The Art of Writing Powerful Emails

Email correspondence in the professional world can be tricky, especially when you’re first starting out. It will take time to develop your professional email style, but I do have a few tips to offer that you may find helpful.

Avoid protector words.

What is a protector word? It’s a word that softens the content of your email and can downplay the importance of what you’re trying to say. Some examples include “just,” “I think,” “arguably,” and “probably.” Think about it; how much stronger would the content of your email seem if you removed protector words? Take a look at the example below:

“I was thinking about our office’s policy regarding time off, and I just wanted to offer a suggestion. I think it might be better to shorten the two week time off request deadline to one week; arguably, this will allow us all a little more flexibility in planning vacations and other time off.”

Vs.

“In terms of our office’s policy regarding time off, shortening the two week time off request deadline to one week may allow us all a little more flexibility in planning vacations and other time off. Please let me know what you think.”

Watch your tone.

One of the biggest downsides of email communication is the lack of an opportunity to communicate verbal/nonverbal cues to the reader. There’s no quick fix to this obstacle, but there are some words you can avoid to help ensure the tone of your email is not perceived as argumentative or condescending, such as “actually” and “obviously.” Check out this example:

“Since the event is in less than a week, I obviously sent out a reminder to all our vendors. And I actually already checked in with Conference Services to make sure we have all the tables we need, too.”

Vs.

“I have already sent out an email to all our vendors reminding them that the event is coming up next Wednesday, and I have also confirmed with Conference Services that we will have all the tables we need.”

Think twice before you say sorry.

Why? Many people – myself included – are victims of over-apologizing. Before you type “sorry” in an email, take a second to think about why your initial reaction was to apologize. If it’s not something you should be apologizing for, say something else instead. Here’s one example:

Sorry for making you stay after the event last night to talk to me. I am on a tight deadline, and I had a lot of questions about your role at XYZ Company, so I wanted to hear your perspective.”

Vs.

“Thank you so much for taking the time to stay after the event last night to answer my questions about your current role at XYZ Company. You provided some extremely helpful insight that will allow me to meet my tight deadline. I appreciate it!”

If you ever want a second pair of eyes on an email before sending it out to a professional contact, have a career consultant in the Center for Career Development look it over. Visit our website to schedule an appointment.

By Lisa Famularo
Lisa Famularo Graduate Assistant Lisa Famularo