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How do you make sure your emails aren’t delivering the wrong message?

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Question: "For the last chapter of our company's style guide, I was asked to compile tips on how to write emails that stay true to your personality. My boss wanted these in there because he said he was amazed at how rude, hostile, impatient or uneducated so many otherwise smart people seemed in emails without realizing they were coming off so poorly. I'd love to hear some fixes for those who accidentally become totally different when writing them." - Nan, Admin Team Lead

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandi December 8, 2014 at 11:12 am

to dkees – it’s common courtesy. Something people don’t have much of these days.


Sandi November 12, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Don’t use emoticons. If you have to put a smiley face behind something it shouldn’t be said in the first place.


Karen November 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Keep the tone friendly by writing the way that you speak. If you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it.
Avoid overuse of all caps. It comes across as shouting.
Use proper grammar and punctuation.


Lisa - !! November 7, 2014 at 5:46 pm

A good tip is to always address the person(s) in the e-mail. You don’t necessarily have to use the person’s name but the following are good openers:

Good Morning,
Good Afternoon,
Dear ______,


dkees December 2, 2014 at 11:47 am

I hate it when people address me in the body of the email. That’s what the “to” field is for. When the sender adds my name before his message, it seems like he’s trying to handle or manipulate me. When the sender adds a greeting, it seems cutesy or, at best, a waste of time. Just get to the point.


Melissa S. November 6, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Put a brief subject in the subject line.
In the body of the email, stick to the point. Don’t ramble.
Use punctuation.
Don’t use all caps. It looks like you’re shouting.
Say “Thank you” when replying to someone that has helped you.
Use spell check. Words that aren’t spelled correctly appears like
you don’t care what type of impression you’re making.
Read the email back to yourself before sending. Make sure it makes sense.


Melodie Turk November 6, 2014 at 7:30 pm

I’ve read some great articles on email tips. Here are my favorite and what I use continually.
– Subject: Put what the request or action is in the subject, i.e. request to schedule a meeting, response needed on strategy meeting, or information only – update on data mobilization project.
– The A-B-C Email Quality Tool™—Make sure your email subject line is brief and specific, write a brief, warm greeting, and use the A-B-C method to split the email body into three sections—Action (summarizing the purpose), Background (presenting the key points), and Close (clarifying the next steps).



Kim November 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Since everyone is busy it is a good practice to write in clear, concise sentences so that the message is clear. Using bullet points is also a good way to clarify an email. I tend to be too “wordy” and will reread my email and delete the unnecessary portions that are not needed.


Tom Freemore November 6, 2014 at 4:36 pm

It seems strange, but when you write a short sentence in reply to an email and don’t end it with a period or question mark, it comes off as rude somehow, as if your time is so precious you cant even be bothered to finish your thought. I know lots of people who do this and it’s almost like they’re showing off how busy they are. Drives me nuts!

The other thing to be careful about is writing that you don’t know the answer to a question, and then not following it up with “I’ll find out” or at least “I’m not sure who to ask about that.” Just saying you don’t know in an email and ending the conversation tells me that you’ve given up and don’t want any more to do with it. Again, that comes off as a tiny bit rude.

Remember, it’s really hard to read intent in emails–always complete every single thought.


Mark November 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm

My only tip is to wait before sending an e-mail. I will admit I have typed e-mails that originally could be read as being rude, hostile, and/or impatient. Now what I do when I realize I am angry about the situation is to leave the e-mail in the “drafts” folder, and go back a few hours later and adjust it. By then I have calmed down, and the e-mail sticks to the point rather than going into lecture mode on how I think the situation should/could be.


Tom Freemore November 6, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Yeah, I like this. I have sent so many emails too quickly because I was anxious to defend myself. I should have waited so many times.


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