Efficient emails are the bread and butter of workplace communications and are key to representing your best self professionally, so it’s hard to believe it’s only 21 years since the technology was rolled out to the masses. Although, that is a lifetime for some of us!
Our familiarity with casual networking on platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram can lull us into thinking that emails can be flighty and informal. There is often confusion as to how to write an effective email; one that is accurate, efficient, conversational and polite.
After all, the traditional business letter seems a tad stuffy for today’s professionals. However, the basics of business communication still merit your attention. Here are our tips for striking that balance and bringing your best self to your emails:
Get the tone right
It seems obvious to say, but with any form of written communication your words have to convey your truest intent. You’re not there in person to make sure your message is understood as you intended. So, avoid jokes you think will make you seem cheeky and funny.
- Be polite – ask, don’t demand
- Keep your tone semi-formal. Not so stuffy that it loses the conversational voice, but not matey either.
- Never use slang or swear words (some company systems pick up on inappropriate language)
Write a meaningful subject line
More than a quarter of the working day is spent dealing with emails and ‘It takes 64 seconds to recover from an email interruption’². A good subject line should work like a newspaper headline: tell the reader what it’s about and helps them decide if they need to read it right there and then.
- Keep it succinct and informative
- Use a few words instead of one, but not a sentence – lose joining words: and, also etc.
‘Networking Function – 6pm Soho House’
‘Charity Fun Run’
‘Stella McCartney Sample Sale’
‘Undergraduate Fashion Fair’
Greet with care
It’s important to start your email politely and respectfully, so begin with an appropriate greeting. Would you walk up to a colleague and just break out into conversation without first saying hello? Exactly! The same rule applies to email.
- Always start an opening email with a greeting, use ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ plus the person’s first name
- Use ‘Dear’ plus the person’s title and surname when your email has to be particularly formal (These occasions don’t happen often but it’s still good to know)
- Make sure you’ve spelt their name correctly
The sign off
Deciding how to finish off an email can leave you in a state of dithering confusion. Is it ‘Yours sincerely’, ‘Yours faithfully’ or maybe just ‘Bye’? This depends on purpose and context and who your audience is. Remember you’re here to be your best, most professional self, so avoid words like ‘Bye’, ‘See you’ or anything similar. Keep it simple and polite.
- ‘Many thanks’ seems to the most popular in the fashion industry
- ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Regards’ also work well
- Use ‘Yours sincerely’ for very formal emails that start with a greeting like ‘Dear Mr. Wilson’
The body of your email
Emails rule the workplace because they offer an efficiency that can’t be matched by an old-fashioned letter. So, don’t undermine that efficiency by writing overlong, complicated messages.
- Keep sentences short and to the point
- Stay on topic
- Break up key points into paragraphs
- Use headings to highlight main ideas
- Use bullet points or numbers to list and highlight important information
Be careful with that exclamation!
We know it’s your dream job, but don’t overuse the ever-controversial punctuation mark to draw attention. Too many, and the person on the receiving end will feel they’re being shouted at. Needless to say, that isn’t cute, your best self would not approve.
- Use exclamation marks positively to express excitement, not as red alerts
- Use them rarely
Don’t be too quick to click the ‘send’ button. A few minutes spent proofreading and checking your email for mistakes could do wonders for your professional reputation. Be sure to check the following:
- Your message accurately conveys what you want to say
- You’ve written complete sentences
- You haven’t made any spelling mistakes
- Your message is properly punctuated
- Your sentences are grammatically correct
- Download Grammarly to your web browser and all your spellcheck nightmares will become a thing of the past!
- Set up the recall function in your email. It’s perfect for the times you send an email by mistake. We’ve all done it!
So, whether you’re a fashion assistant, fashion intern or fashion graduate, the next time you sit down to write a business email consider this: Who are you writing to? What is the purpose of the email? How can you best express yourself? But most of all, remember to check before you send and avoid silly mistakes that will make you look unprofessional.
Words by Pearl Singer