13 Best Tips To Write An Effective Email

Writing is a part of everyday life on the internet. With everyone using email to communicate, the styles available for writing emails are as diverse as there are people. 

As email is so common, it has become less formal than writing for publications or letter writing. Informal salutations and valedictions are common in email, even for more formal purposes, such as addressing a stranger. The language used in email is often lighter and more casual than in other areas of writing, and standards for accuracy may be lower.

As flexible as email is, however, there is no harm in being clear, polite, and respectful in your writing. When dealing with formal contacts, such as strangers, business associates, and professionals, or when sending a cover letter as an email, formal salutations and conventions will not look out of place, so a good rule is to start formal and allow your reader’s response to dictate how you form future emails. 

This applies to other aspects of your writing in emails, too, including the complexity of your vocabulary and sentence structures.

In this article, we will show you how to write an effective email. 

13 Tips to Write An Effective Email

1. Write subject lines that pull people in

To create a good subject line that keeps fingers off that Delete key, follow these steps:

  • Figure out what’s most relevant to your reader in the message — why the person should care.
  • Think of the most concise way of saying it: Three to eight words should do it.
  • “Load left”: Put the core of the message — the keywords — as far to the left as possible so your recipient understands it instantly.

Subject lines work best when they’re as specific as possible. Here are examples of email messages I didn’t open because the subject lines were too vague to capture my interest, although the alternative versions that follow would have enticed me to take a look.

  • Poor: Important question
  • Better: When does Tuesday meeting start?


  • Poor: June newsletter
  • Better: Learn new Twitter strategy in June issue


  • Poor: Please contribute!!
  • Better: Community Food Bank Needs Donations!


  • Poor: Are you wondering when we’ll discount your favorite boots?
  • Better: 15% off Enzo boots today!

The last example demonstrates why cute and drawn-out subject lines backfire. Even if a scanner keeps reading, the important words may be cut off in their inbox window, especially on smartphones or other small devices where the majority of emails are read. Few people pay attention to this simple principle, so building this habit reaps you an advantage.

Investing in accurate, informative subject lines always rewards you. Craft them to communicate the main point of your routine, everyday emails as well as your important business messages so they will be read! Even for a marketing message, there’s rarely a need to be clever. It’s better to pull target readers in by appealing to their self-interest: the WIIFM principle (what’s in it for me).

When you can’t come up with a tight subject line that communicates the core of your message, consider that either you are packing too much into one message, or your message lacks a core — or any relevance at all — to your target reader. Review both the subject line and what follows to see whether you’re perfectly clear on why you’re writing and what outcome you want.

It’s smart to review your subject line after you write the whole message. The writing process can nudge you to think through your reason for creating the email and how to best make your case, so you end up changing tack. Drafting the message first and then distilling the subject line is often easier.

2. Use appropriate salutations

The greeting you use is also part of the lead. Draw on a limited repertoire developed for letters:

Dear …

Hi …

Hello …

You can use “Greetings” or something else, but be sure it doesn’t feel pretentious.

Traditional advice is to follow with first name or last name as appropriate, using the person’s form of address (Miss, Ms., Mrs., Mr.), but as you may know from your own experience, these can be exclusionary.

Workaround 1: For groups, come up with an aggregate title as appropriate, such as “Dear Software X Users,” “Dear Subscribers,” “Hi Team,” and so on. Don’t be homey or quirky. Using “Folks,” for example, can grate on people sooner or later. Also, avoid generalizations like “Dear Customer” if you’re writing to an individual. These days, customers expect to be addressed by name.

Workaround 2: Use the person’s name. If it’s not suitable to write “Dear Chris” to someone you don’t know, say: “Dear Chris Cooper”; or “Hello, J.T. Thomas.” Use a similar approach if you’re addressing actual envelopes: Simply omit the binary titles of “Mr.”, Miss”, Ms.” and “Mrs.” Using titles like “Professor” or “Dr.” is fine, of course, when the title is merited.

Often, people who know each other well or are transacting business in an email series simply start the message with the person’s name — for example, “John.” That’s fine if doing so feels comfortable. Generally speaking, don’t omit a name altogether and plunge right into your message. You miss an important chance to personalize. You can, however, build a name into the opening line, as in: “I haven’t heard from you in a while, Jerry, so thought I’d check where things stand.”

3. Draft a strong email lead

Remember The first sentence or two of your message should accomplish the same goals as journalists aim for with the lead of an article: Keep your readers’ attention, present the heart of what you want to say and give them a reason to care. In addition, for business messages, you must tell readers the reason you’re writing: what you want.

