5 Ways to Sharpen Emailing Skills

As email use continues to mount, writing well can literally make or break careers.

The next time you type an email, know that signing off with “thank you” instead of “see you tomorrow” can reveal more information than you intend. A new survey shows that nearly half of email recipients can gauge the sender’s mood by their sign-on and sign-off, and that semiformal is now the norm (both the formal “Dear [recipient]” and informal “Hey” are rarely used). Half of users skip signing off altogether, and just close emails with their name.

For all its faults, email use continues to grow, with daily volume up from 293 billion pre-pandemic to nearly 350 billion expected this year. That’s over 50 emails per day, seven days a week, for every adult on earth. Experts say the art of writing great corporate emails is tricky but that the best often include a direct ask with a deadline. “The most important thing is to make sure that your call to action is clear,” and not lost in the middle of a paragraph, says Maria Amato, senior client partner at Korn Ferry. Here are some other thoughts: 

Don’t say ‘following up.’ 

“I never use that phrase!” says Deepali Vyas, head of the FinTech, Crypto and Payments practice at Korn Ferry. “It means that you are looking to make a sale, not solve the recipient’s problems.” Instead, provide a specific prompt, such as “What questions or comments do you have for us after reviewing the report?” 

Mention shared interests. 

No one ignores emails from friendly people who share their passions. “If we have established anything in common, I will always mention that,” says Margie Warrell, senior client partner at Korn Ferry. She recommends keeping the tone uplifting. “I always try to be upbeat and positive.” To further build collegial bonds, she forwards links or articles about shared interests.

No one emails on Mondays and Fridays. 

Outreach is for Tuesdays. “I see the best results on Tuesday mornings around 10 AM,” says Vyas. Wednesdays can also work, before end-of-week deadlines pile on.

For busy executives, send early or late. 

When facing overflowing inboxes, it’s best to send either early in the morning or in the evening to avoid getting lost. “Otherwise it gets buried in their inbox midday,” says Kendra Marion, vice president of global assessment services at Korn Ferry. She also features a clear task or action in the subject line, such as “Requesting your sign-off” or “Scheduling a meeting this week.” 

Provoke a response. 

If someone hasn’t replied, try using the subject line, “Did you see my earlier note?” “That’s the big gun,” says Amato. “You can overuse it—but it does get attention.”


For more information, contact Korn Ferry’s Coaching practice.