Ten ways to use email effectively

A marketeer works on her email marketnig campaign

Email is still the default communication tool for many businesses. Sending an email is quick, simple and cheap. But it can present all manner of pitfalls, from bad impressions created by sloppy grammar to problems caused by hitting 'Send' before thinking your message through or checking you have the right recipients. Here are ten tips to help you use email more effectively

  1. Keep your emails brief. It's more difficult to read from a screen than from a printed document, so use short paragraphs and bullet points to break up text and highlight key points. Use a clear title in the subject line and don't resort to capital letters for emphasis - this can appear rude, or as though you're shouting.
  2. Know your audience. Corresponding with customers probably requires a more formal tone than emailing colleagues. If in doubt, avoid using over-familiar terms of address, and steer clear of text-speak and symbols that look like facial expressions - both can come across as unprofessional.
  3. Proof-read your emails. Emails with spelling mistakes or lazy grammar make your business look slapdash, and bad punctuation can make messages difficult to read. Re-reading as if you are the recipient will help you send a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings.
  4. Avoid sending unnecessary attachments. These tend to annoy recipients and clog up inboxes. If you have large or multiple files to send, compress or 'zip' them. Avoid passing on viruses by making sure you have up-to-date security software.
  5. Respond to emails swiftly. With important mail, send a brief acknowledgement ahead of a full response. Avoid flagging your own mail as 'Urgent' or requesting 'Read' receipts unless absolutely necessary.
  6. Stop and think before you press 'Send'. Never send an email in anger and don't send anything that you wouldn't be comfortable seeing published - emails do not always end up where you intend them to go. Remember, it may be more appropriate to speak on the phone or in person.
  7. Don't pass on junk mail. Spam is never welcome so it's best to delete junk email.
  8. Blind copy with care. Try not to get into the habit of concealing recipients from one another for deceptive reasons using the 'blind copy' (bcc) facility - it is underhand and could harm your business relationships. On the other hand, you should use blind copy if you are sending a message to a number of people who don't know each other and would appreciate having their email addresses kept private or where you do not have permission to share your contacts' email addresses.
  9. Use a clear, concise email signature. Record your name, job title, company address, website and contact details at the bottom of your emails to look serious and professional. Keep layout simple and don't use fancy fonts, colours or graphics - these can look unprofessional.
  10. Consider a disclaimer. Adding a disclaimer to the end of your emails may protect your business from liability if your employees make defamatory statements in messages.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.