Improve Your Email Writing Skills by Asking 3 Basic Questions

Scott SummersWriting Guidance

An email surrounded by pencils, papers, and social media tools underlined with the words, "Improve Your Email Writing Skills by Asking 3 Basic Questions".
An email surrounded by pencils, papers, and social media tools underlined with the words, "Improve Your Email Writing Skills by Asking 3 Basic Questions".

It’s never too late to improve your email writing skills. Ask yourself a few basic questions before you get started!

Whether you’re composing a client outreach email or responding to a coworker, strong email writing skills are essential in modern business despite the number of messaging and social tools out there.

There’s just something special about email.

If you’re running a business, you might not think of your clients and coworkers as your “audience”, but that’s exactly who they are. When you write anything outside of your personal diary, you’re probably writing with the intention for your words to be read.

In order for your text to gather a favorable response, you’ve got to keep your reader in mind. Strong email writing skills can help you succeed when writing out your next office email. Here are 3 basic questions to help you get started:

1. What do I want to say?

This is the easy one. If you’re cracking open a word processor, you probably have some idea of why you did it.

Before you try to beautify the message with clever wordplay, take a minute and jot that reason down on a sticky note or in a separate document. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Write something like this:

  • Client marketing email to participate in online course.
  • Email to team congratulating them on year-end results.
  • Meeting points to discuss new sales funnel.

NOTE: When you jot this down, don’t write it in the body of the text you intend to send! That’s a great way to accidentally distribute your notes to the entire world.

Good writing has a purpose. It aims to inform readers or to connect them to something deeper through artful narrative. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get sidetracked by stray thoughts and ideas during the creative process.

This is true whether you’re writing an email, a website, or a novel. Keeping your purpose in mind can help you improve your email writing skills.

As you write, refer back to your original objective and see if your last few lines of text suit the bill. Does your writing match your objective? Does it help you say what you wanted to say? Does it get your point across?

If so, great! Keep going. If not, it might be time to bang on that delete key a few times and recalibrate your approach.

2. Who am I writing for?

Unless you’re writing in a personal diary that is never intended to be read, you’re always writing for someone. That person or group is your audience and knowing their likes, interests, and goals are crucial to your long-term success.

You can improve your email writing skills by taking some time to consider who that audience might be. Take a few minutes to do a little research into a company or brand. Scan through old emails if you’ve got a specific contact within an organization.

Get a feel for how they communicate and what you might say that resonates with them. Understanding their profession, their level of skill, and their desires goes a long way in making a strong connection.

For example, if you were writing for an audience of professional carpenters, they probably don’t need to learn about the basics of driving nails. However, that might be a perfectly acceptable topic for an amateur do-it-yourselfer who just got home from the hardware store with a hammer and a dream.

Totally different audience, right? What you say to one group will be different than what you might say to the other. You should plan accordingly.

Take the time before you start writing to determine who you’re writing for, the level of knowledge they’re likely to possess, and how you can speak to them in a way they find interesting.

Learn to read the room. It matters.

3. Am I Striking the Correct Tone?

In the same way that comedic timing makes a joke work, the tone you use when writing your email can make all the difference in the world.

Improve your email writing skills by considering how you’d like your writing to be received.

Are you looking for a casual, friendly connection? Are you issuing a formal notice? Are you asking for help?

Think about what you need, your relationship (if any) with the person on the other end of the computer, and what action you’d like them to take.

If you’re sending out a meeting recap, perhaps a short and sweet approach is great. A farewell email to a departing employee — especially one who is well-liked — may deserve a little more time and energy.

Striking the right tone is critical across the board. You probably don’t want to use the same imperative and commanding tone with clients that you might use with your employees when deploying a new policy.

Writing with the appropriate tone when addressing different groups of people (clients, employees, etc.) also provides some grounding to your organization. Everyone who receives contact from you learns what to expect.

To stay consistent, find a piece of documentation which represents the tone you want to take with your target group and save it as a template. When you’re ready to start writing out your next draft, refer back to that template.

You’ll eventually train yourself to intuitively match your tone to your audience. Until then, use that reference document to hone your email writing skills and keep your output consistent.

Starting With Stronger Email Writing Skills

At this point, you’ve got a solid idea of who you’re talking to and how to address them while staying on topic. But the only real way to improve your email writing skills is to start writing!

Don’t worry about a blank page or an empty email window. If you’ve answered the questions above, you’re no longer gambling with your time and energy.

Determine your audience, your message, and your tone, then write with those goals in mind. When you give your writing a purpose and a target, your responses will be better received. It takes a little work, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Treat it like a work in progress.

Looking for a consultant on email and business writing? I can help you. Send me a message to get started!