5 tips to improve your email writing skills

Posted on 
February 12, 2018

We’ve all been there. You click open an email, and there’s a long block of text that stretches beyond where you can see. Your first reaction is to close the window and flag the email for later. Much later.

Email can be a useful communication tool, but not everyone uses it well. Below are 5 steps to follow in order to draft an email that readers will open, read and understand.

1. Maintain your credibility

Present yourself as the trusted professional you are.

  • Be polite: say please and thank you as appropriate
  • Keep a professional tone: avoid slang, exclamation marks, and smiley faces
  • Use a suitable greeting and opening, but avoid insincere small talk
  • Include a suitable sign-off that fits the tone of the email
  • Keep your email signature simple and short: limit images and avoid cursive fonts
  • Don’t use too many high importance flags

2. Present your email thoughtfully

Give the right amount of information in the right way so that your reader is able to read your message easily, and wants to.

  • Place your key message and call to action near the top so it’s the first thing your reader sees
  • Organize the rest of the information from most to least important
  • Limit the number of issues covered in the email to increase the chance of a response 
  • Write briefly and stick to the point: try to keep to 150 words or less
  • Use short, everyday words instead of jargon and difficult words
  • Avoid acronyms and terms your reader won’t understand
  • Keep sentences short

3. Help your reader scan

We don’t read content onscreen word for word. In fact, most of us scan a web page in an F-shaped pattern. Use layout and formatting to guide your reader through the email and to your key points.

  • Put your key message and call to action at the top
  • For a longer email with a lot of details, use headings
  • Write in easy-to-read chunks: use short paragraphs and lists with bullets or numbers
  • Don’t use too much bold; if you emphasize too many words, you end up emphasizing nothing
  • Avoid all caps, huge fonts and random colours; these slow the reader down

4. Write your subject line last

Your subject line could determine whether your reader opens your email. Make it count.

  • Write the subject line after drafting your message
  • Use action verbs so the reader knows what you want done
  • Be specific and descriptive so the reader knows right away what the message is about
  • Appeal to the reader’s needs: ask yourself what will make the reader care about your email
  • Avoid starting a sentence in the subject line and finishing it in the body
  • Keep your subject line under 50 characters or 6 to 8 words, so the whole line will show in the inbox preview
  • Keep in mind that some smartphones show only 33 to 44 characters for the subject line

5. Review and revise

Imagine that everyone in the company will read your message. Emails are quick to create, but leave a lasting impression. Review your work now to save time and get results later.

  • Use the spell-check feature to reduce errors
  • Read the message backwards to check for errors that a spell-checker won’t catch, like homonyms and usage errors
  • Check that your key message is perfectly clear, without typos, wordy phrases, or anything that can be misunderstood
  • Check that all names and titles are correct
  • Make sure you have attached any important files or included any necessary links

Do you have a useful tip for effective email writing not included here? Please share it in the comments.


The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Catherine Haggerty

Catherine Haggerty

An editor and web publisher at Info-Tech Research Group, Catherine has been in the field of copy-editing for over 10 years. Passionate about grammar and syntax, she frequently uses the Language Portal's quizzes and Peck's English Pointers to keep her skills sharp.

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We need examples.

Hi, Saleem,
It would be difficult to provide examples, because most of the points made in this post need to be tailored to individual email messages. However, we encourage you to read our article entitled “Boost Your eQ (Email Intelligence)” (http://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/pep/index-eng.html?la...), which is also about writing clear emails and does provide a few examples.

Dear Saleem,

There are some basic elements needed in the email to ensure proper tone and smooth reading.
Basically, people know how to write, but they forget how to present information. In today's culture, high-level team members don't have time to read your message and the whole conversation.

There's a proper way to present your email as well as your point of view:
Work on the subject line, which introduces the entire e-mail and summarizes your message.
Highlight the main points that you want the reader to really focus on.
Fix your signatures.

Hi, I want to improve my communication knowledge, so I kindly request your help.

Hello, aarthi,
The Language Portal has many resources that may be helpful. You can use our search engine, Language Navigator (https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/navigateur-navigator/index-eng...), to search for “communication” or “clear communication.”

Great helpful detail.

It's very helpful for me and I want to just say that it's great information.

This regards communication. It's a great opportunity to learn about skills. Thanks.

It's a great opportunity to be given a chance to learn communication skills.

Email is very important for formal communication and sometimes we make some basic mistakes when writing emails. This content is really effective and will help me to write quality emails to anyone. Thanks.

It has really helped me. I would wish to read more and more.

Addressing emails: Always address the email sender by the same title he or she used. E.g. If the sender uses his or her name without any title, then reply without a title; if the sender used Mr. or Dr., then use that title; if the sender used a facility or organisation name, then use that.

This article has been a big help for me. Thanks, I was able to read this one.

This is fantastic! Most of my day is spent responding or initiating emails and I have never thought about the visual aspect (the F pattern), which makes a lot of sense, since graphic design is a similar process.
Well done!

All wording is correct.

Great tips for improving email writing skills!

This is an awesome read. Thanks for sharing this!

Nice information is given in this article. Thanks for posting this kind of information.

Hi, I kindly request you to help me with business English grammar email templates.

The Language Portal's Writing Tips include many articles about writing business letters (see http://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/wrtps-srch?lang=eng&srchtxt=business+le...). For grammar-related questions, check out HyperGrammar 2 (see http://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/hyper/index-eng.html?...).

How can I english writing develop. Please any one can help me writing & speaking. I speak Bangla then I want writing english & speaking. Please help me.


