How to keep your emails looking professional in 2023
Time is more valuable than ever. Getting the full attention of our teams quickly matters. And we know that employee engagement is essential.
Email may have been with us since 1976 (when Queen Elizabeth sent an email on Arpnet, becoming the first head of state to use the new messaging tech’), and it’s true that it’s no longer always the best way to communicate with our people, but there’s no sign of it disappearing any time soon. Email probably only gets the most fleeting of mentions in your internal comms strategy, and that could be an oversight.
In fact, despite the advances in comms technology and the ever-growing portfolio of interactive platforms and tools at our disposal, email is still the immediate go-to for many, be they internal messages for our employees and colleagues, or external messages to customers or partners.
But just because they’re so quick and easy to send doesn’t mean they should be treated as throwaway or unimportant. On the contrary, some emails require very careful thought, planning and consideration.
Professional emails matter. They should be concise and clear, and free from any ambiguity. They need to be effective in their purpose and engaging to their audience. The writer should pay close attention to the content, tone of voice, formatting and look of their email.
Templates can be a great way forward if you want consistency and standardisation across a team of communicators and a wealth and breadth of messaging. Branding emails can also help with professionalism and uniformity – and not just with the obvious company branding for external emails. Depending on the size and scope of the organisation and the types of comms that are regularly issued, having branded headers for the different types of emailed comms can help with engagement. Health and safety updates, compliance and quality, employee wellbeing, performance updates, and HR news are just a few topics that could benefit from their own internal branding.
And, with a little creativity, the look and feel of these templates can be altered, whilst still reflecting your overall business branding, to reflect the tone or seriousness of the message. For example, you may want to use something a little more fun and a little brighter for employee recognition or social events news than is used for, say, compliance updates. Either way, a recognisable header will quickly become a beacon to your audience, announcing the theme of the message with a reassuring familiarity. (We have a few simple Apple and Microsoft templates as part of our free resources package that might get you started.)
A few other templates that might prove useful are:
Senior Leader updates;
welcome emails for new starters or new clients;
pitch or marketing emails;
customer complaint responses;
employee event announcements;
requests for feedback.
With these kinds of emails, consistency and professionalism really matter.
When it comes to writing professional emails, or indeed creating templates for professional emails, here are five top tips for getting it right:
1. Carefully consider the purpose and audience of the comms before typing a word
This is, of course, fundamental. What do you need to say and how do you want the audience to feel when they receive the email? Based on these questions, decide on the language, tone of voice, and format.
2. Set the tone of voice accordingly (and stick to it)
Of course, your overall tone of voice will be set by the business to ensure that it reflects your culture, vision, and values, but there will likely be some manoeuvrability within things like formality and use of humour.
3. Format the email appropriately
This one is often overlooked. As well as the need for sound grammar, good formatting can really help with the readability of emails. Short paragraphs, headings and bullet points, and unmissable and undeniable calls to action are your friends. Huge, dense and imposing blocks of text with cramped spacing are not.
4. Keep it brief and keep it simple
As per my opening gambit above, time is tight. Focus your email on the key points. Keep any introduction or background brief and restrict it to the necessary. Get to the point as early as is appropriate by writing concisely and confidently. Also, keep your language simple. Overly complex language rarely makes you sound smart or professional. It’s not about “dumbing down” (a phrase we really dislike here at Guru HQ), but it is about using everyday language so that all of your intended audience will fully understand what you have to say.
5. Check and proofread your email carefully
Many of us have gaps in our grammar knowledge, and it’s true to say that we don’t always know what we don’t know. Typos are also easily made, especially in haste. Use a second pair of eyes or some suitable software to check what you’ve written before sending it. Depending on the timeframe available to you, stepping away from your comms for a while to do something else, before returning to it and re-reading it afresh can also help - you may suddenly find a cleaner, kinder, or simpler way of phrasing something.
We’re never going to pretend that email is the future of business communication. But neither is it confined to the past. Making email a successful part of your internal comms is fundamental to that strategy. In a world where many of us have inboxes overflowing with a mix of junk and essential messages, it makes sense to format and brand those key business emails so that they stand out and get their points across.