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How to Write an Email Step-By-Step

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

When you know how to write an email well, you can save time and get more business done with your employees, clients, vendors, and partners.

How to write an email step-by-step with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

I’m not talking about writing an email to your spouse about a rental for next summer’s vacation (an informal, personal email.) Nor am I referring to writing an email newsletter (an e-zine to your organization’s partners and supporters with stories and announcements) – although these tips can apply to these kinds of emails, too.

Rather I’m referring how to write an email that is part of your day-to-day operations in your business and your work. This is an important skill for anyone to have. You want to be able to communicate professionally (so you’re taken seriously), clearly (so the content gets read and understood), and conversationally (to build strong relationships.)

These 7 email writing tips can help.

How to Write an Email: Step-By-Step Tips

1. State Your Purpose in the Subject Line

State the purpose of your email in the subject line. Be specific. Rather than simply, “Thank you,” write, “Thank you for your time on Thursday.” (Get a free downloadable checklist for writing better email subject lines).

Specificity moves your reader to open the email. Generalities lead the reader to skip it as spam. A strong subject line also allows your reader to find your email easily in her saved folder if she needs to refer to its content once again.

(Larry Kim at Mobile Monkey has a nice Anatomy of an Email infographic here.)

2. Start with a Salutation

You’re writing to a person, so be sure to use a greeting to begin the conversation (“Dear Dr. Smith,” or “Joe,”) – even if your email is short or a reply. Use the reader’s name. If you don’t know the person’s name, use his title (“Dear Director of Advancement”).

3. Get to the Point Immediately

Avoid using a throwaway opening line. Instead, in the first sentence, state your purpose for writing – the purpose you indicated in the subject line: “I’m writing today to …” Then move onto the body of your email, where you will …

4. Be Concise

People read emails quickly, much as they do with websites and social media. When content is long, they skim. (I know I do.) Make it easy for them to read quickly and skim. Use short sentences, short paragraphs, and bullet points. Include plenty of white space. Use a simple, clear font; avoid bold, italicized content. Emoticons? No – not when you’re trying to get business done.

5. Write a Call to Action

What do you want your reader to do as a result of your email? Ask for it, whether it is to send files, get an interview, respond at her earliest convenience, or understand that you’ll follow up in a few days.

6. End with a Closing

It’s polite to thank your reader respectfully; manners foster a good relationship.

Then it’s time to sign your email. “Best regards” and “Sincerely” are professional. Include your name and then your email signature with contact information so that your reader knows who you are and can respond.

But don’t click send just yet!

7. Proofread 

Before you click send, review your content to see that you’ve stated your purpose clearly and that you’ve indicated the action you’d like the reader to take. Check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Then, click send. 

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