I teach students how to write an e-mail by using sample e-mails for our Daily Oral Language (or Daily Language Learning) assignments. I pass out a page on which I have a sample e-mail with errors, then I have my students use proofreading symbols to fix the mistakes.
Next week I’ll post a sample e-mail (an imaginary one) that’s from a hotel manager to Katy Perry. Kids love that one! The correct e-mail is found right here, on my e-mail tips page, so if you choose to use the sample e-mail in your classroom, you’ll have the answers.
Anyway, these are the nine tips to writing successful e-mails, as I have them posted on this website:
- When creating a subject heading (the RE box), follow the rules of title capitalization for business e-mails, but capitalize using sentence guidelines for personal e-mails. Putting a subject heading in ALL CAP is a red flag; people will think your message is spam (junk mail) and delete it without reading it. Never put your subject heading in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. It looks like you’re screaming!
- Make sure the topic listed in the subject heading matches the content of the e-mail.
- Never use TAB to indent the paragraphs of an e-mail. In some e-mail programs, this will move your cursor up to the heading options. So leave paragraphs flush against the margin, but skip one line between paragraphs.
- E-mail programs usually only allow single spacing. Double spacing is not an option.
- E-mails should avoid texting language. Take the time to type out the words.
- If you’re replying to an e-mail in which someone asked a question, remind them of the question before providing them with your answer. If you only supply them with an answer to their question, they may have forgotten the question by the time you reply.
- If you’re the first person to send an e-mail, it’s important to include a greeting and closing. Once the first e-mail has been sent, however, it’s okay to leave out the greeting and closing in your replies (although this is somewhat informal). It’s also okay to include a greeting and closing (especially if you wish to keep your correspondences more formal).
- The greeting of an e-mail is the part where you say, Dear so-and-so. Begin all formal e-mails with a greeting, and capitalize the first word of your greeting. The greeting of an e-mail should be followed by a comma.
- At the end of your e-mail, skip one line between the final paragraph and the closing. Capitalize the first word of the closing, and follow the closing statement with a comma. Then drop down one line (in other words, don’t double-space) to type your name. In formal e-mails, include your first and last name.