6 tips on how to write effective emails

Writing good emails in English can be challenging for US natives, but for international professionals, it can lead them to an abyss they never would have dreamed of falling into. If you’re even a bit unfamiliar with current English usage and still want to write effective emails, you should focus on a variety of areas or your email is by doomed to be deleted. You should write your emails with care and conscious effort.

Some areas to focus on are:

1. Subject line

Get to the point, write short sentences that the recipient can understand immediately – instead of “scheduled meeting”, say which meeting you are referring to and include the date. Start checking your spelling in the subject line, if you make mistakes here, the reader might delete the email without opening it..

2. Beginning of the email

Address the person correctly and use the name, including titles (Dr., Professor, Madame) if you don’t know them or think they care about formalities. Spell the name correctly and – if in the US you can go with the customary first name, especially if you send it to someone you know and work with. If not, get the correct business title from the web site or previous email.

3. Body of the email

You have to understand that your choice of words will count double because no one can see you or hear your tone of voice. Use “please” and “thank you” to avoid

any appearance that you want to make someone to do something; it has to read as a polite request. Use soft language, even in an office email to other people you work with – “I would appreciate if you could…..would you please look at this…..at your earliest convenience.”

There are other phrases you can use obviously, but this kind of polite language will get a better response. Write complete sentences, many professionals – those, for example, with an Asian language background – often leave out major words in sentences. All sentences need a subject, verb and direct/indirect object – don’t just leave phrases hanging. If you do leave out the verb, and don’t repeat what you were talking about (i.e. the subject), people can’t guess what you wanted to say and won’t go on reading.

Spell-check your writing. I know you all think that it’s “just email” but it does make a difference. Maybe not to the nice Americans, who are very tolerant about such things as spelling errors, but if you are writing your emails to other foreign-born professionals here in the US, they will catch your errors and you can’t make a good first impression again. Organize your content ahead of time if you have much to say. It is worth writing an outline in bullet points and seeing how you can keep your message short and relevant for your reader.

Often, iinternational email writers have unorganized, rambling thoughts, the sentences run on forever, they are all in one line, one following the other –  sentences and words are closely spaced together which makes the email look crammed and unappealing to read. You need to chunk your content so people can read your ideas fast.

Don’t use all caps, that is – as most of you know already – screaming at someone, and it’s not appreciated.

4. Correct grammar

If you’re unsure about your grammar, run it through Grammar Check in Word first (or send your emails first to your partner, as some of my clients do); often we get emails where – due to the poor grammar – we don’t know what the writer really wants.

5. Message/content format

Too many !!! [exclamation marks] and …. ….[dot dot dot] as well as ( ) [parentheses] within the email take away the importance of ideas you want to get across.

6. Ending

The endings that some international professionals write are often full of apologies for bothering someone; or,  they can be less than cordial (they end abruptly), or at the end of the email, there is no call to action. In any of these cases, writing this email can be a waste of time, because many people won’t bother answering them.

Important:  Go back and reread your email, it is really worth finding all of those mistakes that either make you look dumb, uneducated or sloppy.

Emails in Silicon Valley, if they escape the spam filters, will land in the trash very fast. You only have a few seconds to catch your readers’ attention, and if you don’t write short, well formulated emails that get to the point in the first line, you run the risk of not getting them read at all.

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