Writing advice for work emails

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On this page you’ll find writing advice for composing work emails. How you write emails at work will lead to how you are perceived by your coworkers. The email form, content, tone, and structure will vary based on your relationship and reporting structure.

Email ‘Do Nots’

There’s a few things you’ll always want to avoid when writing an email to a co-worker, regardless of your relationship with them. You just never know when and who else will read your emails.

  • Inappropriate language, such as cursing
  • Indecent images or pictures
  • Cruel or hurtful remarks
  • Gossip or unnecessary criticism of other co-workers
  • Links to unapproved websites or content
  • Discussions about confidential projects
  • Anything that will compromise your employment – always refer to your employee handbook (varies by company)

Email title & formatting

  • Always make the title of your email concise and clear to ensure it’s read in a timely fashion.
  • Start with a simple greeting that is catered to your reader (see tone & language below).
  • Use proper grammar and language.
  • Use a single, consistent font. 10pt or 11pt preferred.

Email body content

  • Keep it work related. The primary goal of any email you send should be related to your job. That can be project related, time-off requests and coverage, or status updates.
  • Keep it professional. Always use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. There’s no quicker way to look unprofessional than an email that’s full of errors. Proofread before sending.
  • Check your attachments. If you’re sending someone a document you want reviewed, make sure you included it! Also, make sure you’re sending the correct version. It would be embarrassing to send a personal document instead of your intended.

Email tone & language

Based on who you are messaging, you may use different tone and language. For example, if you have a friend you work with, being overly formal might come off as off-putting to the recipient.

Email to co-worker you are friendly with

Conversational & friendly tone, but remain professional and keep topics business related. You can probably be very direct with what you need or intend as this co-worker knows you well.

  • Example: Hey Mike, can you send me those reports you were talking about on our team call today? Thanks man.

Email to co-worker you have had conflict with in the past

Keep it professional with elements of conversation. Do not bring up old issues and simply focus on your shared goal.

  • Example: Hello Michael, during our weekly team call you discussed the 2017 financial report that was just issued. Would you be able to forward me those reports when you have a chance? Thank you.

Email to your manager

Depending on your relationship, this tone may vary. The tone can be both conversational and professional. You don’t want to be a ‘suck-up’ but a few compliments peppered into your writing can go a long way in how you are perceived and show initiative.

  • Example: Hello Michael, when you were presenting that interesting 2017 financial report, I had a thought that it would be beneficial for me to review before beginning our project. Can you send me a copy so I can get started in advance? Thanks and have a good one!

Email to someone director level and above (such as CEO, president, etc.)

There’s times when you have to email someone in your company who has no idea who you are and may be a few levels up on you. In these cases, play it safe and keep the tone completely professional, direct, and to the point.

  • Example: Hello Mr. Sanders, the 2017 financial report is now complete and attached to this email for your review. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you, and have a good day.
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