Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
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No sooner than you walk across the stage and into your work cubicle that you will inevitably be required to send a work-related email. College classes don’t exactly prepare you on how to write a work email, but interestingly, it is a much sought-after trait. After all, emails are part of that “excellent communication skills” qualification that you find on most (if not all) job descriptions.

The fact that I am writing about this may seem a bit odd, considering that emails have been around since the 1960s. Sure they didn’t become commonplace until later, but that’s still probably before you were born. So, why am I writing about this old-news technology?

Because I have been approached by multiple new grads asking me to proofread their email before they send it to their potential employer, to their professor, to their current HR department, etc. The way that most of these emails were written, it was obvious the new grad was a) trying to kiss butt (excuse my French), b) was possibly a robot, c) had never heard of manners before d) got stuck on repeat mode or e) probably was abducted by aliens from Neptune, fought in an epic rap battle, won the said epic rap battle and still couldn’t communicate personality in an email.

Emails are tough; I get it. I, too, proofread my emails endlessly once upon a time, only to send Oops!-forgot-the-attachment or Uh-Oh!-wrong-date/time immediately afterwards.

Sadly, most new grads don’t realize the importance of writing an email until they have to write one in their new job, but mastering it now can be confidence-boosting when they start their new job. So, I know you can write essays, novels, poems, and love letters galore, but an email is different. In the workplace, when you have to exchange 100s of emails a day, do you have the time to revise and proofread one email for hours (like you could for class essays)? How do you feel about those long-winded life-story length emails? Do you skim them? Now imagine if you wrote an email like that… how do you feel about someone skimming your email? How do you feel about reading the one word reply or the shortest, to-the-point, and possibly the rudest email? How would your coworkers and boss feel if that’s the type of emails you sent? What about negative emails? Did you know it’s not exactly professional to say LOL, Praise Jesus, or “the client was, like, talking too fast and I couldn’t, like, understand”?

Not to worry though. Email writing can be learned, just as any other skill. You can’t exactly brag about great email writing skills during an interview, but I promise that if you can master email writing, you can focus your attention elsewhere and always have something to brag about. So, let’s get started…

    1. THE SUBJECT LINE. The subject line is possibly the most important part of an email. I know it’s easy to just write Hello and call it a day, but unless you are actually saying Hello, don’t write it as your subject line. A lot of people want to say Important! Must Read!, but what is important to you may not be important to others, so be wary of that. Another instinct is to leave it blank… well, that’s just dumb. Also, avoid the one word subject lines, such as Cups, Glue, Computer, etc… that’s not smart either and will leave your reader annoyed.

      Your subject line should sum up the actual email. For example, Save the Date: Fundraiser Gala is a good subject line. It’s factual, but allows me to determine how important the email is for me. Another example is Action Required: Submit Monthly Expense Report. This way, I know what the email is about, and that I have to reply back. Another example is Days Off Requested. Once again, it’s a request so I know what the email is about, and that I have to follow-up.

    2. THE INTRO. In the world of texting, Snapchat, and 140 characters, it’s much simpler get to the point ASAP without pay much attention to commas, spellings, sentence structure, capital letters, etc. Emails without introductions, however, portray stress, emergencies, or plain rudeness. Consider receiving this: “Susan’s office. 3 PM.” Could this mean you missed a deadline, forgot to make coffee after drinking the last cup, or are being fired? Whatever it is, until 3 PM, you are thinking about all the stuff you may have done incorrectly, all the stuff you didn’t get to, all the people who could’ve complained about you… the list is endless. In reality, your team is celebrating a coworker’s birthday at 3 PM and you are being summoned to sing Happy Birthday and clap as your coworker cuts his birthday cake. Whew, right?

      The introduction doesn’t have to be over-the-top flowery, but it must convey that you a human talking to another human. Seriously. For example, you can say a simple

      • “Hi Harry, Happy Tuesday! I had a quick question regarding…”
      • “Hello Pat, It was a pleasure speaking with you today. As discussed, here is …”
      • “Tom, Thank you for your quick reply. I am working on…”

      It’s easy stuff, but including a transition is a necessary introduction tool to any email. It lets the other person know you care. And, I’ll bet this is the reason most people will have a quick response rate to their emails.

    3. THE BODY. Finally, the actual email part. This is simple. Just ask your question, get your idea across, make a suggestion, refute a previous suggestion, etc.

      Of course, pay attention to your grammar, spelling, capitalizations, sentence structures etc. Include please and thank you, as needed. If your body is longer than 2-3 paragraphs (3-5 sentences per paragraph), then maybe you need to attach a Word .doc or PDF to the email instead.

      Don’t do this:

      • “Just wondering… This needs to be done by end-of-day.” Are you asking or telling? And what exactly is “This”?
      • “I have a quick question… goes on for 2 lengthy paragraphs… so, wouldn’t it be better to submit documentation prior to reimbursements?” Yeah… get to the point early in the email. You can explain the whys and why-nots in the sentences following the ‘quick question’.
      • “I am hosting the New Employee Brunch on February 27th, and I need someone to help with the Sign-in. Would you be available? Please see attached for details”. And, the attachment says New Employee Brunch, February 27th, 10 am to 11:30 am. Really? You couldn’t state the time in the body of the email?

      Tips:

      • Get to the point as quickly as you can. No one wants to read an email as long as the entire collection of the Harry Potter series.
      • Avoid repetitiveness. There may be 10 different ways to say something, but that doesn’t mean you use all of them simultaneously.
      • Don’t use all capital letters or all small letters. You aren’t yelling, and yes, you have time to write a professional email.
      • Keep away from BTDubs, ROFL, Ohemgee, etc and obviously any abbreviations with curse words. All of this is unprofessional. SMH.

    4. THE CLOSING.
      The closing is also known as the conclusion. This is where you sum up the email with the philosophy of “the end” without actually stating those words. Obviously, if you asked a question or sent a reminder or something else considered a short email, the proper closing would be “please let me know at your earliest convenience” or “I look forward to your reply” or “let’s keep in touch”, etc. Once again, the closing is similar to the introduction. You want to convey that you are a human writing to another human, and that you care.

      Please note that the closing is particularly important if your email was information or process oriented. You want to make sure the reader read and understood the entire email. Therefore, with these types of emails, you may want to end with “As next steps, please complete….” or “Please send your revisions by Wednesday, March…”, etc.

    5. THE SIGNATURE.
      In its simplest form, the signature is a “Thank you,” “Best,” “Respectfully”, followed by your name. However, as a professional courtesy, you may want to include your position title, business address, and your work phone number in addition to your name. Not everyone in your new place of employment knows who you are (shocking, I know) so including a proper business signature will prevent your coworker from the headache of figuring out who you are and/or finding your phone number through many line transfers.

You would think the next step is to click Send, right? Wrong. The next step is to proof read. Make sure you didn’t make spelling/grammar mistakes, you got your message across succinctly and completely, and you attached files and hyperlinks as indicated. Once you have completed your edits, then click Send. As a rule of thumb, you should only spend around 3-5 minutes editing.

After all, you aren’t being paid to write emails. However, you will definitely not be paid if you can’t write emails. Food for thought =)