The 7 golden rules of email writing

Did you know that email is a great productivity tool? You can be forgiven if you don’t. The average email onslaught on the inbox is enormous. At the same time, writing emails costs a lot of productive time. Nevertheless, if you use email in the right way, you will find you will get more done in less time. Abiding by the Seven Golden Rules of email writing will give you an advantage. It improves your time management; you will spend less time writing emails and your emails will be better read and actioned!


1) Stop and Think!

What do you want to achieve with your email? Can you do without? A phone call or quick personal conversation can be more effective, especially if the matter isn’t straightforward. You will have more influence on others if you choose the best way to communicate. Sometimes that is email.

2) Use the ‘Subject’ line effectively

Use a proper subject line. Try to stick to maximum ten words and CAPITALISE the main point. If you write external to your organisation, include your organisation’s name. This makes it easier for the recipient to find archived emails.

Change the subject line if the subject changes when you reply to a message! This makes it so much easier to find the right email back, saving you a lot of time down the track. It also makes more sense to the recipient.

Use the words IMPORTANT and URGENT (and the red ‘urgent’ exclamation mark) sparingly. Only use them if you are sure the recipients will find the message important or urgent too.

3) KIS – Keep It Simple

Be concise and specific. Nobody likes to read long emails. Make short sentences and paragraphs. Bullet points are great. Use active short and sharp writing; instead of ’70 outlets were visited by the sales team and 4 new accounts were generated’; write ‘The sales team visited 70 outlets and generated 4 new accounts’.

4) What is your point?

Make sure that you make a clear point in the email. You are writing because you wanted to achieve something. Do you want them to action something? Is it clear what exactly and by when? No ambiguity!

5) Check, check, check

Use spell check and read over your email before sending! Double, triple check the recipient list.

6) Mind your language

Written language misses the intonation and body language of spoken word. It comes across much harsher. Be gentle and professional.

Assume everyone should be able to read the email: email is not private! Mostly IT administrators have access to emails within the organisation. Sometimes you accidentally send an email to the wrong person. There are hackers, malicious criminals etc.

Do not use txt message or instant message spellings and symbols in professional emails (smileys, LOL etc.) – again, keep your reader in mind.

7) Leave it alone!

For your own sanity and productivity: only check your emails a few times a day: do not reply to all emails instantly. Plan your day and plan your email time as part of your overall priorities. Is this email more important than the report you need to have finished by 5pm?

Do these rules resonate with you? Do you already apply them or do you think you have better ways to tame the ’email beast’? Let us know by leaving a comment or question.
Peter Munnik
If you want to learn more tips and tricks on email writing and other business writing, attend our Business Writing Courses.

For help with time management and taming the ’email beast’, we recommend our Time Management training.
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