How to write more professional emails

Are your professional emails littered with ALL CAPS and gratuitous exclamation points? (You know who you are.)

If so, you’re probably doing it wrong—like really wrong.

Here are a few professional email rules that are useful when communicating with business folks across the board (#corporatepun).

1. Short and sweet.

The key here is to make your email as easy to read as possible. People hate long emails. Good rule of thumb? The more important a person is, the shorter their emails usually are. Ever get a long response from a CEO? Neither have I. So, write like they would write.

2. Don’t ask too many questions.

Too many questions is overwhelming. Make it easy for the person to respond. If you want them to get back to you, ask one question—maybe two.

3. Be friendly, but not too friendly.

Unless you’re selling Girl Scout cookies—and if you are, I’ll take 200 boxes of Thin Mints—don’t be too gushy. Being too nice can feel disingenuous. So don’t overdo it.

4. Exclaim sparingly.

“WHAT?!” you say. “Yes,” I say. One or two exclamation points is fine… maybe. But unless your contact just got married, won the lottery, and found out that all the Indiana Jones movies are on Amazon Prime—all in the same day—hold it on the exclamation points.

“WHY?!” you ask? “I’ll tell you,” I say. More exclamation points indicate more emotion, and in business, some emotion is good—maybe even refreshing—but displaying too much emotion is unsettling and not indicative of a steady business temperament. Which is why ALL CAPS (the typed equivalent of a shout) is a no go.

This sort of approach has worked well for me. But what about you? Have a few more tips and tricks? Would love to read them in the comments below!

How to declutter your inbox

You’ve been there, I’ve been there. Emails stacked up in your inbox like bodies in a Tarantino film.

But why—despite your many pledges to ‘leave no email behind’—does the unread badge of defeat tick ever upward? How can we put an end to this vicious cycle?

After years of pathetic email avoidance, I think I’ve found a way to kick the habit of the ungrateful unread forever. Here’s my 6-step plan that has been working so far.

1. Kill email subscriptions.

This one is a no-brainer. Unless you love receiving a newsletter, unsubscribe. Your inbox should be a land of opportunity, not dread.

2. Check your email at certain times—and only those times.

Studies show it can take a long time to recenter your chi (and refocus) after being interrupted. So don’t let every email that comes in interrupt you. Don’t divide your attention, ever. Kill the interruptions, turn on ‘Do not disturb’ and set aside times at which you’ll get to your inbox.

3. Write shorter emails.

Don’t be afraid to sound like a jerk—you won’t.

4. Always respond—even when you don’t have an answer.

If you don’t know how to answer a question or you need to think more before giving an in-depth response, just say so. A simple, “Thanks for this—will review closely and get back to you with my thoughts.” will work. Or my personal favorite: “Will circle back with the team and get back to you soon. Stay tuned!” Or…

5. Schedule a call.

If you find yourself avoiding responding to an email because of the amount of emotional or mental energy involved in writing a massive response, opt for a call. Use the points and/or questions you received in the email as an agenda for your call.

6. Be okay with saying no.

As a people pleaser this can be hard, but be honest. If you’re not interested, say thanks and that you’ll keep them in mind.

That’s what’s been working for me. But what about yourself? What email habits have you found to be helpful in slaying the hordes of email that assault your inbox every day?