Write Better Business Emails: A Freelance Writer's Guide

Fact: You need to write better business emails.

An engineer named Ray Tomlinson sent the first-ever email in 1971. He opened the floodgates for limitless communication in the modern era.

No doubt, email is intended to make our lives easier. Over time, however, it’s transformed into a tool with boundless potential for annoyance and sloppy correspondence.

Bad emails are rampant, my friends.

What is a “bad email”, you ask? Apart from chain emails and blatant spam, the worst kind of email is one that fails to achieve its goal.

Usually, that means they’re simply indirect and lacking pertinent information. Occasionally, this also includes abysmal fonts and massive attachments. (Please don’t.)

Corporate emails come to mind, actually. Perhaps you’ve worked in an office where team members are trying to organize some kind of meeting or outing, but leaving the plans completely open-ended, inspiring endless back-and-forth?

Or maybe you received a crappy PR email that’s missing contact info or a website address?

I can’t count how many times I sat in my swivel chair, clutching my hair in both fists, willing myself not to pull a panda.

Bad emails happen to good people all the time, but you don’t want to be the one writing them. You’re a writer, after all, and you make a living on the internet! If anyone is writing excellent emails, it should be you.

I’d go as far as to say that writing effective emails is the first step to being taken seriously as an online professional.

A good email can increase your odds of growing your network, initiating great business relationships, and so much more.

Whether you’re cold-emailing a potential client, pitching a story to a news site, or tapping out everyday communication, these tips will help you write better business emails.

Use an actual name.

Regardless of the nature of your email, the person receiving it is more likely to be receptive to your message if they see their name on the screen.

People like reading their own name. It instantly makes the interaction more human.

That means “to whom this may concern” doesn’t cut it, ever.

Don’t know someone’s name? Get creative! You can start with the company’s actual website, where you can sometimes find contact information for key team members.

You can also check Linkedin, the details of a job listing, or Google the company and adjacent job title.

When you absolutely can’t find a name, always opt for a “good morning” or “good afternoon” over the robotic “to whom this may concern”.

Oh, and sub-tip!

Rather than sending the email to info@whatevercompany.com, you can use this rad Chrome extension called Hunter. It scans domains for connected email addresses.

Include formal greetings and closings.

I see too many business emails with sloppy openings and closings.

While breaking into that first sentence is okay when emailing casual acquaintances, you should structure your business emails as follows:

  1. Greeting
  2. Message with succinct details
  3. Closing
  4. Signature with contact information 

Shortcuts are fine when you’re already in the midst of the relationship and you’re comfortable with the person you’re emailing… but before that? Maybe not.

Coming across too casual can make a bad first impression. Your impression is everything when you’re counting on written communication to relay your personality.

There are always exceptions, of course, but the majority of people prefer to be addressed properly.

Crafting a fully realized email will show your contact that you’re taking their time seriously.

Tighten up your message. 

Be warned: structured doesn’t mean long.

Get to the point quickly. People are busy, and so are you—especially when it comes to business!

Make it easy for your recipient to process your information and reply with a sentence or two.

After you’ve written your email, give it a once-over. What words or entire sentences can be removed while keeping the point intact? Chop ’em out.

The person you’re emailing will almost certainly appreciate your reduced word count.

Be direct about details.

Have you ever asked a friend to make dinner plans and said something extremely vague, like, “How about this weekend? Let me know what time you’re free.”

That’s annoying enough with friends, but it’s a big mistake in a business email.

In fact, as an absolute rule, leave “let me know” out of your business email vernacular.

Instead of using vague terminology or leaving things open-ended, be proactive. Offer answers where you would usually ask questions.

That means giving an exact day and time and then adding a few options before opening it up to the recipient. It also means jumping on Google or looking at a client’s public calendar to figure stuff out before you ask additional questions.

You shouldn’t expect the recipient to do the work of narrowing down time frames or details.

And hey, maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s preferable that you call those shots!

Don’t write like a robot. 

Business emails are serious, but they don’t have to sound robotic.

While you’re hacking out extra sentences to be direct, be careful not to come off unnatural.

An email from an actual person is a rare gem in a wave of mass-marketed blasts these days, so use that to your advantage! Keep it colloquial.

Another sub-tip?

When you talk like a human, you’ll encourage a human reply. This is especially effective when making a new connection via email for the first time.

You can do this by using contractions, infusing a little light humor, or including a timely comment (like a simple “enjoy your weekend”).

You have a chance to infuse a bit of your personality here, so try it out.

Being authentic in your tone when writing emails can, once again, encourage similar replies and help you foster better connections online.

Do we really need to talk about emojis?

I promise I’m not a mean, boring person…

I love emojis as much as the next girl. I mean, how great are they?! 🤓✨🌺🎀💰

But friends, please. Don’t use them in business emails.

The only occasion where you can challenge this rule is if you receive a smiley or winky face from the contact you’re targeting.

If they do it, it miiight be okay… but it’s probably best to avoid this unless your brand as a writer really lends itself to this.

When in doubt, just don’t use ’em.

Don’t send huge attachments.

…actually, if you can avoid sending any attachments, that’s preferable. No one wants to receive them. Clients and other contacts don’t want their inboxes storage space clogged up with files.

If you have something to share, upload it to Google Drive or your web server and share a link.

For enormous files, I’m a big fan fo WeTransfer.

Links are definitely a more modern and seamless way to share things.

Remember: the easier you can make the experience of communicating and sharing information, the more people will enjoy working with you.

Know when to pick up the phone.

So, you know how to write better business emails now. Great!

But is that always the best way to discuss the matter at hand? Sometimes the best email tip is to get off email and pick up the phone.

When a simple phone call can create clarity and increase productivity, don’t rely on email.

Her’es a good motto to roll with: An unnecessary email is a bad email.

Professional contacts will appreciate the fact that you’re not wasting their time or dragging out a would-be simple process.

But wait—eek! Terrified of the dreaded voice call?

Don’t worry. You’re not the only one. Check out this super-helpful post on having more confidence when you talk to clients on the phone.

Bonus tip:

Don’t underestimate the power of an effective email signature.

You probably email a couple hundred people per month, so it’s worth having the relevant information below your name.

Keep your contact information front-and-center, along with your title. Avoid messy fonts, but do link out to your portfolio or website.

If you have social media profiles used exclusively for your writing hustle, you can link those, too.

Avoid embedding images that will pop up as attachments in Outlook (which many businesses use).

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With just a few tweaks, your business emails can go from subpar to seamless.

Did you try these tips for writing better emails? Drop us a comment below—we would love to hear from you!

Want to hang with other writers like you? Join us in our Facebook group, Wi-Fi Writers Club

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Write Better Business Emails: A #BossBabe's Guide

 

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