Try not to repeat the same wording or exactly the same information in the subject line and lead. Email copy occupies valuable real estate. Your best chance of enticing people to read the whole message is to avoid repetition and keep a fast and tight forward motion.

Your email lead can consist of one sentence, two sentences or a paragraph, as needed. When the subject line clearly suggests your focus, you can pick up the thread. For example:

Subject: Preparing for August 8th meeting

  • Hi Jenn,
  • Since we need the materials for the Willow conference in less than a week, I’d like to review their status with you ASAP.

Often you need a context or clarifying sentence before you get to your request:

  • Subject: Timing on design hire
  • Hilary, you mentioned that you’d like to bring in a graphic designer to work on the stockholder report ASAP. However, I won’t be able to supply finished copy until April 3rd.

Note how quickly both of the preceding messages get to the point. Do this with all in-house messages whether you’re addressing colleagues, subordinates or supervisors. But never sacrifice courtesy. 

When you write to people who are outside your own department or company, you often need to frame more explicitly so they know who you are, or the context from which you write. Suppose you’re responsible for buying supplies and are looking for a new source of grommets:

  • Subject: Query re grommet purchase
  • Dear Ellen Black
  • As the Purchasing Officer of XYZ Inc., Michigan’s largest eyeglass distributor, I’m in the market for a new grommet supplier.
  • I will appreciate information about your pricing of the following items, along with quantity discount options:

If your goal is to sell something or obtain an appointment to pitch a product or service, a “yes” is obviously harder to achieve than when you’re the buyer. Your opening becomes critical and needs to tap into the triggers that lead people to buy or make a decision.

4. Clarify what you want

Email seems like a practical tool for getting things done, and it is. You write to arrange a meeting, receive or deliver information, change an appointment, request help, ask or answer a question and so on. But even simple messages may call for some delving into what you really want.

Consider Amy, a new junior member of the department, who hears that an important staff meeting was held and she wasn’t invited. She wrote the following:

Tom, I am so distressed to know I was excluded from the staff meeting last Thursday. Was it an oversight? It makes me feel like you don’t value my contribution! Can we talk about this?

Bad move! Presenting herself as an easily offended childish whiner with presumptions undermines Amy’s true goal — to improve her positioning in the department. Instead of using the opportunity to vent, Amy should take a dispassionate look at the situation and build a message that serves her much better:

Tom, I’d like to ask if I can be included in future department meetings. I am eager to learn everything I can about how we operate so I can do my work more efficiently and contribute more. I’ll very much appreciate the opportunity to better understand department thinking and initiatives.

Knowing your goal for an external communication is equally important. For example, if you’re responsible for answering customer complaints about defective appliances and believe your goal is to make an unhappy customer go away, you can write:

We regret your dissatisfaction, but yours is the only complaint we have ever received. We suggest you review the operating manual.

If you assume your job is to mollify the customer on a just-enough level, you may say:

We’re sorry it doesn’t work. Use the enclosed label to ship it back to us, and we’ll repair it within six months.

But if your acknowledged goal is to retain this customer as a future buyer of company products and generate good word of mouth, and maybe even positive rather than negative reviews, you’re best off writing:

We’re so sorry to hear the product didn’t work as you hoped. We’re shipping you a brand new one today. I’m sure you’ll be happy with it, but if not, please call me right away at my personal phone number …

For both Amy’s and the customer service scenarios, keeping your true, higher goals in mind often leads you to create entirely different messages. The thinking is big picture and future-oriented. In Amy’s case, the higher purpose is to build a relationship of trust and value with a supervisor and gain opportunities. In the unhappy customer case, you want ideally to reverse a negative situation and cultivate a loyal long-term customer.

5. Assess what matters to your audience

After you’re clear on what you want to accomplish with your email, think about your audience — the person or group you’re writing to. One message, one style does not fit all occasions and individuals. 

When you ask someone for a favor in person, you instinctively adapt your message as you go along according to the other person’s reactions via words, body language, expression, tone of voice, inflection and all the other real-time clues that tell you how the other person is receiving your message.

An email, of course, provides no visual or oral feedback. Your words are on their own. So your job is to think through, in advance, how your reader is most likely to respond and base what you write on that.

