Business Writing Essentials

First Things First

At work, we typically write our emails in a hurry. This can result in messages that confuse or offend the reader. It can also result in mistakes that make us look really bad, such as a spontaneous, harsh venting in an email to an important person.

A few guidelines will keep your emails on target and keep you out of trouble. Please take this seriously. Bad habits in using email can jeopardize your job or ruin your career. It does happen. (Seriously, Google it.) Then sit back and ask yourself: all that school, all that interviewing, just to get this job—do I really want to risk blowing it all on a careless mistake in an email?


This is how you should write EVERY important email at work.

(1) F I R S T : write the Message.

Type it, then edit, then edit again.

(2) Second, write the Subject.

(3) Wait until you are satisfied with both of these before you type the email address of the recipient.

By adopting this simple habit, you will avoid sending an email before it's polished.

Writing in this order, you are:

  • more relaxed when you write the Message

  • less likely to send an inappropriate Message

  • better prepared to write a good Subject

Additional warnings

For every REALLY important email, don't even open your email program until you have typed and edited and re-edited your Message in a separate text-editing program. Then copy and paste.

For every REALLY important email response, for which you have already clicked Reply, immediately open a text-editing program to type and edit and re-edit your Message. Then copy and paste.

Final advice

All it takes is one email booboo to permanently tarnish your reputation. Avoid this by adopting two habits:

(1) Take your time: type your Message first, then edit it, then look it over again.

(2) Take your time: write a Subject line that is so engaging people will marvel at it and tell their friends and family.

Take your time? Are you crazy, man? I'm busy at work. I don't have time to spend perfecting the things I type in my emails.

Yes, you do. The time referred to here is in minutes, not hours. And the regimen you develop will turn those minutes into seconds for emails you write in the future, when you're so good at it, it'll scare you.

Lesson: First Things First
Module: Email
Course: Business Writing Essentials