Guidelines for writing an effective business email

16 Dec

Guidelines for writing an effective business email

Although a relatively new form of communication which is still developing, no one should underestimate the role e-mails play in the world of modern global business. For better or for worse, e-mail blends the features of the business phone call and the office memo or professional letter into a type of conversation that is at the same time both instantaneous and permanent. As such, e-mail presents wonderful opportunities for growth and success in one’s professional endeavors; however, it also carries with it the risk of misspoken or ill-timed words that can create deep and lasting misunderstandings.

For this reason, it is a good idea for business professionals to take a business English and communication course dedicated to the teaching of e-mail composition and etiquette. This type of course can give professionals a detailed look at how they can unlock the full potential of this form of communication and use it to grow their careers.

With that in mind, there are some basic guidelines business leaders should keep in mind when sending e-mails:

Know the limits of e-mails 

The first thing a person needs to learn about using e-mail to communicate is when to hit the send button and when to move away from the keyboard and pick up the phone instead.

While one rule of thumb is that you should never send an e-mail longer than one computer screen, there are also other approaches for deciding whether or not a phone call or visit is more appropriate than an e-mail:

Basically, if one cannot answer all or at least all but one or two of the intended recipient’s questions or concerns in an e-mail, then it may be time to pick up the phone. Likewise, difficult conversations usually go better when done over the phone or, ideally, in person, as both verbal and non-verbal communication are critical in such circumstances.

Create the right tone 

One of the biggest challenges to writing an effective e-mail is remembering that tone gets lost in the printed word. It takes some practice and a little know-how to strike the write business tone in one’s e-mails, but the reward is worth the investment. A tone which clearly directs and inspires people to do what needs to be done but does so without causing offense is worth its weight in gold.

Timing is everything 

Because e-mails are instantaneous, business professionals including clients, vendors, and business partners will no doubt expect a pace of communication much quicker and more urgent when corresponding via e-mails as opposed to letters.

The upshot is that a person simply is not going to have time to polish a reply e-mail for hours until it is perfectly organized. Thankfully, there are techniques a business professional can use to organize his or her thoughts quickly into an easy-to-read e-mail that flows smoothly from point to point.

These techniques cut down on the need to re-write the same e-mail multiple times. Thus, they save the sender valuable time and give the recipient the prompt reply he or she expects.

E-mails are etched in stone, so polish them

Finally, it is easy even for the most diligent professionals to forget from time to time that e-mail is a permanent, formal record of one’s business dealings. Even in the midst of a great rush, therefore, an e-mail requires a polished, professional image.

This means senders need the skills to edit their work well and to do so under considerable time pressure.  Senders also need to be aware of, and observe, the rules of e-mail etiquette and know how to format their correspondence so that it comes across as first rate in all respects.


E-mails are part of today’s marketplace and are very unlikely to disappear from the business landscape in the foreseeable future. However, people still need to learn how to use them in order to be effective business leaders.