The Secret to Writing an Email: Part I

Posted on: May 13, 2014

Here’s the secret to writing an email. It’s not as simple as you’d think!

I know writing emails seems pretty basic—doesn’t it?

You’d think so, but from what I’ve seen, there are a LOT of people who don’t know how to write emails.

This is the basic format of the ones I see:


REASON FOR EMAILING: I wanted to check in about your new product development.

QUESTIONS/CALL TO ACTION: When can I get a sample?


While keeping things short and snappy may work for around-the-office questions and memos, when emailing a client, it can sound just plain rude.

Why does this come off as rude? In person, making a quick request or demand can be balanced out by a friendly tone, body language, eye contact, and a smile. But in an email, your recipient only has the words you type from which to cypher your meaning.

1. Make it Personal

The tricky thing is that when we write emails, there are straightforward things we’re trying to get out of it, whether it’s an answer to a question, a task completed, or just attention to the topic at hand.

It’s tempting to just dump everything you need out of the person into a few sentences and hit send. But I’m going to share a secret with you: I do that all the time.

Except, before I hit send, I go back to the beginning of the email. I’ll add in a sentence or two with a personal comment or a wish of goodwill—something that reminds both myself and the person I’m writing to that we’re real people, and it’s okay to be nice about it!

2. Make it Perfect

Next, I carefully comb through the sentences that follow. Do they make sense? Is my grammar correct? Am I clear about how I want the recipient to respond?

3. Make it Actionable

Finally, I take a look at the close of the email. When possible, I’ll add in a friendly send-off, even something as simple as, “Looking forward to hearing back from you soon!” which actually functions as a call to action, while still sounding kind.

4. Use the Right Voice.

Always remember to take your relationship with the recipient into account. Don’t be too cutesy when emailing a new client for the first time, and don’t be too formal when emailing someone you’ve known for 10 years. As your personal relationship evolves, your technological relationship should too.

So, what’s the secret to writing an email?

Remember, you’re not in the same room, so body language, eye contact, and tone of voice won’t do anything to help convey your meaning.

So ultimately, you have to write every email twice.

The first time, you get out all the questions/issues you need to address. The second time, you make it sound nice, as though you’re a real human taking time to contact another real human.

How do you write emails? Share your strategy below!