In our Collection of Canadian language resources, there are some resources that might be useful to you in learning English as a second language. See Language learning – English as a second language: Learning activities (https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/en/ressources-resources/appren...).

Also, you can learn and practise different points of English grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization with our quizzes (https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/en/jeu-quiz/index-eng) and with the writing tool HyperGrammar2, a self-teaching tool that provides lessons and exercises to help you write correctly in English (http://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/hyper/index-eng.html?...).

We hope this information will be helpful to you. We wish you success in your efforts to perfect your English skills.

The topic was really an interesting one. Definitely a good read.

i need to refine skills for writing business emails

This is really good for me writing email. Thanks!

It was very useful. Thank you.

Can you tell me if these tips will help with emails sent while working from home to another company?

I need HR-related examples.

The Language Portal doesn’t have any content specifically related to human resources, but we encourage you to see what resources are available on the Internet by searching for “how to write effective HR emails.”

Thanks. Really nice article.

Very informative. Thank you so much.

How about placing images in the body of the email for more specific notification? Is that formal?

Can you give me some exercise about writing bad news emails that might be helpful for my final exams? Please show me how to write the steps of the email, so that I can manage to do by myself. Give me some good examples about the bad news email that may have an ideas of writing about a company who wants to improve their employees to work harder about the manager complains about their work and how they get a certificate. If they are not improving themselves, then how they get a certificate if it weren't for the manager to complain about his employees?

Although we can’t provide a step-by-step guide to writing such emails, our post "How to deliver bad news" (https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/en/blogue-blog/mauvaise-nouvel...) might be of use to you. You could also search the Internet for domain-specific examples.

Nice material.

Nice tips

This site is very useful for studying English.
I'm so grateful for this site. Thank you.

We're very happy to hear that you find our site helpful. Thank you for your comment!

Very good explanation. Thanks.

Those tips are helpful for smart email writing. I liked it.

In my humble opinion, this is an excellent overview on how to write effective emails. Thank you for sharing this worthwhile advice. I will use it in my teaching and in my workplace, as I work with two major Canadian universities and I also write freelance for provincial governments.
If I may offer one additional tip, which I believe is the single greatest culprit to quality writing today, be it emails or otherwise: please encourage people to slow down. Writing in haste leads to all kinds of errors, lapses in judgment, muddy interpretations and misunderstandings.
I encourage students and colleagues to catch their breath before writing anything—to take their time, which will likely add up to only a few extra minutes. The idea is not to be the fastest writer that ever lived, only to be understood.
Thanks for listening.

I totally agree with the idea that slowing down can really improve the quality of emails. A lot of times, we just want to jam information into emails, using the simplest, most direct idea or data to facilitate or answer questions on projects. Then, we send the emails out with a rush, hoping the recipients will have no issue understanding what we just wrote. I noticed that if I walk away after writing an email and look at it later, I find a lot of sentence structure or grammar errors. So, we can easily make emails a lot more professional by slowing down a bit, and taking time to review and fix our own emails before hitting the Send button.

Yeah, it is very useful and concise but explains what to strive for. :)

Reading this, I find it useful.Next time I will surely use the mentioned tips.
Thanks for uploading such generous content over the Internet. It is really helpful.

I found this article great and interesting. Because of that, I would like to thank you for building our capacity and enhancing our knowledge of having effective communication skills with others through well prepared emails.
I would like to suggest here that a model or sample email to be added. Thanks a lot.

It would have been difficult for the author to provide examples, because most of the points made in this blog post need to be tailored to individual email messages. Moreover, once a post is published, no information can be added.
However, you may be interested in reading our article entitled “Boost Your eQ (Email Intelligence)” (https://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/pep/index-eng.html?l...), which provides some examples for writing clear emails. You could also do an Internet search for the specific information you are seeking.

Your suggestions are really awesome. It's now clear to me how to read a professional email. I need some more suggestions about issues of high importance / less importance. Thanks a lot. It's really helpful for me.

You provide good tips for improving one’s emailing skills, and I’ll be applying all five of them.

I got some essential information about email writing while reading this.

My general practice was to write the subject before crafting my email! Thank you for this clearly written piece. Moreover, the tone of the email to be considered is what I found interesting. Thank you.

We don’t read content onscreen word for word. In fact, most of us scan a web page in an F-shaped pattern. Use layout and formatting to guide your reader through the email and to your key points.

How to can I write the perfect email for marketing and sales purposes?

Thanks for sharing the above tips, which really help us to improve our writing skills.

Good Day.
I am having a lot of trouble with writing emails, my wording is always incorrect.
Can you please help me?

I was always confused about email marketing and, more specifically, about how to make sure that the email doesn't get ignored and that you get the perfect response from people around the world.

Email marketing is the base for any marketing strategy. I was actually worried that my emails were getting ignored by customers, but this article helped me understand how I can work on them or on which elements I should to work on to make the email more readable for the customer. Interesting stuff! Looking forward to reading more informative articles such as this one.

I am grateful to be here and thank you for your initiative in making us such a great email writer.

I need more examples or samples of email

It would be difficult to provide examples, because most of the points made in this post need to be tailored to individual email messages. However, you can use our search engine, Language Navigator (https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/en/navigateur-navigator), to search for “clear communication.” You’ll find useful examples to help you write clearer emails.

Writing skills for emailing improved

The proper way to present your email
There's a proper way to present your email as well as your point of view:
Work on the subject line, which introduces the entire e-mail and summarizes your message.
Highlight the main points that you want the reader to really focus on.
after that is signature.

Very helpful

its great, best luck.


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