Have you ever had to hype yourself up to send an email? Because, same.
There’s something that feels monumental about sending an email that you don’t always get with other forms of communication. And if you’re a non-native English speaker, that task can seem even more daunting.
This article will provide some helpful tips to help you improve the overall quality of your emails, no matter your perspective. Once you’ve applied these simple strategies to your writing, you should be able to confidently send emails to anyone and get rid of that post-send anxiety.
Let's get started.
- How To Write An Effective Email
1. Have a compelling subject line.
Subject lines can make or break your email’s success. It’s often the deciding factor on whether someone will open your email.
Unfortunately, a lot of people struggle with this part.
Take a look at this example:
This particular subject line (real-life example by the way) is vague, indirect, and does not hint to me at all what the content of the email will be about.
The result? I might delete or ignore it altogether.
Here’s a better option:
It’s descriptive, specific, and tells me that this is an introduction.
Subject lines are especially important if you’re reaching out to someone for the first time. The recipient doesn’t know who you are, and can only judge you from your subject line.
Even if you’re sending emails internally at your company, it still pays to write a great subject line so your recipient has an idea of what to expect. Like any busy person, your teammates receive a ton of emails every day, and would certainly appreciate the extra effort of a descriptive subject line.
So, how do you write a good subject line?
Be clear, direct, and describe the content of your email. Don’t be afraid to take up the whole subject line. Here are some good examples of subject lines:
- [Action Required] Monthly Marketing Meeting
- Request for [Insert here]
- [Reminder] Survey to Complete | Will Take 2 Minutes
- [Name] suggested I reach out to you
- I’m going to be in town next Tues - are you available?
If you’re sending a promotional email, avoid deceptive subject lines like:
- Order confirmation
- Account Status
There’s no need to resort to sneaky tricks or clickbait titles just to induce an open. They make recipients feel cheated and tricked, according to a 2019 Litmus survey. You’ll lose trust and may end up in their junk mail as a result.
You want to associate positive feelings with your email, not anger and disappointment.
2. Start with an appropriate greeting.
To kick off the email, you should begin with an appropriate greeting. There are two components to the greeting: the salutation and the opening sentence.
The appropriate salutation actually depends on the situation. If you’re writing a formal email to a bank or government institution, it would be better to start off with "Dear [X]."
If you’re sending an email to someone you know, or work in a casual environment, then it is perfectly fine to go with a "Hi [name]" or "Hello [Name]."
There’s also "To Whom It May Concern," when you’re sending an email to a group email and not sure who will be reading it.
One thing you want to avoid is using gendered and non-inclusive terms like "Hi guys" and "Mr./Ms/Mrs." in your salutation.
To help you out, here is a list of salutations you can open in your emails:
3. Have a strong attention grabber.
Once you’ve gotten the salutation out of the way, it’s time to start your email.
While the subject line determines whether your email is opened, your opening sentence determines whether your email is read till the end.
If it’s an introduction, you can open with something you know will interest your recipient. You can find this out through a little research on their social media profiles. Perhaps they Tweeted something interesting or recently posted something on LinkedIn you can reference.
This will help you build rapport and show that you’re not sending a generic email to multiple people.
Of course, this is not necessary if you’re emailing a colleague or someone you know, but it is still important to establish some kind of context so that they know what’s happening.
With a colleague, start with the "why."
No one has the time (and patience) to guess what an email is about. The sooner you answer the "why," the faster you’ll capture their attention.
Quick tip: If you’re sending out sales emails and need inspiration of exactly what to say, take a look at HubSpot’s free email templates. With this tool, you can access a library of built-in templates designed for each stage of the customer journey.
4. Keep your message short and concise.
According to Statista, we send and receive roughly 319 billion emails a day worldwide.
This statistic makes one thing very clear: We spend a lot of time reading emails. And because of this, many people simply scan emails to get the essence of the message and move on to the next.
With this in mind, you want to optimize your email for readability and scannability. This will look like:
- Keeping paragraphs short.
- Adding bullet points.
- Using visuals to break up the text.
While you may feel like you need to tell them everything in one email, don’t.
No one is eagerly awaiting a three-page essay arriving in their inbox. Think about it this way: What’s the main takeaway from your email and is there a particular action you want your recipient to take?
From there, draft your email and when you re-read it, make sure every line you add is helping you meet this goal. If it’s not, remove it.
When you need to include a lot of information in an email, it's probably better to suggest a phone call or a meeting instead. You can use this free meeting tool to schedule your meetings faster and avoid back-and-forth emails.
