Your Guide to Writing Good Emails

We’ve all experienced it. That mini-breakdown that comes two seconds after hitting the ‘send’ button on your email, when you've realised there’s a horrendous typo in the subject line, or, you’ve sent it to the wrong person, or, you’ve forgotten to attach that all-important file.

And so… in an effort to help you avoid the numerous email traps that are out there, and put your best foot forward to both current employers and prospective employers, I’ve taken a long hard look at my past e-mistakes and asked the Bright Network team for their advice and top e-blunder stories.

The end result is a fabulous list of e-etiquette dos and don’ts arranged according to the top part (i.e. addresses, subject line and attachments), middle (i.e. the bulk of the email) and bottom (i.e. signing off) of an email…

DO's

Do use a professional-sounding email address. If you can get them, addresses with your initials, first and/or last name are best. They’re professional, punchy, and identify you to the recipient as soon as they log in to their email inbox.

Do make sure you’ve included a subject line… and keep it simple. If you’re applying for an opportunity, then ‘Application for [insert opportunity here]’ is all you need.

Do check your attachments – have you attached what you wanted to attach, and are they the right documents?

Do check that you’re sending it to the right people, and that you haven’t Cc’d in anyone inappropriate. A good tip is to enter the recipient/s email address last.

Do start off right. If you’re making an application, ‘To whom it may concern’ is probably too formal, and ‘Hi’ too informal. If you’re looking to make an impression, you really need to address the recipient directly. Start your conversation with ‘Hello, I’m in the process of applying for X job and wondered who I should address my cover letter to?’

Do check your spelling, and make sure ‘auto-correct’ hasn’t changed any of your choice words.

Do be precise. If you’re emailing in regards to a job you’ve seen advertised somewhere, tell the employer where. Or, even better, if you’ve got a mutual friend or colleague, highlight the link. It shows you’re serious about that specific opportunity. There’s nothing worse than a generic shout-out, and people are much more likely to respond if there’s a connection there.

Do keep it brief, and remember to write a short introduction if the person you’re contacting hasn’t met or heard of you before. Beware also of overusing emails. Often a quick chat with someone will beat multiple email exchanges and you’ll get the answer you want straight away.

Do make sure you’ve mastered the right tone in your email. If you can strike a balance between friendly and professional then you’re well on your way to email greatness.

DO NOT's.

Don’t talk about your personal life in work emails. Under most employment contracts, your employer legally owns the emails you send – and can read them at any time without permission. Some large firms regularly scan emails for key words such as ‘cocktails’, ‘party’, ‘drinks’, ‘night out’ etc… so they know if you’re burning the candle at both ends. Equally refrain from sending overly friendly emails to your work colleagues during your probation period. They might form the wrong impression of you…

Don’t over-use exclamation points (1 should be your maximum – and only then when it’s really needed) and avoid using emoticons (J), slang (mate, laterz, amazeballs) and shortened words (4u, gr8, brb, g2g, k) at all costs.

Don’t sound like you’ve swallowed a thesaurus. If you’re using big words simply to impress… chances are they’ll have the opposite effect.

Don’t use a strange font. Keep it simple – easy to read, normal size, black and white. We suggest Verdana or Calibri.

And finally... the bottom

Do be careful how you sign off. One of the Bright Network team once put an ‘x’ at the end of her email… which she then sent to her boss and head of Corporate Affairs at a National newspaper. Let’s just say it didn’t go down too well… To be safe, stick with ‘Best’ if you know the recipient and ‘Yours Sincerely’ if you don’t.

And don’t forget – you can always send yourself a ‘test’ email beforehand. Just remember to change the recipient address before you send it the next time.

Next: Writing Good Cover Letters