Writing professional emails

Clarify the ‘who’ and the ‘why’

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal. People know me. I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.” – the immortal Ron Burgundy in ‘Anchor Man’.

Unfortunately, we don’t all take centre stage in the minds of the person we’re contacting, even if we’ve met them before. Take a couple of lines to introduce yourself, and be clear as to your purpose for writing. Include a straightforward subject line i.e. “Follow-up from x event”. Make it easy for your contact to rapidly connect the dots as to why they know you, which will increase your chances of receiving a considered and useful response.

Proof read. Then repeat

This isn’t a quick skim job. Any spelling and grammar errors instantly erode credibility. Reading your message out loud and word-for-word ensures it will flow well and that any mistakes are detected i.e. tense, missing words or typos. If it’s an important email then draft it up, and put it aside for half an hour before reviewing again.

Don’t be tone deaf

Keep your tone warm but professional (i.e no emojis, text type speak) then take your cue from the reply. If you receive a relaxed, conversational type response then feel free to adapt.

Keep in mind also that many conversation nuances are lost in text format so be wary of humour, sarcasm or any other subtleties in case it’s misinterpreted as being overly familiar, rude or plain confusing.

The follow-up

After a meeting or conversation, stay on the radar by sending a quick email thanking the contact for their time and summarising key outcomes or next steps. Keep up-to-date on their company’s activities through signing up for newsletters or reading corporate press releases to lend more insight and context to future correspondence. Makes you sound good, makes them feel important.

Also ensure that you’re a man (or woman) of your word and follow through when promised. If you indicate that they should expect a follow-up or document by a certain time, stick to your deadlines. If something comes up to prevent this happening, then take the time to provide this update.