5. Be consistent with your font.
If I get an email like this, I’m immediately deleting or assuming it’s a scam.
Emails can be fun. You can add images, GIFs, and colors. However, there’s a way to do it that’s not too jarring or distracting.
This is an example of what not to do. There are several fonts used in the email, different font sizes along with different colors. As a result, the eye doesn’t know where to go and it’s a bit overwhelming.
Furthermore, the message gets lost, as your recipient is too distracted by all these elements fighting for their attention.
So, as a rule of thumb: Stick to one font. If you want to use a secondary one, use it sparingly. Follow the same rule for color.
If you’re using a non-English keyboard, your fonts may not show up properly on the other person’s device. Instead, use web-safe email fonts like:
- Lucida Sans
- Times New Roman
- Trebuchet MS
In fact, this is the exact list Gmail gives:
This will ensure that your recipient will receive your message in a regular font, regardless of device or operating system.
6. Write a simple closing.
Once you’re done with the content of your email, it’s time to close it off.
You don’t have to make it fancy – just keep your closing simple and straightforward.
So, nothing like this:
Instead, stick to the safe, proven closing lines and you should be good.
You can choose from some of the most common closing lines below:
7. Schedule your emails.
One 2020 survey by Sleep Advisor found that around 54% of Americans check their work email immediately after or within an hour of waking up.
Another study by Litmus on the State of Email Engagement in the United States in 2021 supports this. It reveals that the most popular time for reading emails is in the morning. Open rates start around 6 a.m. but usually peak between 9 a.m. and noon local time.
Given this information, you can follow one of two strategies: Send your email in the morning when you know they’re scrolling or wait for a less busy time.
On one hand, your email runs the risk of being buried if you send it in the morning. However, if you wait for a later time, your email may never get opened.
It takes trial and error to figure out what works best when emailing with your team.
If you’re writing an email to someone in another state or country, you also have to factor in time zones. Noon for you may be 7 p.m. for someone else. As such, keep in mind who your recipient is and when they would be most receptive to your email.
Pro-tip: You can use our free email scheduling tool to ensure that your emails are sent at the right time.
8. Do a final spelling and grammar check.
You’re almost there – don’t mess up at the last stretch.
Imagine spending time crafting a perfect message, only to be ignored because the email riddled with spelling and grammar errors.
Here’s how you avoid this: Once you finish drafting your email, copy and paste it into Microsoft Word or Google Docs to give it a quick grammar, phrasing, and spelling check.
Alternatively, you can also use free checkers like Grammarly to automate the process while you’re drafting.
In addition, read the message out loud to make sure the sentences aren’t too long, sound clunky, or robotic. You want your email copy to sound human.
All of these tips help the reader focus on your message, not the other elements of your email.
Email Writing Tips for International Teams
Most people won’t tell you this, but crafting a good email begins even before you put down a single word. It starts with your mindset.
When you're in the correct frame of mind, you'll be able to write effective emails that communicate and persuade.
Sounds logical … but how do you enter the "correct frame of mind"? Well, there are two ways: Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and write the way you talk.
More on that below.
Imagine receiving the email you’re writing.
Have you ever received an email that it was so incoherent you couldn’t even finish reading it, let alone even consider replying? Or included a completely irrelevant proposition?
Ahrefs is an SEO tool, yet they received an email from a fishing company.
One of the biggest problems when it comes to email writing is the lack of empathy for the recipient. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why am I emailing this person?
- Is this the right person to contact, considering what I’m trying to achieve?
- Is my message clear and to the point?
- Would this be better discussed in a meeting?
- Does each line help or hurt my goal?
This is especially important when emailing someone new but still valuable when contacting a colleague.
Write like you talk.
If you’re not a native English speaker, it’s normal to feel like you should be more formal when it comes to your email writing.
However, this results in emails that are too formal, and come off as awkward or stiff. For example:
Native English speakers write more informally -- their writing sounds like one person talking to another.
Here is a quick grammar tip that will always help you sound more native: Write in an active voice and avoid the passive voice.
An "active voice" shows that a subject is performing the verb’s action, e.g.: "Marilyn mailed the letter."
In contrast, the "passive voice" shows that the verb is acted upon by the subject, e.g.: "The letter was mailed by Marilyn."
Instead of writing "your feedback would be much appreciated", try saying "I would appreciate your feedback." Instead of writing "your request has been received", try "I received your request."
Notice how writing in an active voice sounds more human.
Writing an email shouldn’t be daunting. With these simple tips, you’ll make sure your email is effective every time.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.