Keys to constructing a really great email

Things you should know before reading, writing, and hitting "reply all"

Emails have become one the most versatile forms of communication, from confirming a dinner reservation to getting this month's business figures — everyone is using it!

However, because of its versatile usage in our lives, it can sometimes be awkward when you have to write a really important email. How do we begin? What do we say? It is cool to attach a link to that viral online video we can't stop watching? Perhaps you know the answers to some of these questions, but for the others, you're in luck.

Whether you're hitting up a friend you haven't spoken with a while or trying to ask an employer for a few days of vacation, these tips are bound to get you a little bit closer to what you want.

Open with an appropriate greeting

If you know the name of the person you're addressing, use it. Otherwise, a simple "Hello There" or "To Whom It May Concern" will work, the latter for more formal endeavors. "Hi" is a pretty safe bet with colleagues and friends. Anything more quirky or relaxed and it can set things off to a weird start.

Use proper names and titles

Again, when you know names, it's always best to go with the full versions of them. If you see a person is called "Zachary," it's kind of rude to assume they'd also go by "Zach" right off the bat. Even if you and your friends use cutesy names, email rarely feels like the place to bring them out. Remember, these servers aren't private.

State your purpose early and thoroughly

It's always best not to beat around the bush whenever you're looking to ask or talk about someone. Don't bother with false pleasantries. Stake your mission early and smoothly. "I'd like to talk about…" or "I'm writing in regards to…" is a good way to start this second paragraph, following an introduction (if necessary).

Give all required information

Make sure you give all of the details necessary. Trying to plan a family picnic? Tell everyone the location, the date, what to bring, etc. Looking to score an interview with someone? Give them all of your qualifications, plus the previous experience you have in relation to the role. It's always better to provide someone with too much, I believe.

Limit your use of contractions

Although they save space, contractions are often not very professional, or something a bit difficult to decode. I still have to look up what "who's" and "who've" mean from time to time. It's usually best to stay away from the ones that are not common. Don't go overboard — and yes, the use of a contraction was completely intentional there.

Proofread, proofread, proofread!

There is nothing more embarrassing than sending an email with a blatant typo in the middle of your message. Sometimes your fingers can get away from your brain and things can get scrambled. Totally normal. However, you want to avoid letting the rest of the world know about it.

Know your audience

The language you use with your friends and family is pretty different from the language you use with something more professional, academic, or serious. It also it something to consider when sharing your information. Trust me, no colleague cares that you're hungover or having a heartbreak, just like your friends don't care about your end of the year numbers.

Include your contact information

If you want someone to respond back to you, you have to give them the methods through which to do so. Make sure you give your phone number, your address, your social media handles or whatever else so you can get a response. Also be certain that the details given are relevant (i.e. a country code if you're corresponding foreignly).

Always say “thank you”

Even if you're just emailing your friends — maybe especially if you're emailing your friends, because we all get way too much email and don't need any more of it — make sure to say "thanks." This is even more important the longer or more strenuous your email is.

Have a thorough email signature

This is likely my biggest piece of advice. I've seen email signatures with photos, credentials, and hyperlinks galore, and those are always the ones that draw my attention much better than those that just have a name and a title. It's your last impression for whatever it is you're trying to say, and sometimes those can be even more important than the first.

Now get to typing, proofreading, and sending away. But if you start to spam inboxes you'll be in a whole new kind of problem.