How to Write Effective Emails

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Easy to use guide for writing effective e-mails that get read and produce results.

Over 200 billion e-mails are sent every day according to professional estimates.

e-mail_candy_messageSo, you really have a lot of competition. The first question you should think of before writing your e-mail is:

Why should the person you write to pay attention to your e-mail?

If the e-mail is not from a person they know, the typical reader will check the subject line or heading and open the e-mail only if it’s interesting. So, make the heading interesting.

What is a Good Heading in E-mail?

This is the answer to the question “Why should I open this e-mail?

A good heading is

• Relevant – there is information that reveals immediately that the e-mail is relevant to the reader, and not machine generated. ‘Memo of 23.10.09 CWMD meeting at Barcelona’ is better than ‘Meeting’ or ‘Memo’

• Precise – rather than writing ‘Sales meeting’, write ‘Confirmation for XYZ Ltd. sales meeting in London on 20.11.09’

• Clear in purpose – why you have written the e-mail. ‘Request for delivery confirmation of order No. 1234’ is more precise than ‘Re:-order’

• Short – there isn’t much space in the subject line. Get to the point quickly. E.g., ‘Attached Plan for Instorm Customer Service Training.’


Typically e-mail is more casual than formal letters. The following salutations are very common in e-mail.

• Hello!

• Hi!

If you are writing to a prospective client called Henry Walter, don’t write “Hi Henry!

As you can see from the name that Henry is a man, you can also use “Dear Mr Walter”. If you don’t know if Hannah Masters is a Mrs or Miss, use Ms to be on the safe side.

In the United States, using someone's first name is usually ok. You can usually put "Dear" and the first name.

Dear Anita:

Dear John,

Do not use a diminutive unless you are certain your correspondent uses it. Elizabeth may not like being called Liz; Richard might hate being called Dick.

For a group of people, use "Dear" plus the unifying attribute. For example:

Dear Project Managers:


Dear XYZ club members:

Use a simple "Hi" for people that you already know:

Hi - Are you interested in getting together for sushi next week? I can bring all my wedding pictures and bore you to death. ;-)

Use "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon" in email only if you know it will be read almost immediately. It sounds silly if your good morning e-mail is being read in the middle of the night. "Good Day" is familiar in Australia but sounds funny elsewhere.

Cultural differences affect how e-mails are addressed. The East Coast of the United States is more formal than the West Coast. Germans are even more formal. So, don’t write to a German “Dear Hans” unless you are friends already.

Do You Even Need A Salutation?

Many people don’t use a salutation at all, especially if they are in a higher social status or much older than you:

Good points on your post. I just wanted to mention that we launched the heart-tickler on Feb 26, 2003, and not on Feb 28, 2004.


Your reader needs to know instantly how s/he knows you and what is the connection. So, your e-mail should answer these questions:

• In what context do I know this person?

• Through what link did this person reach me?

• What does the writer want from me?

Here are some examples:

Dear Ms. Nate: I am an editor at Brilliant Publishing Company, Inc. I sat next to you at the Brainstorming seminar last Monday, and you mentioned that you are writing a book on e-mail etiquette. It sounds like a good idea, and I’d be interested in reading your proposal.


Dear Project Manager, My name is Julia Schein. I happened to hear about your project from a client of mine (Bernard Timmerman). We have developed and used exactly the kind of solutions you told her that you are looking for. We could meet up sometime next week over a cup of coffee and discuss this matter. Would afternoon on Wed. 23.3 or Thu 24.3 suit you?


Hi – Would you kindly tell me the name of the bookkeeping programme you mentioned at your presentation at Instorm yesterday. I am one of the organisers.

Signatures in E-mail

You can add a default signature to be included at the end of every message in most e-mail programmes. Adding your contact details helps the person get back to you later and choose whether to e-mail, phone or send a paper letter.

Being Polite in E-mail

Being polite doesn’t cost you anything but can work wonders. Which one sounds better to the reader “Thank you for contacting me” or “Why are you contacting me?”

Chunk Information in E-mail

• Put your information in chunks

• Use headings to divide paragraphs

• Avoid lengthy paragraphs

Use Attachments Only if Needed

Use attachments only if necessary. If you have two lines on a Word document, copy-paste it onto the body of the e-mail. Many people read e-mails from their phones, and may not be able to read attachments.

What Do You Want the Reader to Do!

This is the most important message for the reader. This should stand out loud and clear. Don’t use bold, large letters or red colour. That is considered rude, like screaming. If you put this message in the middle of a paragraph and lots of text follows, it gets lost.

• Write clearly what you want the reader to do

• Use bullet points if needed

• Use a separate line in the end

Some examples:

• Please send me your catalogue

• I will get back to you latest by Friday

• Kindly revise your estimate and send it to me

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Rana Sinha

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