Whether you use e-mail, an internal messaging service, a professionally focused social media platform or any other communication service, there are some consistent considerations to keep in mind when you craft a message:
Is this the right medium?
E-mail is not always the best fit. For example, If you’re sending a quick message to a colleague, an internal messaging service might be your best bet. In this instance, an e-mail can create a feeling of formality when there is no need, wasting the time and energy of those involved.
Listing the recipients
I’ve learned to wait until everything is complete before I add the intended recipients. While some services have an ‘undo’ option available for a few heartbeats after you hit send. However, a mistake may not always be caught that quickly. When using LinkedIn, I am more likely to compose the message elsewhere to reduce the chances of accidentally sending an incomplete message.
How to say hello
Is this your first time engaging with someone? If so, honorifics such as Mr/Mrs, or Dr, preceding the last name are a safe bet. Otherwise it is typically ok to use first names in business. For a hint, you can look at how the recipient signs their own messages.
The subject line
A short and clear subject will help the recipient understand the content of the message, giving them an idea of when they might need to devote time to engage with it. A subject line will also help to alleviate any fears of a virus or spam. While some services don’t give you space for a subject, consider if adding it at the top of your message would benefit the recipient without scaring them away. Some examples of a good subject line are “Articles for review”, “(Name) Meeting Follow-up” or “Request for Access to…..”. These are simple, clear and specific, especially if they are sent in a time that is relevant to the discussion. Some examples of bad subject lines are “Question for you”, “Re:re:re: etc…” or no subject line at all. These vague descriptions will most likely create frustration and at the least will not speed up the response time.
Keep it simple. Short and clear is ideal for everyone involved, regardless of the platform. If a message is too long, or the words don’t suit the technical or linguistic fluency of the recipient, then the message may get lost or misunderstood. Keeping it simple also helps as most people are probably juggling a few things at once, and any messages that aren’t clear will often lead to frustration, as well as create a back-and-forth to figure out the disconnect.
It is a lot easier to engage with others when an effort is made to be polite and friendly. Most people value kindness and demonstrations of respect, especially when they’re being asked for something. If they feel you’ve been rude you might not get what you’re after, or at the least it will probably take a lot longer. One thing you might consider is If you’ve had previous conversations with the recipient. Did they mention an important upcoming personal or professional occasion? Consider referencing the conversation and offering appropriate salutations.
As for the structure of your message, start by giving an indication of the message in the first sentence, building off what you said in the subject. This will set your recipient up to be in the right frame-of-mind. Following this, you can include the relevant details before ending the message with a clear statement of what comes next, or what needs to be done. If there is a task handed out, you should include a clear deadline. Using expressions such as ‘could you…’ or ‘I would appreciate if….’ will help maintain the tone of your message.
Do you have any attachments? Add them now and make sure to reference them in your message. Depending on the platform you use, its algorithms may pick up on any mention of an attachment and will remind you to add them before it sends. You should also consider the names of the fields you’re attaching so that the recipients can easily identify them.
When you’ve finished writing, read through it again and see how many words you can remove without corrupting your message. Following this, try spell check or a free app such as Grammarly to help with everything from spelling, to punctuation, to the differences between American and British English. That said, don’t rely on these tools to catch everything, reading your message out-loud will also help catch mistakes that can otherwise, easily be passed over. For an even more efficient approach, get someone else to read through your message too.
Ending your message in a polite way is common. Endings preceding your name, such as ‘regards’ and ‘best wishes’ are often used. ‘Regards’ can be further tailored with ‘warm’ or ‘kind’ being added before it, depending on the context.
Now that you’ve reached this point you should feel confident enough to add your recipients and, upon checking to make sure their contact information is correct, you can hit send!
Algorithm created responses
More and more platforms use algorithms to predict what you might say. Similar to autocorrect on a phone, these algorithms typically display suggested sentences or phrases. They tend to appear when an email contains only a short question, or when predicting the end of your sentence. While I occasionally use the algorithm to finish a sentence I avoid using the suggested message responses. I find that crafting my own response helps give me a better feeling of control in regards to the tone of my message.
When working with people in various cultures, some of the tips on this list may need to be adapted. Knowing a bit of the language can go a long-way in helping create a friendly and polite dialogue with your recipients. If you’re interested in learning a language, we offer over 50 different language courses at a variety of levels.
Hi, I’m the author, Paul. How did you find this article? Was it helpful or missing anything? We would love to hear from you!