Writing effective emails

Email allows us to communicate efficiently with people inside and outside Education. This guide was designed to help you communicate effectively, too. It features various tips and tricks to help you land your message every time.

Writing effectively is important because when we don’t use email properly, it can:

  • Distract. Unnecessary emails can take us away from our core duties.
  • Confuse. Incomplete or incorrect information can confuse the reader.
  • Isolate. Emails that lack empathy can turn people off, not win them over.

So, whether you’re writing to a parent, a colleague or an external stakeholder, try implementing these tips to ensure you land your message every time.

Necessary components

An effective email is the sum of various parts. Make sure your message is clear and consistent across them all.

  • Subject line - keep your subject line short and relevant to the main message of your email.
  • Greeting - ‘Hi’ will be suitable for most emails, but ‘Dear’ should be used for more formal correspondence.
  • Body - lead with the most important information—the reason for your email. Support with other relevant information.
  • Sign off - let the reader know what happens next, or what you would like from them.

Define your message

Before you start writing, you should know what you want to say. You’ll find it much easier to write a logical, engaging email that gives your reader the information they need if the message is clear before you start.

Consider your audience

Are you replying to a complaint or sending an update to your team? Consider your audience, and the message you’re communicating, and tailor your writing to suit.

Watch your tone

Once you know who you’re writing to you’ll have a good idea of what tone to use in your email. For example, you wouldn’t use ‘Dear’ to open an email to a colleague, but you might in more formal correspondence.

For more information, see our Voice and tone guidelines.

Write with empathy

It’s important to understand your reader’s needs when you’re communicating via email. Put yourself in their shoes and write accordingly.

Don’t be a robot

Avoid impersonal, bureaucratic language and write with a ‘human’ voice. Your emails should aim to be clear and useful.

Use the correct language

Using ‘I’ and adopting the first person will show that you take responsibility for what you’re saying. It will also give your email a personal quality. Likewise, the use of contractions—it’s, we’re, and you’re — can be used to soften communications.

Structure content logically

Address your main message first and then support, where necessary, with other information. Where relevant, you should close your email with a clear expression of what will happen next.

Engage the reader

Your emails don’t need to entertain, but they should seek to engage. Delivering information in a way that’s meaningful and relevant to the reader will help keep them engaged in what you’re saying.

Make it digestible

We tend to skim emails for information that’s relevant to us. To help people get the information they need as quickly as possible, break your email up into bite-sized pieces.

You should also consider including top-line information in your email and then linking out to further reading.

Show the way

Lists and subheadings help users absorb information. To create ‘signposts’ to help people find their way:

  • Use clear and unambiguous subheadings. Don't try to be clever or humorous.
  • Use bulleted lists to further break up the page and help your audience scan the information.

· Limit list items to between five and seven items.

Make it link

You should double check any links in your email to make sure they’re working before you click ‘send.’

It’s also good practice to hyperlink the text of your email, rather than simply copy and paste a URL into the body of your email and writing ‘click here.’

How to link

For further information, visit the department’s Aboriginal education and communities section.

How not to link

Click here to go to the Aboriginal education and communities section.

Check out the Aboriginal education and communities section at: https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/aec

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