Your business emails are one of the main ways in which you communicate with your customers, other businesses and colleagues so it is important that they convey the information you intend them to. In addition to being clear, your emails should be grammatically correct and present the recipient with a positive impression.

Constructing a business email

Plan your emails carefully – they should be easy to understand as soon as they are read. Consider what information you want to convey or what news you want to give the recipient. If you expect a response, make it clear that this is the case and state your facts or opinions clearly. The following steps will help you to construct concise and effective business emails.

Start with your main points

Begin by explaining the reason for the email unless it is sales based. Sometimes, referring to a previous meeting or to something you have in common is an effective way to open your email as it can make the recipient more receptive to your ideas.

Use simple language

Using ordinary, everyday words can help your writing to flow, in contrast with more complicated or technical words.

Aim your writing at the intended reader

Use language that will easily be understood by the person you are writing to. Avoid jargon and anything that could be considered politically incorrect.

Be less formal

It is no longer necessary to use formal language in business communications. The use of contractions such as “we’re” rather than “we are” and “don’t” instead of “do not” may make your communication more accessible, although this is not always the case. Read each sentence to see whether a contraction would improve it.

Active vs passive voice

Active voice makes the content easier to understand than it would be if you used a passive construction. Writing “we have decided to increase production” is much more direct and comprehensible that writing “a decision has been taken to increase production” so use active voice when you can.

Break the rules sometimes

Although good grammar is important, depending on your audience, it is sometimes appropriate to use a more conversational style and possibly use a preposition at the start or end of a sentence. Different organisations have different standards, however, so be aware as to what is expected of you. Avoid writing anything that you would not be happy for your boss or a rival to read.

Choose your fonts wisely

Don’t be tempted to use ornate or quirky fonts in a business email. Use a basic and easily legible type style such as Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica. Don’t mix and match fonts either; two is the maximum for business correspondence, but sticking to one is usually advisable.

Limit graphics

Try to avoid the overuse of graphs or diagrams – use should be limited to avoid making your email too confusing. Inserting too many visuals can actually make your message harder to understand so ensure that they do not form more than ten per cent of the content.

What next?

Check out our tips for improving productivity at work.