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The Trick to Writing Great Emails

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So, you have an e-mail to send. You sit down in your computer chair, pull up your e-mail client – and stare at a blank screen. You know what you want to tell the person to whom you’re writing, but you have no idea how to phrase yourself, present your statements, convey your meaning in a medium that can be simultaneously impersonal and disarming. Luckily for you, there is a school of thought that teaches such authoring. Here’s the trick to writing great e-mails.


Like most forms of written communication, e-mail allows you to go into some depth in your writing; and like most forms of written communication, e-mail robs you of expressing yourself non-verbally. You might try to be witty or sarcastic, for example, but the other person might not recognize your intent because they’re not there to see the standard cues for levity: a smile, a raised tone of voice, a wink.

To write a good e-mail, it might be a good idea to eschew turns of phrases that carry the intention of lightheartedness, but run the risk of falling flat, being ignored, or miscommunicating your meaning. A great e-mail will simply state the point without being superfluous.

Give Yourself Time

When you’ve got something to e-mail, it’s tempting to simply sit down, hammer it out, and click ‘Send’. But unless you’ve got the greatest muse in history, it takes time to arrange your thoughts, and no piece of writing – whether it’s a novel or an e-mail – was decided on the first draft.

Give yourself plenty of time to sketch out one or two versions of the e-mail, adding something here, taking away something there. Save the nascent e-mail in your drafts folder, do something else, and then come back with a fresh perspective and a fresh pair of eyes to see how you can improve your e-mail to make it a great one.

Use Templates

When you’ve hit on a good formula e-mail to send out to clients and contacts, it’s not a bad idea to save the e-mail as a template. Lightning rarely strikes twice, and you may not have the time to try and come up with two great e-mails. You can, however, save the gist of your e-mail as a template; then, the next time you need to send out a similar e-mail, just call up the template.

Make sure, however, that you change relevant details – names, dates, etc. – on the template to match the contact and the context of your current message. A template is a great idea to write an e-mail, but too many opportunities (and even careers) have been ruined by sending out the wrong template to the wrong person.

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Average Joe
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