strategy works best if you have already built a good customer base; otherwise, there’s no point in offering something for nothing.
When Writing Your Messages, Try to Avoid Using too Many Capital Letters.
It’s hard to read and annoying for customers, especially when you shout at them with a big headline like “YES! YES!”. Instead of making emails look more urgent, this type of approach will your email open rate low – especially if they get SPAM messages all the time already.
Acronyms and special characters (like semicolons). Many people don’t know what half of these things mean (and even those who do still don’t want them in their email subjects). Plus, there’re also some security risks involved – you never know whether an email client or a server may interpret these characters as SPAM.
Be Careful with Pictures
Many email clients cannot display large photos, so you should always use thumbnail images instead of ’em: if your message size is too big, customers won’t read it and delete the email without viewing the content.
Never Send Bulk Messages via a Script
If you need to spend a lot of emails at once (like business partners or multiple recipients), please don’t automate this procedure by using scripts – it’s unsafe for servers, and most ISPs refuse such emails altogether; also, many providers ban their users from sending bulk mailings since they sometimes mistakenly and automatically treat them as SPAM.
Never Tag Addresses as ” Spam “
This might seem like a nice feature, but if you abuse it too much, some providers will just cut you off and block your account – so be careful with this method and only use it once in a while (for example, the first time when a customer signs up).
Email marketing is a great way to promote your business and get yourself a huge amount email subscribers. Still, you should spend at least some time learning about it before trying any emailing mass campaign – plus always keep in mind that delivering bulk mailings has certain consequences (and not only disadvantages but also risks) involved!