To: You

Subject: Writing Friendly Emails 

Hi everyone!

By now, writing about the coronavirus pandemic is as commonplace as having to run back home because you forgot your mask: tips for working from home, how it’s affecting our sector, advice on how to stay healthy and more.

But what if we unmasked something that often goes unnoticed, despite being right under our noses*—or better yet, right at our fingertips?

My colleagues and I used to have regular in-person meetings with clients. Whether the purpose was to meet them for the first time, to discuss upcoming projects or just to check-in, these meetings all shared one underlying goal: to develop a relationship beyond the screen.

Today, however, such encounters may not be possible or even safe. And while it’s true that these meetings can be replaced by video calls, the reality is that people are largely opting for emails to get the job done.

Email is also taking on an increasingly important role in marketing. According to a statement from Inken Kuhlmann-Rhinow, EMEA marketing director at HubSpot:

“The importance of email as a marketing tool continues to grow as the pandemic evolves… with 44% more emails being sent than before the COVID outbreak, getting an email strategy right is essential.”

Check out our podcast interview with Inken for more expert insights.

Inken may be referring to emails to customers, but this is also true for communication between clients and colleagues. With the whole workplace moving online, it’s absolutely crucial to optimize our emails—both internal and external. 

How to write friendly emails that enhance your professional relationships

Where does that leave us?

Now the question becomes: How do we capitalize on emails to foster those important relationships? With friendly emails, of course. But what do friendly emails look like? And why are they so important? Well, that’s why you’re reading this.

After writing about 7,287 emails yesterday, and doing my fair share of research on the topic, I’ve gathered the following tips and tricks. It’s important to keep in mind that while friendliness and professionalism are not mutually exclusive, you should always ensure that the tone of your messages is appropriate for a given context.

Watch cute sea turtles hugging

That probably caught your attention, right? But unless I’m actually about to show you some adorable turtles, I would never (usually) use this as a subheading—or an email subject line.

Although it is true that you want the subject line of your email to be nice and engaging, it’s equally important that it accurately reflects the content of your message.

Maybe you’re pitching ideas for posts on the social media accounts you manage for a wildlife rescue organization. Otherwise, the subject line above probably isn’t appropriate.

Take a look at this real-world example, which was sent to our team of community managers to let them know that the month’s social media content was ready for them. It gives a brief synopsis of what’s in the email, while also showing a bit of the project manager’s personality.

September FUN! September calendar and creative pieces 

It’s up to you just how much fun you want to have, of course. A more low-key version of this subject line could be something like “September calendar and creative pieces ready!”

Gratifying greetings

After a perfect subject line, a solid greeting is in order. Consider replacing “Hello” with “Hi [name],” or “Good morning” with “Happy Wednesday” (unless, of course, it’s not Wednesday). 

What’s important here is that you spice it up. You likely communicate regularly with the same people, so why not keep them (and yourself) on their toes with some variety? Adding a little flare is sure to bring a smile to everyone’s face. 

Feel free to use their names here, too. As Jodi Schulz from Michigan State University points out, using someone’s name in conversation “creates a culture of respect, recognition and consideration for the discussion.” Not only is this a hallmark of professionalism, but it also goes a long way toward keeping your team engaged in their work.

Don’t tell people what to do

There are an infinite number of reasons why you might be writing an email, but you’re likely doing so because you need your team to collaborate with you in some capacity.

If that’s the case, it’s always better to ask for their help instead of telling them what to do. Remember, you should be having a two-way discussion.

Check out this example:

It’s me again! 

The client has asked that we reorganize our folders.

Starting back in September, and continuing indefinitely, when you click on the folder for a given month you will see a subfolder with your country labeled in the following way: XX posts

What I kindly ask from you:

1) Go to the September folder and find your country. 

2) Please create a Google doc and copy and paste your translated posts for that month into it, clearly labeling the days. 

3) Attach the Google doc to the given folder. 

4) If applicable, please move the corresponding blog post to your folder as well.

5) Please repeat these steps for October, November and… forever 😉 

Please let me know that you have received this email, and also when you have completed these steps for September–November. If you could have this done by Monday, Nov. 2, that would be amazing. 

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thanks so much for your hard work, as always 😎

In this example, the friendly greeting is followed by some background information. This is important to let everyone know exactly what’s going on.

Opening up the body of the email with “What I kindly ask from you” gives agency to the collaborators (remember, giving direct orders is rather unfriendly).

Following that, saying “please” is a must in any context. The last bullet point makes it clear—in a friendly way—that these steps will need to be followed every month, while the deadline is once again established in a way that puts the ball in the collaborators’ court. 

How to write friendly emails that enhance your professional relationships

Finish strong

A great movie can easily be spoiled by a sloppy ending, and if the last page of a novel falls flat it’s all we remember. The same goes for emails. 

Always make sure that you wrap up your friendly email as well as possible. Let’s take a closer look at the last line from the example above.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thanks so much for your hard work, as always 😎

What could be more friendly than making yourself available to those who may need your help? Not only is this the nice thing to do, but it also helps you produce a professional end result.

After all, if your team feels comfortable asking questions, they’re much more likely to get the job done right the first time.

Finally, not only does it feel good when someone recognizes your work, but thanking your collaborators for their help reiterates that they are in the driver’s seat.

Kind closing

Just as it’s important to start with a great greeting, it’s also vital to sign off kindly.

Instead of a direct and impersonal “Regards,” you may want to consider “Have a nice day/evening/week,” or just sign your name with an old-school emoji.

My personal favorite is:

Jake 🙂 

General rules for friendly emails

It’s impossible to list all of the ways to make your emails friendly, and it’s always best to evaluate each situation individually. Some contexts may require you to dial back these tips, but I do believe that every situation has room for a friendly, human touch. 

  • Professionalism is paramount. Remember to proofread your messages, no matter how short they are. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you think it may not be professional or appropriate, it’s not. 
  • Punctuation is key, period. There’s nothing wrong with “Thanks,” but even “Thank you!” may give a friendlier impression. Remember, though, not to overdo it—all things in moderation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Emojis are perfectly acceptable, but make sure you err on the side of a 🙂 or Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes on Apple iOS 14.2 instead of an onslaught of characters. And they should never take away from the main idea of your message. Have a look at this interesting article for more insight on using emojis in professional contexts. 

We’re all in this together. These are stressful times for everyone, and no matter how pressing a work matter may be, you never know what someone else has on their plate—professionally or personally.

In many situations, we can’t rely on body language and tone of voice as we used to, so it’s more important than ever to make sure we write friendly emails.**

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Jake 🙂 

*Masks should be worn so that they cover the nose.

**Maybe I’ll trademark friendlemails.