As frustrating and as unfair as it is, being taken seriously as a woman at work can be a real challenge. Boosting your email writing skills is a great way to establish yourself as a professional and show everyone you mean business. Here are six professional email writing skills all women need to know (and use) to succeed and rank up in the workplace.
1. Makeover Your Subject Lines
First of all, let’s talk about how important it is to HAVE a subject line. If you send an important email without a subject line to a colleague, client, or potential employer, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll end up in their trash folder.
The subject line essentially lets the recipient know why they need to open your email. No subject line? No reason for them to open it.
Stick with something concise and relevant when you’re trying to decide what your subject line should be.
Good Subject Lines:
- Business Manager Application- Sarah Johnson
- Question About Social Media Audit
- Interview Follow Up- Racheal Jones
Bad Subject Lines:
- (no subject)
- DID YOU GET MY LAST EMAIL???
- Hi 🙂
Remember: The goal is for your email to be noticed and opened. If your subject line is too vague or too long, the recipient may ignore the email, or it might get lost in their inbox.
2. Use A Professional Email Address
Most companies you work for will give you an email address with their domain name. It’ll typically look something like this: firstname.lastname@example.org. In that case, you don’t need to worry about whether or not your email address is professional or appropriate.
If you work for yourself or if you’re applying for jobs, you’ll probably need to use a personal email address. It’s super important to make sure the email address you choose is professional. Here are a few fool-proof formulas you can use:
Don’t use the cutesy email you created in middle school for sending professional emails. If you do, you’ll come across as inexperienced or immature, and that’s not a good look in the working world. In most cases, an email from email@example.com is much more likely to be opened and taken seriously than an email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Speaking from firsthand experience, there’s nothing more embarrassing than sending an email to your boss or a potential employer, and looking back to see it was full of spelling or grammar mistakes. Sometimes it’s tempting to type out a quick email or reply and send it right off, especially if it’s about something urgent. It’s so important to re-read your emails before you hit send, though.
Here are a few things you should always check before sending an email:
- Did you spell the recipient’s name correctly?
- Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes?
- Will the recipient understand what you’re telling them or asking them?
- Did you attach any necessary files or photos?
- Does the email flow well, or is it choppy and a little all over the place?
If you want to be sure your email is up to par, you can run it through a grammar-checking software like Grammarly to find and fix any errors.
4. Be Polite
Just because you’re not talking to someone face-to-face doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice common courtesy. This is especially important if you’re applying for a job, asking a colleague for something, or messaging someone you don’t know very well. Here are a few phrases you can include in your emails:
- Thank you for getting back to me.
- How are you doing? / I hope you’re doing well.
- I look forward to hearing from you soon.
As a general rule, you should try to be as polite as possible (without groveling or sounding too insincere) in your professional emails. You don’t need to overdo it with pleasantries and thank yous like we’re sometimes taught to do as women, but your tone must be courteous.
5. Cut Out The Unnecessary Punctuation (And Emojis)
If you end every sentence in your email with two or three exclamation points, the recipient is going to think one of a few things:
- You’re yelling at them.
- You’re WAY too excited about some work task that isn’t that exciting.
- Your keyboard is broken.
There is a place and time for those exclamation points. If you’re congratulating your team or a colleague on a big win, go ahead and show your enthusiasm! Use them sparingly, though, and make sure you still sound professional.
As far as emojis go, they don’t belong in professional emails. If you’re sprinkling a serious work email with smiley faces and hearts, you probably will not be taken as seriously as you’d like to be. Granted, some more laidback workplaces make use of emojis (appropriately) in their email jargon. It’s usually best to just leave them out, though.
6. Be Direct
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need or give your feedback when it’s appropriate. Women are often taught and encouraged to be shy and apologetic— don’t buy into that. You don’t need to be cold, but you do need to make sure you’re effectively getting your point across.
- Instead of: If it’s not too much trouble, could you please send me the notes from yesterday’s meeting? I don’t want to inconvenience you, but I really need them.
- Say: Please send me the notes from yesterday’s meeting. Thanks in advance!
- Instead of: Is there a time that works for you to meet and talk about this spreadsheet? I promise I won’t take too much of your time!
- Say: Can we briefly meet this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. or tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. to discuss this spreadsheet?
- Instead of: I’m so sorry to bother you, but I need that invoice signed. Is there any way you can sign it for me? Again, sorry to bother you!
- Say: Please sign the invoice and return it to me by EOD on August 5. Let me know if you have any questions— thanks.
If you’re writing an email to a potential employer or interviewer, here’s a great post about how to pitch your skills directly and concisely.
Conclusion: You Can Pick Up Professional Email Writing Skills
If you spend a little time polishing your professional email skills, your colleagues and superiors will notice and will likely respect you even more than they already do. Of course, there are other hurdles women often have to overcome in the workplace to be taken seriously, but honing your email skills is a great place to start when you want to be respected and treated as an equal. Check out this post for more tips on improving your professional skills.