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Friday, August 17, 2012

Your E-mail Can Look Better on the Screen

Fast-typing e-mail writers enjoy the speed of creating e-mails.  I don't blame them. I like the wind in my hair when I type fast, too.

However, e-mails that are written hurriedly are not just prone to have style mistakes in them. They often look skimpy and scattered, are indented oddly, and manifest a great unawareness of basic principles of symmetry.

When crafting an e-mail message, remember that how it looks to you may not matter, but it might matter quite a lot to the reader. Many a reader may indeed draw conclusions about your work habits, and determine that your lack of awareness of how to present an e-mail reflects a greater leaning towards amateurish habits than professional ones.

Take a few minutes and reconsider your e-mail format:

1.  No need to indent in an e-mail.  Flush all copy left.  This design looks best, especially for short sentences.

2.  Double space between paragraphs.  Single space inside of paragraphs.

3.  Include a salutation if you believe that other people like reading their own name.  Tip:  99% of people do.  Almost as important, when you type someone's name, you remind yourself who the reader is, and just maintaining that stance will help you include content that is needed--not just what you feel like typing.

4.  If you decide to add a complimentary close (that means, add a Yours truly or Best regards), remember that only the first word is capped.   The words that follow are lower case.

5.  Build a signature block. If your return address does not clearly spell out who you are, you truly need this piece of information.   Additionally a signature block makes the image of the e-mail on the screen look more professional.

6.  To punctuate or not to punctuate?  There is a growing tendency to leave off punctuation marks in e-mails.  How do you know when you should?  I punctuate until I see the preferences of a my correspondent/colleague, and then I mirror that choice.  If your reader is an editor or an English teacher, punctuate.

7.  Change out the words in the subject line to reflect the current content of the message.  Don't just let the old header serve.  The reason?  If someone ever needs to find an old e-mail that documents a discussion of a specific topic, it is easier to locate that e-mail by subject than to track it through dates.

Does craftsmanship matter when speed is foremost in your mind? You may not think so, but your reader will.   A better looking e-mail is one that will invite your reader to keep reading.  Whatever your view about style, you want that, don't you?


  1. I must say this information has helped me with my work emails. Flushing my paragraphs to the left was the first change I incorporated. I also use a signature block in all of my emails for that professional look. I punctuate and capitalize in all of my emails, I guess old habits are hard to break. Readers of emails form opinions about the writer and it is important to make that good first impression.

    1. Thanks for these encouraging words, Mr. Bates.

  2. Tracy McDown, Section WI4October 17, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    This topic was very informative to me when creating workplace emails. I use email very often at work because I work in customer service. Some of the communication I do is on the telephone but most is in the email format. A helpful tip I was not aware of but will remember thanks to your great posting was in the complimentary close I should not capitalize the second word. This posting was very informative and very helpful for me.

  3. Work emails, for me, are usually short and simple. There are times however that I have to send a proposal through email. With this class, I have leared certain things on email that I had never really thought of before. Keeping my left margin flush and then double spacing to the next paragraph are a couple of area that I have spent more time correcting.

  4. This information regarding business emails was very informative and helpful. Like Kenny Hudson said, I prefer business emails to be short and precise, in other words "straight to the point." Even though business emails are direct and formal, I have learnt that I still need to be aware of how I present the email to another employee because presentation reflects the kind of person I am and want to be perceived as within the workplace.

  5. This information has been very benefical to me, especially in your class. It is very important to keep the email short and precise. A long written email can bore the reader.I plan to use this information in the workplace. Thanks for the helpful post.

  6. This topic on e-mails has been very helpful to me. Throughout this semester, I have learned so much about e-mails. I never knew that it was so important to structure your e-mail a certain way depending on your reader. When I am sending e-mails, I tend to type really fast. In the past, my only objective was to get my point across and ignore the rest. However, I no longer have that mentality. Every day I am improving my e-mails by structuring them in a more professional manner.

    Shelecia Parker
    WI4 B&P

  7. This is a very informative post. This article helps me to be more professional in writing emails to my coworkers. Thanks for creating it.

  8. Kayleigh Richardson (W17)March 22, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    This was a great reminder for myself about how my emails are constructed. Emails are so commonly used in the business world, so it is important to make sure it is correctly formatted and has a professional appearance. These reminders are vital for writing effective and readable emails.

  9. Amanda Moss - WI7March 19, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    I agree that it's very important to pay attention to the structure and format of your e-mails. There are times when the focus tends to be on the message instead of the format of the e-mail. I understand that. However, when I've received e-mails that are totally devoid of punctuation and poorly written, I tend to view the individuals who sent them as careless or lazy. I never want anyone to view me in that same manner. Therefore, whether I am e-mailing a friend or my boss, I pay equal amounts of attention to the e-mails I send.