• Daiane Publio Dias

4 reasons why your emails are bad

According to Harvard Business Review, the average professional spends 28% of work day reading and answering emails. (1) With endless emails in your inbox, it is hard to craft a well-written message that will not give rise to misunderstandings. Although it seems to be a difficult task, once you notice the mistakes you make, you will improve your writing, avoid communication breakdown and being perceived as unprofessional. Here is 4 reasons why your #emails are bad and how to change it.

1. Your subject lines are unclear. From a plain question to an insulting deadline, subject lines are often taken for granted as if the recipient has the power of reading minds. The subject line should be short and straightforward, giving specific information about the content of your message. For example: you have to reschedule a sales meeting. Do not hit send with a vague sales meeting as the subject line or you might put your plans at risk as your contact (who is undoubtedly as busy as you are) may ignore your email. Be clearer: sales meeting update. Avoid subject lines such as question, deadline, info, contract, etc. They are imprecise and not professional.

2. You flag every email as urgent or high important. This should be used for messages that do require urgent attention or action. However, some professionals think their messages are always urgent - this is a matter of poor emotional intelligence, but we will not delve into this topic. If your message simply requires a response but is not urgent, state it on the subject line: response required. Otherwise, be respectful and do not alarm people unnecessarily. You might lose your #credibility.

3. You write long emails. Some people unconsciously see an email as a chance of displaying their literary skills. Repeat the mantra: #concision is key. Explore language devices as noun phrases (2) for concision. For example: instead of writing products made from plastic, write plastic products; or instead of grants awarded by the government, write government grants. (3) This saves time and allows for short and accurate #communication. If you cannot help but play the Shakespeare of business emails, organize your ideas into bullet points and strive for the use of simple words, e.g. break instead of violate, show instead of demonstrate, (4) whilst bearing register in mind: to whom are you writing? A colleague or a potential business partner?

4. You do not revise. As if you were not busy enough. However, spelling mistakes impact how the reader perceives you and evaluates the importance of your message. Your overlooked mistakes tell the reader who you are: Attentive? Careless? Uneducated? Avoid embarrassing yourself and read your message carefully before hitting send. Strive for quality in communication.

Writing emails is time-consuming and stressful. You can get rid of this never-ending ordeal with my online course on writing business emails. This course is aimed at English non-native and native speakers who have to write emails every day but find it hard.

Written by Daiane Publio Dias

(1) https://hbr.org/2019/01/how-to-spend-way-less-time-on-email-every-day

(2) Noun phrases are a combination of nouns, in which a noun can modify another noun by acting like an adjective (e.g. vegetable garden = a garden where vegetables are grown; garden vegetable = vegetable grown in a garden, etc.)

(3) Paterson K. and Wedge R. Oxford Grammar for EAP. Oxford University Press. 2013

(4) The Economist Style Guide - 11th Edition. Published by Profile Books Ltd. 2015


My name is Daiane Publio Dias, and I help professionals, scientists and scholars create outstanding presentations and speak English flawlessly in a globalized world.