Inboxes are full, so how do you stand out? How to create emails

The goal of a professional email is to share information, not conversation. So said Kyle Elliott, a career and interviewing coach from Santa Barbara, California.

Could have fooled my inbox. yours too, right?

With email overload our entire lives, we asked the pros for tips on how to write great work email. Bonus: Since similar principles apply to your personal life, you might be able to craft better news for a match on Tinder or when dealing with a terrible roommate.

hold on short

Bullets and bold text can greatly improve readability.

The right start

If you’re copying and pasting a long bio of your awards, you’re doing something wrong.

“Never make it about you,” said Brian Cristiano, growth strategist for business owners and entrepreneurs at Bold CEO. “Always make sure how you can help. Say they have hundreds of other people in their inbox just like you. Ask yourself: ‘What am I actually doing differently and how can I convey that in one or two sentences?'”

If you have a portfolio, feel free to add a link. “It’s a good source of supplemental information if the person is so inclined to learn more,” said Nick Leighton, etiquette expert and anchor for the weekly Manners Podcast “Are You Raised by Wolves?”

Make sure no login is required to view it as not everyone has a LinkedIn account for example. Or include website and social media links in your signature to keep the text of emails more concise.

It’s important to write a concise introduction when managers and executives read thousands of emails every day.
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Strike the right note

“Be conservative in your approach,” he said Jill Tipograph, co-founder of Early Stage Careers, a coaching consultancy based in Manhattan. “Address people with a salutation: Dear Ms/Mr/Dr.; Use their formal proper names, not shorthand versions. Mirror their LinkedIn profile. If it’s Elizabeth, don’t call her Liz.”

Avoid all capital letters, emojis and language that could easily be misinterpreted. Use spell check and tools like grammar to refine your writing.

Write an excellent subject line

“Use the subject line to focus your thinking and clarify the purpose of the message,” he said Val Olson, a Korn Ferry career coach based in Naples, Fla. “People are busy, exhausted from information overload, and appreciate when they receive communications that are simple, short and sweet, thoughtful, and with a clear call to action.”

A young desperate freelancer on his laptop.
Don’t make the mistake of writing informal language or leaving sloppy grammatical errors.
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For example in writing to a colleague: Document XYZ must be signed by 3 p.m. today.

Marketers know how to get recipients to open, read, and act on an email message, so channel that approach. “Ask a question to pique the recipient’s curiosity, write a call-to-action, or appeal to the recipient’s needs,” she said.

If you’re reaching out to someone new, Elliott said you also want to practice the art of assertive email subject lines. For example, if you are inquiring about a project manager role, Elliott suggests: Briefing on: Project Manager Role – Kyle Elliott.

It can pay off to make your subject line stand out when you first email someone. “Most people either make their subject lines very generic, resulting in low open rates, or they make their subject lines overly sensationalized, causing the receiving party to feel cheated,” Cristiano said.

An African American manager, seated at a desk in front of a laptop, is holding a mobile phone and having a pleasant business or informal conversation.
Career coach Val Olson recommends writing meaningful subject lines that get the recipient to respond immediately.

Not good: Meet to discuss your IT services.

Good: X became aware of your IT during some research.

The second example is personalized and intriguing, yet professional. “However, you actually have to do some research to be able to provide the subject line,” Elliott said. “Otherwise they will lose confidence in you when they open the body of the email.”

Keep the emotions away

“Email is public — stay away from work sentiments,” Tipograph said. “Be careful not to mention personal work experiences or feelings.”

In addition, constructive criticism should be expressed personally.

“It’s always misinterpreted when it’s written,” she said. “Emails are permanent. Things are shared, saved and archived. Imagine how it feels when you receive a terse email or one filled with emotion or negativity.”

Cropped shot of handsome young businessman yelling angrily at his laptop while working in office.
Don’t let emotions dictate the tone and language of the email.
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No rush

We’ve all written an email, hit send, and regretted not taking the time to proofread it.

“It’s common to rush this form of communication to get to your projects or other work assignments. Remember, your communications are part of your career brand and reputation,” Olson said. “Don’t rush to hit send. Take additional precautions to protect or encrypt this data.”

With that in mind, Olson also advises using “reply all” with care.

Get the answer you want

The more specific you are in your request, the better. That way, Tipograph says, recipients will see your post and exactly what you expect from them.

For example: could we meet to talk about XYZ? I have all afternoon free tomorrow, Friday and Monday. I think we need 15 minutes.

Brighten someone’s day

At its core, email is essentially a relationship-building tool.

“Take a moment from your busy day to send a colleague or client a note to express appreciation,” Olson said. “You can thank someone for their collaboration, or maybe they created something new or solved a challenge. Expressing gratitude uplifts others and helps create a culture of appreciation and pride. Similarly, expressing appreciation when you’ve worked through an important conversation with someone makes you someone others want to work with.”

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