4 Tips for Effective Emails from a Software Developer’s Perspective
Editor’s note: Karuna is a software engineer and English For IT instructor with over 10 years of industry experience. As a fully remote developer, Karuna spent years working with international teams which deepened his expertise in cross-cultural and asynchronous communication. You can learn a lot from him — whether you are a software professional or an English learner so go ahead and dive into the article. It’s sure to be a great read!
Now, over to Karuna.
I’m here to share a few tips when it comes to writing effective emails, to make you sound like a confident, capable professional, which I am sure you all are.
Tip # 1 Be mindful of tone
Tone can be a hard thing to judge, you can very easily come across as (=seem) sarcastic or rude without meaning to (=without wanting to).
Try to read back your email to yourself aloud before sending it, or better yet (=even better) ask somebody to listen to you reading your email back and evaluate the tone of your email.
Here is a pro tip that can help you sound polite.
Make sure you preface your requests with ‘please’ (=use ‘please’ before your requests) — it’s ok to be direct when you are making assertive (=specific, insisting) requests, but make sure you preface your requests with ‘please’ and finish off by thanking your recipient.
Can you please go ahead and make the changes we discussed in yesterday’s meeting? Let me know if you’re going to be able to do that by Friday.
Tip # 2 Don’t write long emails
A cardinal sin (= a big no-no) when it comes to emailing is.. writing overly long emails with no clearly mentioned action items or defined requests.
People are likely to ignore some / most of the questions you raise (=ask) in an email if they are presented in a 1,000-word-long section of prose. Try to write concise (=short and informative) emails, and if you do need to go into more detail in order for your questions to be answered, try to present action items / questions in the form of a bullet summary at the end of your email, and apply bold formatting to key points raised in your email.
Here is an example of how this can be done. Note that even though there are a lot of action points covered in this email, it is still very concise.
Tip # 3 Don’t use too many abbreviations
Abbreviations can help save you time but try not to use too many of them, or to use obscure (=not very well known) abbreviations.
I personally tend to use only a few well-understood abbreviations in my emails.
EOD — end of day
PFA — please find attached
OOO — out of office
The goal of asynchronous communication methods like email is to be clearly understood from the get-go (=from the very beginning). Typing things out fully may take more time to do, but can help you communicate more efficiently and accurately in the long run (=in the long term) by reducing miscommunication and misunderstandings.
Tip #4 Write good subject lines
Use meaningful subject lines — if written well, your email’s subject line can give a good overview of the content of your email without your recipient even reading the email, allowing them to easily prioritize their inbox.
Just ask yourself the question: What do I want my recipient to know before they even open my email? What key information should my subject line contain in order for the recipient to clearly understand and prioritize the content of my email?
We teach more details on how to write great emails and communicate across cultures in our English and soft skills course English For IT Communication.
If you want to talk to our native speakers (including Karuna) face-to-face, consider joining our Lean Coffee Speaking Club.