How to write email

person writing an email at their laptop computer

Like it or not, email is a part of all of our lives. Why not become skilled at sending great emails? Hardly anyone today sends clear, well-written emails. You can easily gain an advantage by heeding a few simple tips that seem to escape most people.

Whether you’re using email for personal correspondence, interoffice memos, or promoting your online business, following a few simple principles will help you achieve your objectives.

The information below will have you well on your way to writing great email!

Before you send

A little planning goes a long way in creating effective emails. The ease of sending them can lull us into thinking little effort is required to write them. A carelessly written email filled with errors in grammar and spelling can cancel out all the carefully worded prose.

In person, you use a number of visual and verbal clues. Your facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice help convey the intended message. With all those clues absent, you have to compensate for that missing element.

Just knowing that much puts you ahead of the pack.

BTW, RU there? (lol)

Email shorthand hasn’t quite reached the level of text messaging, but abbreviation mania started in the online venue. All the acronyms are great when communicating with close friends and family. However, when your intent is more serious and your audience less well known, your language must be more formal.

Begin with the subject

Email has one big advantage over snail mail. Who would ever write the subject of the letter on the outside of the envelope (other than mass mailing advertisers)? In contrast, no email is complete without the subject line. In fact, some mailing programs will prompt you if you leave the subject line blank.

Other than keeping your email program happy, what’s the purpose of the subject line? It’s probably the most important component of your message. It can make the difference between having your message read or having it sent to the trash can.

Your busy reader will appreciate a clue as to the nature of the message. It makes it easier to manage a large volume of messages. And it certainly makes it easier to locate older messages for reference.

In order to accomplish these goals, you must choose a subject that reflects the content of the message. “Hi,” “Me again,” and “Update” do nothing to inform the recipient of the message. Try for specific wording, such as “July trip plans,” “Update on 10/12 meeting,” or “Confirming lunch on Sunday.”

If the message is extremely short, you may write the complete message in the subject line and leave the body blank. Some writers add EOM (end of message) to notify the reader that there is no need to open the message itself.

Dear John

It’s rare to see the old standby greeting: “Dear Fred” or “Dear Mrs. Smith.” These haven’t disappeared completely, but are often replaced with “Hello” or “Hi” or even omitted entirely.

For a business letter, it’s better to stick with the formal greeting. Make sure you know the name of the recipient and how to spell it. Find out whether her preference is Mrs., Miss, or Ms. Use a title such as Dr. or Rev. if appropriate. If sending to a group of people, you may address it to “Team A” or “Registered Voter.”

Trim your body

No exercise program required here. Just concentrate on keeping your messages trimmed to the bare minimum. Say only what is necessary to conduct your business.

If you can keep the text visible on one screen, even better. Keep paragraphs short—only 3-5 paragraphs is ideal. Leave space between paragraphs to create “white space.”


If you’re used to print letter style, you’ll want to make several adjustments to the appearance of your online letters. Use a sans serif font such as Arial or Calibri. These are easier to read on the computer screen. Adjust your margins as well. You’re not writing on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper.

Nothing is more frustrating than having to scroll horizontally to read the entire message. You are probably used to using the word wrap feature in your word processing program. Now is the time to resort to the old “return” function. (Remember typewriters?) Keep your lines about 3-4 inches wide. Then even your friends with clunky old email programs can read your message with a minimum of scrolling.

Frills and smiles

Learning how to emphasize key points requires a bit of finesse. Features such as highlighting, underlining, italics, and bold are not available in all email programs. Some even have difficulty with apostrophes and quotation marks. Even if you can implement them in your program, the receiver of the message may not be so lucky. When the receiving program attempts to convert your characters to text, the result is often a garbled array of unreadable symbols.

To get around this, new ways of showing emphasis have been created. All capital letters are out. It makes it appear as though you were SHOUTING. An acceptable alternative is to place an asterisk before and after the word or phrase you want to emphasize. A stronger emphasis can be made by adding exclamation marks or surrounding the phrase with >>angle brackets<<. Use all the above sparingly.

The familiar smiley face has come into its own in cyberspace. Together with all his cousins, they are known as emoticons. You can insert them from the keyboard, or make use of graphic programs that allow you to insert full color smileys, complete with animation. While these are great for your inner circle, avoid them in formal correspondence.

Yours truly

Gone are the formal greetings your grandmother used. “Sincerely yours” and “Yours truly” have gone the way of the dime store. Common closings today are “Best regards” or “Regards.” The usual punctuation has disappeared as well. Salutations and closings can be inserted without a comma following. And don’t forget to take advantage of the signature line. Include your contact information for the convenience of your correspondents.

Keep in touch

Keep up to date and learn how to write email. Your business and personal life will improve.