We all read them. We all send them. Some of us have thousands of them hanging around. That’s right, today, we’re going to talk about how to edit an email. Editing personal and business correspondence is a bit different from editing creative work. Let’s take a look.
The first step when you edit an email is caring enough to do so. Emails are commonplace. We deal with them all the time and so we are used to writing a quick note and hitting send before we even check for misspellings. People who don’t edit their emails see it either as a waste of time or they simply aren’t sure what to edit for.
Whether it’s an important business email or your current work in progress, editing needs to become a habit. By continually editing everything we write—even emails—we will make editing less daunting.
Three Simple Steps to Edit an Email
It doesn’t have to take long to edit an email and it’s way easier than editing a novel. But there are still certain steps you should complete to make sure your emails are error-free. Those steps are rereading, revising, and editing.
First, read through the original email and your email before hitting send. In this step, you’re checking to make sure you included everything you needed. Did you attach that file you mentioned? Did you answer every question in the original email? Reread at least once to ensure your email contains everything it should.
Now, you revise the wording of the email to account for tone. It isn’t enough to have the right information in your email. It needs to come across in the right way. Look where you could change your wording to be more direct or perhaps to soften a harsher tone. If you’re in doubt about the tone of an email, wait 24 hours and read it again with fresh eyes. Then you’ll know whether it needs revising.
Finally, you complete one last readthrough to correct any grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors. In this step, a grammar checker can come in handy or at least make sure your email’s spell check is on.
Top Three Email Mistakes
If you still think it’s a waste of time to edit an email, I encourage you to at least check for these three common email mistakes.
1. Getting someone’s name wrong. My email address contains my name which means you will need to spell it correctly to get an email to me. Yet, very often people misspell my name within the email body.
As Dale Carnegie says, “A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Check that you’re emailing the right person and double-check the spelling of their name everywhere. Something that simple can make a big impression in professional and personal correspondence.
2. Incomplete information. How many times have you had to email someone back to repeat a question they didn’t answer from the first email? It’s a waste of everyone’s time and it can be avoided by rereading the original email and your reply to ensure you have addressed every portion of the email.
3. Formatting. Unless you intend to be yelling at someone (which, let’s face it, should not be done over email in the first place), there is no reason to use all capital letters. Simple formatting choices such as writing in capitals or italics can make emails difficult to read or give off the wrong tone. Keep it simple with your formatting to ensure your emails are read the right way.
Whether it’s a quick email to a friend, a professional email for business, or something in between, editing your emails is critical to good correspondence. Just remember to reread, revise, and edit carefully.
Jeanette the Writer is a freelance editor and writer based in Dallas, TX. When not at the computer, you can find her crafting, teaching a scuba diving class, or posting pictures of cute cats on Instagram. Visit her website for more info and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.