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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

Clear and effective communication is an essential skill to build your credibility, contribution, and career. Being able to write a professional business email can be a challenge. Here are some tips and tricks on how to get started. There will be more to come to help you build this essential skill.

Skip to Actionable Steps

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Longer Version


Est. Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Let’s start with the ‘why’

There are 3 basic reasons why you need to excel (yes, that’s the right word) at writing a professional business email:

Business moves fast

New ideas, new competitors, new products, and markets are happening at breakneck speed. There are tons of emails every day that people have to sort through.

Wait what? Attention span…

Moving faster than the business is your reader’s mind and attention span. You have to grab their attention and mind share quickly and efficiently.

Yeah, it’s permanent

Once you hit that send button, it’s out there. There’s no telling where it’s going.

To effectively contribute, and build your career, you need to get your ideas and input understood quickly. So can you overcome these challenges? Yes, you can!

Know your company culture

Each workplace has characteristics that set the precedent for what works and what doesn’t work. Carefully consider tone, who to include (original and responses), formats, casual or formal, how to present new ideas and objections, etc. Ask your supervisor and teammates about this. Sometimes there’s specific company material and training. Ask.

Understand your audience

Are they into details? Concepts? Are they technical? Financial? Creative? Internal versus external?  Your customers? What can you learn from their emails? Tailor your message to fit.

Crystalize your thoughts

Usually the biggest challenge. Take some time to super clarify what you are trying to accomplish. Get your goals and content down to the brass tacks. 

Build your content so it’s super-efficient to read

Get to the point fast – at the top, supported with details. To do this, have powerful first sentences to start a paragraph.  Keep paragraphs as short as possible. It’s ok to say “happy to provide more details as needed.” Bullet points and tables can be really helpful and are highly recommended to accomplish this. 

Mind the tone of a professional business email

When you do get to the point, don’t forget to mind the tone. The tone of the email matters, so don’t be rude or too short. A positive tone in a succinct manner engages the reader and invites them to understand and respond.

Keep to the facts

Compelling emails that persuade are fact-based as much as possible. Opinions are one thing, but concise facts, which are clearly presented, is your goal.

Get it right, the first time

I once read that we all need to be careful not to type with our middle finger. Get it? Take your time to get it right on content, tone, format, and grammar. Bounce drafts off trusted colleagues. If it’s delicate, ask your supervisor.  Remember, you’re really not sure as to whose inbox it will show up in. At the end of the day, you have to live with it. This includes doing a thorough spell check!

You’re ready to go!

Still not sure after all this? Just use the guiding principles of:

  • Keep a positive, team-focused tone
  • Have a concise, efficient presentation
  • Send to a smaller group rather than a larger group (You can always work your way from this starting point).

Actionable Steps


1

Print this helpful chart

Here’s a PDF (Print it!) that summaries the content in the article and shows you how to navigate each section in the email. Keep it by your desk so it’s there when you need it!

2

Learn from mistakes

Some people like to learn from their mistakes. Here’s an example of a bad email. Review this to understand where it went wrong and make sure you’re not doing the same.

3

See a great example

Here’s an example of a great email. Tailor it as needed.

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About the Author


Tim Rolfes

Tim Rolfes

Senior Program Manager

Tim is a Senior Program Manager at the Christ Hospital Health Network, where he recently led their team to open a Joint & Spine Center. From start-ups to mature businesses, local to global, Cincinnati to Hong Kong, he’s seen it all. As a business driver, community leader, and personal coach, he specializes in helping people and organizations find and maximize their talents and opportunities.
Full Bio | LinkedIn


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