Shirley's Articles / Email Essentials

Ten deadly sins of email writing

Check out my seven deadly sins of email writing and count up how many apply to you.

  1. You sometimes send messages without a greeting or a closing.
  2. You always use the same ending in every message, like ‘Kind regards’, or ‘Best regards’. In fact, it’s probably part of your automatic email signature.
  3. You use lots of template messages that have been around in your company for decades.
  4. You often receive replies asking you to clarify things and ask questions because your email wasn’t clear enough.
  5. You feel it’s important to write emails in a very different way to how you speak, because it’s a written message and you must be more formal in writing.
  6. Your emails are often long and repetitive because you need to say things over in different ways to make sure the reader gets your meaning eventually.
  7. You must use phrases like ‘Please be informed…’ or ‘Please be advised…’ at the beginning of sentences because, well, it’s just polite, right?
  8. You don’t know the difference between active and passive voice?
  9. You were taught that you must write to impress, with big words and long sentences. So, of course, it must be the same now you’re in the workplace.
  10. You don’t have time to read your message out loud, as if you are the reader, before hitting ‘send’.

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may be making your email and business writing more difficult than it should be. And more importantly, you’re making reading and responding much more difficult for your reader.

Life is fast paced. Businesses exist to get things done, and email is a large part of that. With limited time and so much mail in our inboxes, readers want to read messages and understand messages easily, and know exactly how to reply. People also want to know they are dealing with humans at the other side of the computer screen, so building relationships is also important.

I know you’re busy, so I’m developing a new series of short videos called ‘Writing Better Emails in English’. Tip 1 is out now on my YouTube channel, and I’m aiming at putting up one a week. Have you got 3 minutes?

Check it out here, and remember to like, subscribe, and add a comment under the video, so we can start a discussion there.

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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