Illustration: Ashley Siebels
A great email could land you a job, but a bad one has the potential to annoy the recipient and/or jeopardize your career. Here’s how to craft one that gets your message across effectively while keeping both your job and the recipient in mind.
Keep the subject line short and sweet
Why even read a subject line that’s way too long if you don’t have to?
A Glassdoor article touches on having a “clear, concise subject line” indicative of the message, adding that you shouldn’t ever use the dreaded “(no subject),” and you should steer clear of including “Hi,” “FYI” and “Touching Base.”
Also, of course, be aware that subject lines in all capital letters can come across as confrontational to the recipient, especially if you’ve never met before.
Be mindful of who you’re writing to
Keep the recipient in mind — they may interpret your message differently than you did while writing it.
Before going on to cite examples, a Glassdoor article says, “when sending email to people from indirect cultures, it is proper protocol and a best practice to research country customs.”
Better to do your homework now so there’s no chance of having to apologize for something later.
Don’t send all recipients the same message
When sending thank you emails after an interview, resist the temptation to send each executive you spoke with the exact same one. (They may compare notes!) Instead, tailor it to the person to whom you’re writing.
No, your work email isn’t also your personal email
So don’t use it for non-business related messages — this mistake could cost you your job, or at least raise eyebrows, so keep these things separate.
There won’t be a work fire to put out if you don’t start one.
Make sure that attachment is actually attached
A Forbes article mentions this, along with the idea that company logos shouldn’t be in your signature because they frequently come across as attachments, “and it’s hard for the recipient to guess which is the real attachment and which is just a meaningless vanity graphic.”
Other than typos or offensive language, there’s often nothing more inconvenient in business communication than receiving a follow-up email from someone who forgets to attach a document — especially when it’s something time-sensitive, like a corporate paycheck form.
Yes, it’s just one more email for you to keep track of, but how many work emails flood your inbox every day? A zillion doesn’t sound too far off. (By the way: Here’s how to take control of your inbox.)
Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want the world to know
Think about it: Does that sentence have the power to jeopardize or end your career? Maybe, maybe not.
It depends on the nature of the content, but always be mindful that business is business… is business. Keep things professional so no one has the opportunity to bring an unethical or inappropriate message to light down the line — or this could happen to you, like it did on LinkedIn.