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Whether used for personal or business purposes, email is an important communication tool. Sending an email is ideal if you're trying to contact someone who's hard to reach by phone, or someone who lives in a different state or country. It's also ideal if you want to send a memo to a group of people, or if you need proof of communication. Email is a fairly new form of communication, and if you don't know how to write effective emails, miscommunication is inevitable. To avoid this, always identify your audience before writing an email. This can help you determine the right tone and level of formality appropriate for the message. After this, create a meaningful subject line, focused content, and an appropriate opening and closing. When done correctly, you can effectively get your message across.

Determine Who the Recipient Is

Whether you write a formal or informal email depends on who the recipient is. If you're writing an email to a close friend, you can use a casual tone, because the reader knows you. You can write words that you would normally use when talking to the recipient. Things like smiley faces and slang words are acceptable. However, if the recipient is a supervisor, your boss, or a stranger, a more formal tone is appropriate. Think of the way you would talk to this person, and ask yourself what kind of impression you want to make on him or her.

Think of an Effective Subject Line

Before even reading your email, the recipient will see the subject line. If your subject line doesn't appeal to the reader, or if your email doesn't have a subject line, it might not get noticed between all the other emails that the recipient gets. Even worse, if you're not in the recipient's address book, your email might end up being blocked by his or her spam-blocker. Professionals can get hundreds of emails a day, and if you want yours to get noticed, a clear subject that states what the email is about, is essential. Avoid using short subjects, such as "FYI," or "Hi." Tell the reader what your email is about. For instance, "Meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 5," or "Confirmation of Meeting Oct, 5… Will we need catering?" Try to be as specific as possible when writing subject lines.

Write Content that's Focused and Readable

When the recipient reads your catchy subject line and clicks on your email, you want to make sure that the text that follows is focused and easy to read. If it's not, your email might end up getting deleted. If you want the reader to respond to various questions, use bullets or numbers to clearly point out the parts that require a response, or ask the questions in separate emails. Avoid writing long blocks of text, because this can get boring and difficult to read. Also, avoid using large, bold, or fancy fonts, and always proofread and spell-check your text; typos can be perceived as lazy and sloppy by an employer or supervisor.

Use an Appropriate Opening and Closing

Using an opening and closing for your email is especially important when writing formal emails. It shows that you're making an effort and conveys respect for the reader. An example of a formal opening can be "Dear Mr. Jones," or if you don't know whether you're dealing with a male or female, you can write, "Dear Chris Jones." If you don't know the name of the recipient, "To whom it may concern," is appropriate. Formal email closings are similar to closings of business letters. Examples include "Sincerely," and "Respectfully yours."

Know When Email Isn't Appropriate

There are many mistakes you can make when writing and sending emails. In addition to making sure that the layout and content of your email are appropriate, you should also make sure that email is the right form of communication for the message that you're trying to send. If you have many things to discuss, a long, detailed email is not appropriate and can be confusing. Also, emails that contain a lot of emotionally charged verbiage are easily misunderstood; a face-to-face conversation might be better. Also, don't use email to convey confidential information, because even when you delete an email, it remains stored on the server and can be recovered by unauthorized parties. Time-sensitive information might also not be ideal to send through email, because the recipient might not open his or her email in time.

Careful thought and attention to detail can result in an effective email. The right tone of voice, an effective subject line, to-the-point content, and an appropriate greeting and sign-off can ensure that your message gets seen and read by the recipient. It can be the difference between getting the response you want and getting no response at all.