Use your imagination to anticipate your reader’s reaction. You’ll probably be able to do this more easily than you expect. Try holding a two-way conversation with the person in your head. Observe what they say and how they say it. Note any areas of resistance and other clues. Frame the questions they might ask and integrate the answers into your message.

Think about audience benefits. This important marketing concept applies to all persuasive pitches. Benefits speak to the underlying reasons you want something. A t-shirt with a team logo, for example, may be well made, easily cared for and comfortable. But you buy it to identify with and feel part of a favorite team. Your underlying goal is to feel a sense of belonging.

When you’re planning a message and want it to succeed, think about the audience and goal and write down your first ideas about match points and benefits.

6. Structure your middle ground

Think of an email message like a sandwich: The opening and closing hold your content together and the rest is the filling. Viewed in this way, most email is easy to organize. Complicated messages full of subtle ideas and in-depth instructions or pronouncements are unsuited to the medium anyway.

Email’s typical orientation toward the practical means that how you set up and how you close count heavily — but the middle still matters. Typically, the in-between content explains why — why a particular decision should be made, why you deserve an opportunity or why the reader should respond positively. The middle portion can also explain in greater detail why a request is denied, provide details or technical backup or offer a series of steps to accomplish something.

For example, a get-Jane-to-the-meeting message can open like this:

Hi Jane,

I’m ready to show you how using new social media platforms can help us increase market share for our entire XL line. After checking the online calendar for your availability, I scheduled the demo for March 5 at 2 p.m. Can you meet with me and my team then?

To structure the middle, consider the points that are most important to Jane:

  • Evidence that the idea works well somewhere else
  • Opportunity to use cutting-edge technology
  • Potential to solve a major problem
  • Potential for wide company interest

You then simply march through these points and connect them with your project or other subject to build the body of the message. For example:

My research shows that two companies in related industries have reaped 15 to 20 percent increases in market share in just a few months. For us, using the emerging media I’ve identified can potentially move XL out of the sales doldrums of the past two quarters.

Further, we’ll be positioning our department at the cutting edge of strategic social media marketing. If we succeed as I anticipate, we may lead the way for the whole company to follow our model.

The thinking you did before you started to write now pays handsome dividends. With a little reshuffling of the four points and attention to how they connect, you have a persuasive memo that feels naturally organized and logical. You know the right content and how the points fit together. Your simple invitation has an excellent chance of bringing Jane to the demonstration with an interested and positive attitude.

This process may sound easy to do with an invented example, but actually, working with real ideas, readers and facts is even easier.

7. Write a professional closing

After you write your lead and the middle, you need to close. When you use the guidelines in the preceding sections to begin messages and develop the middle, your close only needs to reinforce what you want. An email doesn’t need to end dramatically. Often, it works to circle back to the beginning and add any necessary information to the “ask.”

If requesting a decision, say something like, “I look forward to knowing your decision by October 21st.”

If you’re delivering a report, your close may be, “I appreciate your review. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like additional information.”

Sign off with courtesy and tailor the degree of formality to the occasion and relationship. If you’re writing to a very conservative person or a businessperson in another culture, a formal closing like “Sincerely” is often better. The same is true for a résumé cover letter, which is essentially a letter in email form and should look like a letter. But in most situations, less formal end-signals are better: Regards, Jill.

But best of all is to think of a way to say thank you because psychologically, this is almost always the most effective close. 

As in, “I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, Jane!” Or according to the situation, “Thank you in advance.” “I appreciate your attention to this.” “Thanks for bringing this to my attention.” “Thanks for reading this.” Or just, “Thank you.” 

Then add your name — first name if you know the person or are comfortable establishing informality. Even if your readers hear from you all the time, using your name personalizes the message.

Now your finished message needs one more thing: finalizing the subject line. Consider at this point the total thrust of your content. Then decide what words and phrases work best to engage your audience’s interest. 

8. Monitor length and breadth

Generally speaking, keep email to fewer than 300 words and stick to one idea or question. Three hundred words can go a long way.

Such limits are hard to consistently observe, but you’re wise to remember how short people’s attention spans are, especially for online reading. That’s why you benefit from knowing your central point or request and opening with it. Don’t bury it as a grand conclusion. Nor should you bury any important secondary questions at the end.

Aim to make email as brief and as tight as you can. If your message starts to grow too much, reconsider whether email is the right format. You may choose to use the message as a cover note and attach the full document. Or you may want to break the message up into components to send separately over a reasonable space of time.

