18 Tricks To Sounding Like An Accomplished Adult Over Email

Image via Unsplash/Luke Chesser

Whether you’re applying for your first “adult” job, seeking a promotion, communicating with a more senior person in another company or simply trying to impress a critical, older relative, today’s reality is that you will have to communicate with these people over email. The worrisome thing about email is that what you write will forever be preserved in the recipient’s inbox (unless he or she is amongst those rare individuals who regularly delete old messages). Since it’s pretty easy to sound less than intelligent in writing (try reading just about any OkCupid account or a number of desperate 22-year-olds’ cover letters), here are some tips to help you steer clear of personal and professional embarrassment when you’re reaching out over email:

1. Avoid Overuse Of Exclamation Marks

In fact, using none at all is perfectly acceptable.

2. Avoid Qualifiers

This means edit out words like “fairly,” “really,” “sort of” and “somewhat.” You won’t impress anyone if you’re “somewhat familiar with Excel.” It amounts to the same thing as being “familiar with Excel,” after all.

3. Keep Your Sentences Succinct

Doing this shows that you’re in command of the English language. It will also get your point across quickly so that you will hold the attention of potential employers or whomever else you’re trying to impress.

4. Don’t Ask Too Many Questions


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This will only reveal how little you know. But do ask the right questions. These may include the following:

5. Inquire Into Key Specifics Only

Channel the classic Ws here (Who, What, Where, When, Why). Figure out the time and location for meeting someone and if they’d like you to bring anything specific. Meanwhile, resist the urge to ask things like what you should be wearing

6. You’re Entitled To Know Your Pay

If the email is job-related, you’re certainly allowed to inquire into your potential compensation. There are, of course, ways to go about this properly…

7. Don’t Demand Ridiculous Sums Of Money

Though it’s good to aim a little high if you’re given the opportunity to tell what kind of salary you’d expect from a job, throwing out some wild sum will immediately stop potential employers from taking you seriously. Do some research into realistic salaries for people of your experience and position beforehand.

8. Ask, “How Are You?”

A brief but considerate greeting shows that you’re mature enough to acknowledge other humans as such, but you’re still down to business.

9. Don’t Get Too Personal

As mentioned, short, personal inquiries are nice (even expected), but don’t pry too much into how a work associate weekend’s was (unless it’s someone you’ve gotten exceptionally close with over the period of time you’ve been working at the company). On the other side of the coin, don’t divulge too much about your personal life, either.

10. Include Multiple Points Of Contact Info

Leave the person you’re emailing with various routes by which to contact you in the future. Provide a phone number (work and cell if you have both) or an alternate professional email if you have that, as well. It will make you look like you’re more in demand, professional and simultaneously making yourself as available as possible to the recipient.

11. The Above Should Be Part Of Your Signature

At the bottom of your emails, you should include an automatic signature that notes the above contact info, as well as your current title and company. If you don’t have one, just include the contact info in the most professional-looking way possible. Don’t just throw in your digits and call it a day; format a little.

12. Don’t Over-Explain


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It’s OK to ask how long the email recipient thinks a meeting might run because you have a subsequent obligation. However, you don’t have to mention that the obligation is a very important doctor’s appointment to follow up for that strange build-up you recently discovered accumulating in the corners of your eyes upon waking every morning.

13. Make Declarative Statements

Instead of, “I think that sounds like something I can do for tomorrow,” write, “I will do that tomorrow.” It sounds a lot stronger and will give you more incentive to actually follow through with the task at hand. Only do this, if of course, you actually plan on following through.

14. Enhance Your Background

Don’t lie about things you have done or concoct jobs or assignments you’ve never had, but making a past internship sound like a full-time job isn’t doing anybody harm. Remember that working for free doesn’t mean you weren’t working, right?

15. Play Up Your Talents

There’s no place for modesty when you’re dealing with a lot of people who’ve had more time to carry out accomplishments than you have.

16. Cite Specific Examples From Your Experience

Instead of, “I’ve worked on social media before,” go with, “I’ve managed the social media accounts of…”

17. Substitute Some Nouns For Verbs

If you want older, more experienced professionals in your field to take you seriously (or for your stern uncle to nod approvingly at your accomplishments), assume the role yourself. Instead of someone who’s “done some accounting,” you’re “an accountant.”

18. Don’t Act The Sycophant

Admittedly, sucking up will get you far in this world. However, if you do it too obviously or pathetically, it will produce the opposite effect. When you do it in writing, it will not only sound more exaggerated, it will also exist eternally on the Internet.