How to Improve Informal Writing in Business Emails
Chances are, you have had a lot of experience or contact with business writing: compiling expense or business reports, writing up contracts, and crafting proposals. Whether you work for yourself or for a small or large business, many aspects of your job will involve writing. When most people think about "business writing," they probably think of the type of writing I listed above -- more formal, structured types of pre-planned writing. But there is another type of business writing that many of us do on a day-to-day basis, and while this writing type applies to everyone, doing it well is especially important to those who work in small businesses.
This type of business writing is what I call “informal” business writing. Some types of informal business writing are writing short memos and interacting with customers and clients through emails (or even text messages, depending on what kind of business you’re in). Email is often thought of as a less formal type of communication anyway, but this type of thinking can be detrimental to your success if you aren’t paying attention to what you’re writing.
Business Email Etiquette
Have you ever received a “bad” business email? One that just didn’t impress you very much, or that didn’t seem very professional? If you have, what did you think about the person who sent it?
Professionalism in emails is especially important if you’re interacting with clients: potential leads, established leads, established customers, even colleagues. It’s essential to remember that any email you send represents you and your business persona. So, if you send a sloppy or half-dashed email, it can really damage your reputation in the eyes of your clients and those most valuable leads.
First Impressions Are Everything
I have experienced this firsthand as I plan my wedding. I have contacted countless vendors for quotes, or to find out availability, or just to learn more about what they offer. I was very surprised to see the number of emails I received in return that were full of errors, spelling mistakes, awkward run-on sentences, and missing capitalization on words. Many such emails were clearly typed up on a mobile phone, which isn’t the issue – the issue is that the responder was obviously not paying attention to the email. This caused me – as a potential new client – to pause and think, “Well, if they are only giving me half their attention and we haven’t even started any work, what else might they miss if I become a client?”
First impressions are everything in attracting new clients, and if you flub it, clients will find someone who gives them the full attention they need. In my own experience, there were many, many vendors I decided not to do business with because I felt they did not value my business and time enough to give me their full attention by responding with a carefully written response.
Key Points for Good Email Communication
While it’s easy to think of email as a less important tool in your business kit, remember that email is often the first chance clients get to actually speak with you as a representative of the company. Hence, it’s important to give the best first impression you can. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Think about what you want to say before you start typing. If you organize your thoughts before you start writing, then that thoughtfulness will show through in your writing.
- Avoid using terms the client may not be familiar with, and if you do need to use industry terms, consider including a brief description in brackets following the word for the client’s benefit.
- If you’re typing on a mobile phone, type slower than you might otherwise want to. This helps to avoid embarrassing or confusing autocorrect mishaps!
- Read over what you’ve written. It’s much easier to make errors as you type on phone keyboards, and many phones won’t autocorrect the same types of mistakes that a desktop word processing program would. Make sure the first word of every sentence is capitalized, that contractions have the necessary apostrophes (dont vs. don’t, for example, is a common error that many phones will miss), and that you don’t have any run-on sentences.
- Be direct – if the client has asked a question, answer it as clearly as possible. Avoid burying the answer in a paragraph of vaguely unrelated text, where the client will have to work to find it.
Once Communication Is Established
Once you’ve made contact with your new client and have an email repertoire underway, continue to check your writing – the usage section of our blog is full of tips and advice that will help you polish your writing even more. Ongoing relationships are built on good communications. What better place to start than with a professional, courteous email each and every time?