9. Simplify your style

Choose words and phrases that are conversational, friendly, businesslike and unequivocally clear. Email is not the place for fanciful language and invention. You want readers to understand the message the first time they read it. 

If they are left to figure out your meaning, they will either stop reading or fill the lines in themselves and may end up elsewhere than you intended. 

This is where a lot of that expensive confusion comes from in every organization. Put your energy into the content and structure of your message and express what you want to communicate in unambiguous and straightforward language.

Try to make your writing transparent, eliminating all barriers to understanding. Your messages may end up less colorful than they could be, and that’s okay. I’ve never seen anyone criticized for writing clear concise messages.

10. Add subheads

Subheads are great for longer email. You can make the type bold and add a line of space above it. Subheads for email can be matter of fact:

  • Decision point close
  • Advantages of new system
  • Step 1 (followed by Step 2 and so on)
  • Special considerations
  • Project pros and cons

This technique neatly guides the reader through the information and also enables you as a writer to organize your thinking and delivery with ease.

Try drafting all your subheads before you write. This can be a terrific way to organize an email. Pick a message that you already wrote and found challenging, or one you’d like to write but needs some nerve. Think the subject through to come up with the major points or steps to cover and write a simple subhead for each. Put the subheads in logical order and fill out the relevant content under each. Now check if all the necessary information to make your point is there — if not, add it. Your message is sure to become clearer, more cohesive and more persuasive.

If you feel that you have too many subheads after drafting the entire message, just cut some or all of them out. You still have a solid, logically organized email message. Just be sure to check that the connections between sections are clear without the subheads.

11. Bring in bulleted and numbered lists

Bullets offer another good option for presenting your information. They are:

  • Readily absorbed
  • Fast to read
  • Easy to write

Useful for equipment lists, examples, considerations and other groupings

However, observe a few cautions:

  • Don’t use more than six or seven bullets in a list. A long stretch of bullets becomes mind-numbing and hard to absorb.
  • Don’t use them to present ideas that need context or connection.
  • Don’t mix and match. The items on your list must be parallel, so that they begin with the same kind of word — a verb, a noun or an adverb.

Never use bullet lists as a dumping ground for thoughts that you’re too lazy to organize or connect. If you doubt this advice, think of all the bad PowerPoint presentations you’ve seen — screens rife with random-seeming bullets.

Numbered lists are also helpful, particularly if you’re presenting a sequence or step-by-step process. Instructions work well in numbered form. Give numbered lists some air so that they don’t look intimidating — skip a space between each item.

12. Consider boldface

Making your type bold gives you a good option for calling attention to key topics, ideas or subsections of your message. You can use bold for lead-ins:

Holiday party coming up. Please see the task list and choose your way of contributing.

You may also use bold to highlight something in the body of the text:

Please see the task list and choose your way of contributing by December 10.

Of course, don’t overload your message with boldface or it undermines its reason for being. Keep in mind that boldface doesn’t always transfer across different email systems and software, so don’t depend on it too much for making your point.

Underlining important words or phrases is another option, but it tends to look old-fashioned.

13. Use the signature block

Contact information these days can be quite complex. Typically, you want people to find you by email or telephone. Plus, there’s your tagline. Your company name. Your website. Your blog. The book you wrote. The article you got published. Favored social media. Professional affiliations and offices. And potentially much more, perhaps including your pronouns.

Decide on a few things you most want to call attention to and refrain from adding the rest. Better yet, create several signature blocks for different audiences. Then you can select the most appropriate one for the people you’re writing to. 

Don’t include your full signature block every time you respond to a message, especially if you incorporate a logo, which arrives as an attachment. Check your email program’s settings so the automatic signature is minimal or altogether absent.

6 Common Email Mistakes To Avoid

1. Present complicated issues or subjects

Of course, you can attach a report, proposal or other long document to an email, but don’t expect an email in itself to produce an investment, donation or other high-stakes buy-in.

2. Wax philosophical or poetic

Readers look to email for practical communication and are annoyed by windy meanderings — even (or especially) if you’re the boss.

3. Amuse

As for most business correspondence, generally avoid sarcasm and irony, and most humor unfortunately, because it can be misinterpreted against your interests. And sense of humor differs among individuals, regions and countries.

4. Spam

Send email only to people directly concerned with the subject and don’t send unnecessary replies. Don’t forward cute anecdotes or jokes unless you’re absolutely sure the particular person welcomes that. And don’t forward chain letters: They can upset recipients. Don’t forward anything without reading it. Thoroughly and carefully.

