7 Jun 2024 Email How to

These are some of the common mistakes to avoid when writing emails

Ice cream cone that has been dropped on the floor

Emails, eh? They clog up your inbox, they take time to reply to, they disappear into your junk folder, and so on. They can be a right pain in the proverbial. And they’ve been around for, like, forever. But they’re not going anywhere any time soon, and the fact of the matter is that email is probably still the most important means of communication for businesses, so we’d best be doing it right, right?

Unfortunately, too many people don’t do it right. Mistakes left, right and centre, and it’s costing them. Let’s see what we can do to help address that.

How a badly written email can be costly

For starters, if your email is a convoluted mess of words that makes little sense, or has been written in completely the wrong tone and narks the recipient, it’s not going to make you, or your business, look particularly professional, is it? You’re immediately on the wrong foot and, once it’s out there, it can be a hard task to salvage your integrity.

Bad spelling and grammar, for example, is not going to reflect well. In this survey, 53% of respondents said they were negative about the possibility of further cooperation with a company if its sales reps litter their emails with typos, while 26% admitted they would not even bother to reply. That’s a lot of missed opportunities.

A potential financial hit doesn’t end there, either. Skipping across the pond, American business writer Josh Bernoff wrote an article for the Daily Beast in which, thanks to another survey, he estimated that bad writing is costing US businesses a staggering $400 billion a year. Wow.

How to make sure your emails hit the right spot 

It’s all in the proofreading. Hands up if you don’t proofread your emails? If you write a blog, or a social media post, you’d proofread before publishing, wouldn’t you? We sincerely hope you would. In fact, we wrote a blog on that very same subject, so may now be an opportune moment for you to revisit it. 

The point is, while other forms of content are proofread, for some reason the poor, lowly email is often not afforded that same luxury. 

But it’s not a luxury. It should be a necessity. Unlike when you’re speaking directly to someone and you make the odd verbal slip-up and have to, sometimes embarrassingly, correct yourself, at least with an email you have the time to get it spot-on right off the bat. 

So, let’s look at some of the most common mistakes made with emails, and go through a few things that are an absolute must before you click that SEND button. 

Have you got the correct email address?

Well, duh. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it. But you’d be surprised how many times people put in the wrong email address, send it and then never hear anything back. If it was a super-important email to a super-important client about a super-important deadline that day, and it inadvertently goes to the wrong person because you put a .com instead of a co.uk, or spelled John without the H, you’re only causing undue panic and extra workload if they don’t reply. It takes a second to check.

Spell their name correctly

I’m going to draw on personal experiences here. I’m one of those people who has a first name for a surname. And, inexplicably to me, it doesn’t half confuse folk. Throughout my life people have addressed me by my surname rather than first name. I’ll either quickly correct them or just let it go, depending on the circumstances (remind me to tell you the story about my hairdresser one day). But on an email, there should be no confusion, no excuses. Honestly, if someone emails me trying to sell something, and they get my name wrong, more often than not it’s a quick ‘delete’. If they can’t get that basic information right, they’re not worth my time. And what else would they be prone to mucking up? Thanks, but no thanks. Their loss. Sometimes, clients also get it wrong (not naming any names). I get it, people are busy, so those are the occasions where I can let it go or surreptitiously correct them. But to foster good working relationships and maintain the trust and confidence from the people you’re working with, make sure you spell their name right.

Watch those typos

It’s no secret that poor punctuation, grammar and spelling can have a devastatingly bad impact. Making these mistakes can, frankly, make you look a bit of a numpty. And no one likes to look a numpty. They’re easy to avoid, it just requires a bit of patience, maybe an online tool such as Grammarly, a dictionary or thesaurus, and another read-through before you send. This, of course, applies to all content writing, which is why we wrote a blog about it here.

How’s your tone of voice?

It’s crucial you get the tone right. Should it be formal or informal? And who is it exactly that you’re addressing? You don’t want to come across as rude, cold, uninterested or, if you’re having a particularly bad day, angry. Or, even worse, drunk on the job. Rather serendipitously, while in the midst of writing this article, I spotted a LinkedIn post from Howard Jones, one of the speakers at our MarketEd.Live event in 2018. Howard had received an unsolicited sales email which immediately irked him because of the tone used. That person is likely to forever be in Howard’s bad books. He’s not alone: a Babbel survey revealed some 88% of people say they immediately regretted the contents and language of an email as soon as they’d hit send, while 28% even believed an email has hurt their careers.

What’s your greeting of choice? 

Once you get past addressing the recipient (with the correct name?), what’s your go-to greeting? If it’s the much-maligned (and rightly so) ‘Hope you’re well’, you need to re-think. Don’t just stick to that stock greeting you always use, it can immediately turn off the recipient. Give it a bit of thought, even get creative – you want to turn them on (not in that sense, though). 

Don’t overdo the jargon 

The advice here is to keep it simple. If you use language that is unnecessarily over-complicated, difficult to understand or ambiguous, you run the risk of the reader being too confused to know what you’re trying to say, or not even reading it at all. People just don’t have the time to dissect the intricacies and will move on, leaving you wondering why you’ve never heard back from them. Keep it clear, concise and specific.

The long, or the short, of it

There’s no need to spend an hour elaborately crafting your email, and you wouldn’t expect someone to need to spend 30 minutes reading it. We all get a lot of emails – the average worker receives 121 a day – so we don’t have time to read lengthy missives. Keep it short, succinct and to the point, while paying attention to all the above. Emails are, after all, supposed to be a quick and convenient form of communication. If they’re too long, you’re just wasting your time.

Smiley faces and a thumbs-up

What about emojis? Yes or no? If it’s a professional conversation, it’s probably best to leave them be. However, if it’s a relationship that you’ve built over time and you’re comfortable in your conversations, then it shouldn’t hurt. Just don’t overdo them 👍

We hope this has helped

You should, now, be better equipped to write an email that doesn’t fall foul of the mistakes we’ve covered here. Remember, proofreading your content should be an automatic process, not something “you haven’t got time for”. The results could prove costly.

If you need help constructing emails, or any other content for that matter, please get in touch with us, we’d be happy to assist. At LikeMind Media, we’re here for all your copywriting and proofreading needs – just give us a call.

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