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Communication has always been a vital part of any manager’s skill set. From resolving conflict and promoting team unity to delegating effectively and ensuring team members are aware of their responsibilities, among many other key functions, being able to get your message across concisely and in a professional tone can go a long way towards keeping things running smoothly while not taking up too much of your time.

Knowing how to write a professional email should be one of the most basic parts of anyone’s work life but time and again we all receive messages that fall well short of the standards we expect. If you’re worried that you might also be failing to find the right professional tone in your written communications, then here are some tips to keep things on the right track.

Know your audience

Knowing how to write a professional email means being able to adjust your language in different situations. For example, if asking a team member to look over a client presentation it would be acceptable to say:

“Hi Liz,

Could you give this a once over and get back to me with any suggestions.”

However, it would probably not be appropriate to send the same email to the CEO of your organization who would also be present at the meeting. It is a good idea to try to strike a balance between formal and informal language, depending on your level of familiarity and the proximity of your positions in the organization. This isn’t always easy however, so…

If in doubt, go formal

Writing emails can be a lot more thought-consuming than it should be. It’s just a brief message, right? There should be no need to spend so long wondering about the most appropriate way to phrase things. Well, that’s true, so if you find you are spending far too long thinking about tone, just stick to being formal. That means being polite and relatively impersonal, using short sentences and no exclamation marks. It might seem stuffy, but you can’t really go wrong with it and you won’t have to spend ages thinking about the precise level of formality you have to use.

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Read your email back over

It might only take a few seconds but it’s a habit too few of us have managed to adopt. After every email that one writes, the obvious thing should be to proofread it, not only for grammatical mistakes or typos but also to ensure that the tone is where you would want it to be.

Take a break to get some emotional distance

At times it can seem like emails were invented as a medium for passive-aggressiveness. Lots of usage of phrases such as “I think you’ll find” or “As per my previous email” have become a formal way of not actually addressing issues head on. There should be no problem with talking about concerns if it is warranted, but if you find yourself in a position of writing an overly snarky email it might be best to take a walk for a couple of minutes or postpone writing a response for a while to let your mind calm down and process things in a more mature manner.

Be positive in phraseology

Language is a beautiful thing and one of the great advantages of its variation is the possibilities it gives us for saying things in a multitude of different ways. It’s not always easy to be positive, however, if one starts making an effort to tweak their tone in written communications it can become an effective habit. When proofreading your email, look out for easy additions that can be made to raise the level of positivity in the message.