Is it considered spamming to respond to a message chain with a minimalist confirmation, like “Yes, the meeting is at 3,” or “I received your input”? Not when it feels necessary to close the communication circle. If your reader may feel left hanging, or any uncertainty can linger, then follow up with the last word. Better safe than … you know what.

5. Fail to respond promptly 

Most matters covered in email have an immediacy and people expect to receive answers promptly, within 24 to 48 hours — but sooner is better. When you can’t supply the information or meet a request quickly, it’s often smart to send an acknowledgment saying when you’ll get back to the person.

6. Respond to poorly considered and written email with poor email of your own

You don’t know who else may see them, and even those who write badly — perhaps through a feeling of executive privilege — may disrespect you for doing the same. Enjoy feeling superior (without expressing it, of course). Your classy, effective email is likely to reward you over the long run more than any other business communication medium.

Tips To Use Email For Marketing

Email marketing works best when woven together with a social media strategy and perhaps traditional channels, all within a well-thought-out comprehensive marketing plan based on thoroughly knowing your audiences, goals and “value proposition” — the heart of what you offer.

In a way, email marketing is a newer branch of direct-mail marketing, which — despite being hugely more expensive — is in itself far from dead, judging by my own mailbox. Like direct mail, it is a demanding kind of specialized writing. But here are some tips to help:

1. See email messages as one step in your marketing effort. 

Coaxing a purchase via a single message is unlikely. You goal is narrower: to capture attention and persuade the reader to proceed to the next step in the chain, like clicking to your website or blog and/or becoming receptive to future emails in a planned chain.

2. Be sure your website, blog and other vehicles shows you off well. 

Ideally, provide a specific landing page so an interested reader can jump from the email straight to your specific pitch rather than having to scout your site from its home page. You can continue making your case on the landing page and ideally close the deal, or lead the prospect to something else (for example, a quiz, allied product, more detailed specs and so on).

3. Target your audiences closely. 

Research says that almost 70 percent of users delete commercial emails without reading them. To increase your chances of being read, you must reach people who need — or are at least open to — your pitch, and make the connection through well-planned and written messages, personalized if possible. 

Developing that email list is a primary need. Keep in mind that even a small list with the right people can be worthwhile. And that segmenting your market pays off very well because it helps personalize your message to reach different people.

4. Give people a good reason to relate to your message instantly and stick with you along the marketing chain. 

Are you offering a discount? That is the biggest click-inducer. Free gift or sample? Free webinar or event? Cheat sheets or templates? A free consultation? Subscription to your blog or newsletter? Insider information? Chance to win something or join something? Or connect with people they want to know?

5. Invest in crafting a strong subject line. 

Forty-seven percent of recipients are found to open emails based on subject lines alone. It draws people to open the message or junk it. Go straight for the benefit your audience stands to reap by using what you offer and crystallize the message in three to eight words. How will their lives be better with your product or service: What problem will it solve? Will it save them time or money? If you’re offering an incentive like a discount, put it right up front, but if you’re an unknown quantity or the product is unfamiliar, you need to cover that ground, too.

Here are a few subject lines drawn from my inbox that demonstrate some of the possibilities. I didn’t open most of them because the content failed to sound relevant to me, or I was not currently in the market for it. 

As in many endeavors, timing is everything — which is why most promoters send a constant stream of messages. But don’t send so many that people are annoyed and block you.

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6. Keep it short

Use the language of your prospects and a friendly tone that leans, generally, toward the informal. Avoid buzzwords and empty biz-speak that turns readers off and earns you a quick trip to the junk box. 

Email marketing benefits from creative ideas, but the writing itself need not be clever and certainly not poetic. Craft concrete, simple, clear, straightforward language.

7. Include one clear call to action

What do you want the person to do upon reading the message? And be sure to think through what exactly you do want. Click onto your website? Try your blog? Subscribe to a newsletter? In many cases garnering readers’ email addresses is the goal. 

This enables the sender to keep communicating with them. Nothing could be cheaper than promoting by email, but don’t communicate so much that people unsubscribe. Drawing the line on how-much-is-too-much is a challenge.

Final Words

If you search online, you’ll find a ton of prewritten and preformatted emails for every occasion. You may draw some ideas from them, but almost never will a cookie-cutter template work as well as your own well-crafted email. 

Often the tone is wrong and the content is bland and impersonal. This totally undercuts the reason you’re writing a letter. Therefore, I won’t give you a formula for every email.

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