First impressions matter. Formatting and punctuation are more important than many people realise because we base our opinion of the sender of the email partly on the way an email looks. E-mail to read

Its worth paying attention to your spacing and punctuation.

Formatting

Spacing

The most common mistake in emails is not inserting line spaces. White space makes emails easier to read and increases our speed of comprehension.

Compare the readability of the following email.

Before

Please find attached my executive summary.
Thank you very much for having a quick look at it.

After

Please find attached my executive summary.

Thank you very much for having a quick look at it.

Subheadings

Subheadings can help break up your information and draw attention to the details.

Bold, underlining and italics

Bold is the most common form of emphasis for headings and occasional words in emails. Underlining cuts off the bottom of letters and can be confused with hyperlinks, and italics are hard to read.

Numbers or bullet points

If you have several action items, you might number or bullet point them.

Colour and font

Keep your colours and fonts simple. Remember, people read emails quickly for information and don’t want to be distracted by gimmicks.

Punctuation

Exclamation marks

We tend to use exclamation marks more often in emails than in more formal writing, and sometimes an exclamation mark can soften a criticism or add more emphasis to a statement.

However, overuse of exclamation marks is visually distracting.

Capitals

We all know that full capitals come across as shouting, so it’s hard to imagine why anyone would write an email in capitals unless they wanted to emphasise something for a particular effect.

The normal rules of capitals apply to writing emails:

  • Also avoid using initial capitals for generic words (The directors signed the contract, not The Directors signed the Contract).
  • Don’t use lower case for words that take capitals (We discussed it and i said…)
Dashes

As we write conversationally in emails, we often use dashes to link information. Compare:

I checked the website links – they all worked apart from the audiobook.
I checked the website links and they all worked apart from the audiobook.

The proposal is attached – let me know if you have any questions.
The proposal is attached. Let me know if you have any questions.

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