In today’s digital age, writing an email is about much more than simple correspondence. It’s about making an impression and creating a relationship with clients, customers and colleagues; it's about communication. A poorly written email – whether you’re following a lead, making a sales pitch or corresponding with an investor – reflects badly on you and your business. For those whom English is not their native language, it can be a challenge to craft an email that represents you in the most positive light. Here are a few tips for making sure your email communicates the right message.
Strike the Right Tone: Depending on your audience and the subject of your email exchange, you may want your emails to sound formal and succinct, or friendly and conversational. You can get a sense for the appropriate tone based on previous communications and the nature of your relationship. If you’re not sure, it’s always better to be more formal and lighten up later than to start off too casual.
Pay Attention to Detail: One of the easiest but also most awkward mistakes to make is getting the small but important details in your email wrong. Triple check that your recipient’s name is spelled correctly, make sure you've written the correct city or state names, and ensure that all of the times you’ve provided are precise.
Avoid Regionalisms and Idiomatic Expressions: Cultural and regional norms can vary widely, even in the same country. For this reason, it’s best to keep your tone and language neutral and avoid local slang. It can also be tempting to translate a common expression from your language in an email. Try to refrain from using expressions if you’re not 100% certain that they mean what you think, that they work in English, and that they are appropriate for the relationship.
Respect Your Recipient’s Time: Responding in a timely and succinct manner not only conveys that you care about your recipient’s time and business; it also keeps you at the forefront of their mind. In today’s fast paced world, people expect quick responses; doing so, is sure to make a good impression.
Don’t Overdo the Emphasis: When you feel like everything you’re writing is important, it can be tempting to bold, italicize, and capitalize in order to make your point. Never write words in all capital letters, as this can come across as shouting. Use bolding and italics sparingly in order to highlight the truly important points without imposing on your reader.
Keep it Short: Time is precious, so the last thing you want to do is waste your recipient’s time with a long and wordy email. Go through your email before you send it and "chop the fat" as my 10th grade English teacher liked to tell me. Your recipient will appreciate being able to get right to the point of your message without a long-winded journey to get there.
Good Grammar is Key: Making basic grammar mistakes immediately makes your email look sloppy. Even the most friendly people want to feel that their business associates care about getting things correct, and poor grammar doesn’t convey that image at all. Double check your grammar and have a native English speaker go over it to make sure that your email is precise and polished.
Don’t Rely on Spell Check: English is chock-full of words that sound alike, but mean different things. Spell check won’t catch a word that is spelled correctly, but means something completely different than you intended such as "they’re” and “their”, “your” and “you’re” or “where” and “were” but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Go through your email word by word and make sure you’ve written what you really mean.
Write Like an Adult: Another common mistake that people make these days is writing emails like a teenager instead of an adult. Using shortcuts like “u” for “you” or “r” for “are”, pls for please or even “thx” instead of “thanks” not only make you look unprofessional, they also make you look uneducated. Even if your business associate or customer uses shortcuts like this, there’s no reason for you to ever seem less than completely professional.
Format Your Emails Correctly: It might seem simple, but the way you format your emails is of paramount importance in presenting a professional image and in writing an email that’s easy to read. Start your email with the correct greeting, divide it into easy to read paragraphs, and close with the appropriate wording for your audience. Formatting your email shows respect for your reader and makes their life a bit easier.
Writing a good email can often be the difference between getting your desired response and being ignored. However, knowing how to write emails in English correctly sometimes requires in-depth knowledge of both language and cultural nuance. That’s why we’ve started our service, Mailfixer.com, to help non-native English speakers craft the perfect email to make the right impression, and get the ideal response. We created this service because sometimes, there simply isn’t a substitute for having your writing checked by a native-English speaker. Now you can have it on demand.