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7 Tips for Writing Better Emails

For lawyers, email is quickly becoming the preferred method of communication with nearly everyone. It creates a wonderful paper trail that shows how diligent we are, while also sending messages nearly instantaneously (and dependably, unlike email's older brother facsimile).

Over the last several years, there's no doubt that, email etiquette has evolved as it has become more ubiquitous. And for lawyers, that means being just as diligent when sending an email as when sending a letter, as the two have nearly the same force and effect these days.

Below, you can find seven tips for becoming a better email writer.

1. Proofread

Your grammar, sentence structure, and spelling all reflect on your abilities. Given the modern world we live in, there's nearly never a reason an email should have spelling errors (unless it's one of those spellchecker-proof ones, i.e. trail/trial). And even then, if you proofread your email carefully, you'd catch that too.

2. Don't Ignore the Subject Line

Your subject line is as important as the rest of your email. After all, if it doesn't get opened, or you use a generic "hello" or something like that, there's a real risk it could get lost in the inbox shuffle and never responded to. Your subject lines should be specific enough that a recipient will be able to search their inbox and find it quickly.

3. Be Concise

Unless the email is between you and a friend, or you're trying to connect with a potential or current client, adversary, or court clerk, keep the unnecessary chit-chat and pleasantries to a minimum. If your email has a purpose (and it most certainly should if you're billing for it), the chit-chat can often be distracting and make your message seem less important.

4. Use Attachments, Graphs, and Charts

If you realize that your email is one giant wall of text, you may want to consider sending the information in a different format. If you can represent the information in a graph or chart, that might be easier for people to comprehend what you're saying more quickly. If you want people to focus on a wall of text, consider writing a formal letter on letterhead and attaching it, and only having a short intro to what the letter is about in the body of the email.

5. "Reply All" Considerately

If there's no good reason to reply all, don't do it. And if you were Bcc'd on the email, then definitely don't reply all before contacting the sender privately.

6. Draft Important Emails Outside of Email

Yes, your smartphone is amazing and makes it easy to work poolside, but you might want to think twice about composing important emails in your smartphone, or even your computer, email client. If you've ever accidentally sent a half-composed email, an easy way to avoid this from happening again is to compose your emails in a word processor (yes, your smartphone has a word processor app), then cut and paste it into your email. If you've never accidentally sent an email before you finished typing it out, just wait, it's only a matter of time.

7. Just Don't.

If an email doesn't merit a written response, or needs urgent attention, or is likely to sprawl out into a long back and forth of one-liners, don't send your response via email. Instead, consider using a more immediate method of communication, like a telephone, or just walking over to your coworker's office/desk.

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