While modern business platforms such as Slack, MS Teams, and chat apps such as Viber and Whatsapp are useful, email remains the primary business communication method.
While you can replace a part of internal communication with Slack, collaborating with clients or partners who are not a part of your workplace will still go through email.
Our inboxes are flooded with newsletters, email promotions, offers, memos, and updates that aren’t too important. Even worse, emails are often sent to people who don’t need to see them due to CC misuse, which creates an unnecessary energy drain across the whole organization.
While quick fixes such as adding a professional email signature can help you stand out instantly, if you really want to transform your business communication, you will need to do more. Our 6 steps for powerful email communication will ensure all your emails count and that you never end up in the spam folder or ignored.
Step #1: Ask yourself, “Do I need to send this email to this person?”
“Our policy is to never use emails for intra-team communication Using Slack speeds up the working process, as we have everything pre-set, with each team using their own channel” – Armand Ciuleanu – CEO/Founder at RebelDot
If you can take only one tip from this whole article, this should be it:
Before sending anything, ask yourself is emailing the best way to communicate right now and are you sending the email to the right person.
Answering the first part of the question can save you an enormous amount of time. First, if you want to type an email to your coworker, maybe it’s a better option to ask them if they are around or to send them a Slack message. Both ways will get you an answer faster.
If it’s not a person from your organization, a phone call might be a better option than emailing. That way, you will get a response in a matter of minutes, instead of waiting for hours or days. Even if it’s not urgent, if you can solve a problem in five minutes, there’s no reason for it to end up on your to-do list.
Answering the second part of the question will make you think about who you are sending the email to. While the primary recipient is necessary, don’t automatically put everyone else in CC. Even if you are unsure, you can always forward the whole communication to the right person later, which is a much better option than starting a spam chain for no reason.
Here are some situations when emailing is a good option:
- You need a written record of the whole correspondence with the person
- You are not sending time-sensitive information
- You have to contact or notify several people at the same time
- You have to share important files
Step #2: Think through your subject lines
Before anyone reads the body of your email, they are faced with its subject line. While subject lines are much more important in sales and cold pitching than business correspondence, they still require your attention.
If possible, the subject line should communicate the main point of the email and should never be generic. For example, “a short note” “a quick memo” are not very informative. Descriptive subject lines will make your emails much easier to find later, in case the recipient forgets to label it or mark it with a star.
Therefore, if you want to notify your coworkers about an upcoming important meeting, then you should write:
“Important: sales team Zoom meeting, Thu, 26th, 2 PM.”
The body should contain the description and the topic of the meeting so people can prepare, and an invitation link – but the subject line tells them all they need to know.
One more subject line tip: don’t abuse the word “important” or the exclamation point in your email client. While there are important things, if you mark everything as important and urgent, even if it’s not, people will stop paying attention, which will affect your credibility.
Step #3: Highlight the reason why you are sending the email first
In most cases, the most important thing your email contains should be mentioned in the subject line. But, even if that is the case, after an appropriate greeting, state it again.
Nonetheless, the most important part of the email should always be at the top. That will not only make it hard to miss, but it will also make it more likely for people to read the rest of the email if it grabs their attention.
If it’s something super important such as a meeting date, a security update, or a change in shift schedule, use bold text or write in UPPER CASE letters. But, use these formatting tools in moderation, or else they will have no effect.
Also, try to keep the highlighted information in up to two sentences. The goal is to make people read the highlighted text – if they do only that, the whole email achieves its purpose. That’s why it shouldn’t be buried near the bottom but at the beginning of your email.
Step #4: Keep it short and easy to read
Our Step #1 will cull a good portion of unnecessary emails, which is good. Now, if you have to send an email, make sure it only contains information it has to and make it as easy to read as possible.
A good rule of thumb is always to remember that you are sending business emails. In business, time is money, and you don’t want to waste the time of your colleagues, partners, or clients.
But, at the same time, you are communicating with real people, and the way you communicate can make a huge difference. Here’s how to make your emails more impactful:
- Use bullet points and numbered lists – these catch readers’ attention and make it easy to absorb the information visually.
- Write short sentences in simple terms – while this one is sometimes hard to do in business communication, simplifying your language and sentences will make your emails more pleasant to read. Don’t use complicated terminology if you don’t have to; write as you usually speak.
- Use proper spacing – writing short paragraphs will make your emails easy to skim. Also, if possible, widen out your line spacing, or put an extra empty row between two paragraphs. This will give readers “breathing room” and make your email messages more pleasant to read.
- Use visuals where appropriate – using images is another good way to break the text, but you can also use them to replace the text. For example, instead of sending complex explanations, a simple screenshot can do the trick. Tools such as Lightshot will help you create actionable screenshots in minutes, saving you a lot of time you would waste on walking recipients through technical information.
Step #5: Think twice before clicking “reply” or “reply all”
While using “CC” too often is very common, the same goes for using “reply” and “reply all” buttons the wrong way.
In case you don’t know the difference – the “reply” button will mean you will send a reply only to the sender; “reply all” will send your reply to everyone who is marked in the “CC” section as well.
Even though there are many people in the CC field that doesn’t mean you should automatically click “reply all.” Whether or not you should share your answer with everyone, or just with the sender will depend on the situation, and you will have to use your best judgment. But, if your response has something to do with all other people in CC, or you have a question or a remark that might interest them, hit “reply all.”
On the other hand, if you only need to send the reply to the sender, “reply” is the only right choice.
And if you need to communicate only with certain individuals that are in the CC field, no worries – click “reply all”, but delete people who are not needed from the CC field before sending the email.
Step #6: Avoid meaningless and washed up phrases
“The nature of our business requires consistent communication with government officials and public record keepers who never have time and are flooded with emails. Therefore, we keep things short, and to the point, making sure our requests are easy to notice and understand.” – Lucie Chavez, CMO of Radaris.
Unless you work in a strictly formal environment, for example, a court, using tight phrases such as “to whom it may concern” should never be a part of email communication.
While it’s not that rigid, phrases such as “greetings” are also becoming a thing of the past. Today, even “Dear Sir/Madam” sounds inappropriate in email business communication.
If you work in a less formal, modern environment, using simple “hi” or “hello” to start your email is perfect. The same goes for the end of an email. If “cheers” is too informal for you, “thanks,” “best,” or “regards” are much better than “with best regards.”
Also, try not to use the same washed-up phrases as everyone else. It’s one thing to be polite, but writing “I hope you had a great weekend!” every single Monday may be perceived as insincere. Try something a bit more authentic.
Business emails should be, first and foremost, practical. That means they should contain only the necessary information that is actionable above all else – dates, screenshots, instructions, memos, and similar. If you stick to that rule, your business email communication will always be on a high level.
Our 6 steps for powerful business email communication will not only make your emails more impactful but will also save time – not only yours but across your whole organization.
Keeping your emails short, subject lines clear, using CC and “reply all” the right way, and only sending fluff-free emails with clear intent will make you an email communication rockstar.
Even if you are not in a position to change the way your organization operates, if you start writing terrific emails, you will lead by example, and influence the email culture within your company. Before you know it, key people will notice, which will certainly positively affect your business reputation.