8 quick and dirty tips to help you write better emails

Hands up if you love writing emails?

Thought not.

Yet whoever you are and whatever you do, the chances are you write dozens of functional emails every day. These tips will help you write better emails, and get greater results from those everyday messages.

Before we kick off, I’m going to make a wild and crazy suggestion: pick up the phone.

Sometimes it’s easier, quicker, and all-round more efficient to have a two-minute chat than it is to spend time struggling for the best way to give feedback, make plans, or express your feelings in writing.

Convinced email is the best method for what you need to say? Then let’s crack on.

(Note: I’m not here to tell you how to write cunningly convincing sales campaigns – that’s a whole other blog post. Get in touch if you need help with that.)

Tip one: grab attention

The subject line is the place to summarise the content and objective of your message, so don’t leave it blank. Be clear on what your message is about, right here.

Tip two: it’s the end where we begin

How many times have you finished reading a long, rambling email only to realise you’ve no idea what the sender wants you to do? Pretty frustrating, eh?

Before you start writing, be crystal clear about your goal. What action do you want your reader to take after reading your message?

This will help to focus your writing and write better emails.

Tip three: get to the point

Your readers are busy people – don’t waste their time. A little planning goes a long way.

Imagine you’re telling your customers about a launch event for a new product that could really help them. What do you need them to know?

As well as giving them a teaser of the benefits of the product, to raise their interest, they’ll need to know where and when the event is taking place, whether it’s free or paid for, plus other information such as a link for directions and the fact that parking is free at the venue.

Think about summarising the key points of your message up front. Include the who, what, when, where, why and how in the first paragraph, if you can.

Tip four: keep it short

We’re all suffering from information overload. Your message needs to cut through the chatter, so keep it brief.

Use short, punchy sentences and paragraphs. Make every word count. Avoid filler words that add nothing, like THAT, JUST, REALLY and VERY.

❌ “I just thought I’d write to suggest that we meet up to discuss the project further.”

✅ “Let’s meet to decide on next steps.”

Tip five: keep it simple

Use clear language and plain English. Avoid business speak, buzzwords and jargon. They’re meaningless to your customers and create a distance between you and your reader.

As a general rule, if you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t write it in an email.

❌ “We would be delighted to assist you in this matter.”

✅ “We’d love to help.”

❌ “We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

✅ “We’re sorry.”

Tip six: know your audience

The most powerful and persuasive emails are those that address the fears and desires of your audience – because it’s these that motivate them to take action.

Think of your writing as a one-to-one conversation with your audience. It’ll help you to get inside their head, as well as getting the tone right.

As Nelson Mandela famously said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Tip seven: include a clear call to action

Make it blindingly simple for your reader to take action. Avoid giving them too many choices – information overwhelm is one of the main reasons emails go unanswered. Instead, guide them gently but firmly to act.

  • Need to book a conference call? Suggest a couple of alternative times for the recipient to choose from.
  • Providing a quote for a piece of work? Tell them you’ll follow up with a phone call in two days.
  • Want your reader to book tickets for your event? Include a link to the booking page.

Tip eight: check, check and check again

Check your language, spelling and punctuation. Read what you’ve written out loud – or get your computer to read it to you. You’d be surprised how easy it is to hear mistakes you can’t see.

Don’t rely on spellcheck as a substitute for proofreading. Spellcheck doesn’t know if you’ve repeated a word, or left one out; neither does it know if you’ve used the right word.

Beware of homophones – words that sound the same, but have different spellings and different meanings – such as:

  • your, you’re
  • to, too, two
  • there, they’re, their
  • sight, site
  • board, bored

In summary…

Keeping your audience and your goal in mind from the off will help you write better emails. You’ll soon start getting better results from those everyday messages.

Let me know how you get on. You can email me at hello@sarahtownsendeditorial.co.ukor follow me on Twitterconnect on LinkedIn or like my page on Facebook. Or for monthly writing tips and tricks direct to your inbox, join my Clever Copy Club.