You want your email writing to be as correct as you can make it for three reasons:

• It ensures readers are receiving the message you wanted to send.
• It impresses readers with your attention to detail.
• It shows readers you are educated and intelligent.

If you send out email writing that contains errors, your team members, managers, clients, and vendors may believe you’re uneducated, unintelligent, careless, or incompetent.

This email writing training will teach you to proofread email writing effectively.

Writing Email Guideline 1
Read your email writing with attention to four critical areas in which errors often occur.

After you finish your email writing, stop and reread every word carefully. Read with attention to the following four areas of concern. For very important emails proofread in five passes, one for each area of concern.

  • Proofread your email writing for content.
Make sure you’ve said what you want to say. Is all the information important for the reader to receive in this business email?
  • Proofread your email writing for numbers.
If you have phone numbers, dates, room numbers, or other numbers in your email writing, double-check them to be sure they’re accurate.
  • Proofread your email writing for clarity.
Will the reader be able to understand every sentence of  your email writing? Have you written so clearly the reader cannot possibly misunderstand?
  • Proofread your email writing for usage.
Read for grammar, spelling, and punctuation to make sure everything is correct. Look especially at those areas you know give you trouble.
  • Proofread your email writing for format and structure.
Look through your email writing to ensure that your fonts, headings, indentations, bulleting, numbering, and other formatting considerations are consistent. You must follow the pattern you choose at the beginning throughout the professional email.

Writing Email Guideline 2
For very important email writing, print out a copy and proofread it.

If this email contains important information, such as a contract offer, print out a copy and proofread the printed copy. Have someone else proofread the email writing also to make sure the figures are correct.

Writing Email Guideline 3
Focus when you proofread your email writing. Stop if you are interrupted.

When you proofread, go into a proofreading mind set. Focus on reading more carefully than you normally read. You will be proofreading your email writing for only a few minutes, so you can expend the extra mental energy.

Turn off the radio or other distraction. If someone interrupts you, don’t continue proofreading. Stop, take care of the interruption, and return to proofreading the email writing.

Writing Email Guideline 4
If you are having difficulty following your email writing, read it aloud.

If some text in your email writing is difficult to follow, read it aloud to see whether it contains the content you want it to have. Consider revising it. If you must read your email writing aloud to understand it, your reader is sure to have a problem with it.

Writing Email Guideline 5
When you are proofreading email writing, if you read a sentence and you have to read it again, change it.

Don’t leave text in your email writing that seems unclear, even though you did figure out what it really meant the second time you read it. The fact that you had trouble with it the first time means the reader probably will have trouble with your email writing.

Writing Email Guideline 6
Proofread every letter and space in your email writing, no matter where it falls.

Proofread every letter and space in your email writing. Proofread the title, headings, tables, page numbers, and all other parts of the email writing. In the body of the email, start in the upper left corner of the screen and end in the lower right corner. Do not skip around as you proofread your email writing. Follow it from beginning to end.

Procedure for Proofreading Your Email Writing

When you proofread your business writing, you must approach the text differently from the way you approach it when you are reading for content or reading to edit. Editing and proofreading are two different activities you must approach in different ways. Proofread after you edit.

Follow this procedure to proofread your email writing, report writing, and letter writing effectively. We’ll imagine you’re proofreading this text:

The consultant prepared a report on the feasibility of changing our software system without much expense and with little interruption. She assured us that it was possible—but would not guarantee its effects would cause no disruption. The reason is that such changes can cause unanticipated disruptions and may result in more manpower requirements than we had anticipated. Her report was an eye opener; it made me think twice.

1. Proofread email writing word by word.

Don’t slide over your business writing the way you normally read. Focus on each word and the modifiers, articles, or prepositions accompanying it.

The consultant    prepared    a report    on the    feasibility    of changing    our software    system    without

2. Then read phrases in the email writing after you’ve read a series of words.

This is what you would see as you read phrases:

The consultant prepared a report    on the feasibility of changing    our software system    without much expense . . .

This procedure may seem time consuming, but as you become accustomed to it, your eyes will take you to the words and phrases effortlessly, reading the words, then the phrases:

The consultant    prepared    a report    the consultant prepared a report    on the    feasibility    of changing    our software    system    on the feasibility of changing our software system

If the sentence is longer or is complicated, read the entire sentence again, looking for sentence errors.

3. Watch for unusual or special words in your business writing that you must check twice.

In the example, you would see “effect,” which is often confused with “affect.” Look twice at it. You would see “manpower,” which might be “man power.” If you have any doubts about something in your business writing, look it up in the dictionary. Use your dictionary regularly. In this case, “manpower” is one word.

4. Look at punctuation specifically.

In the example, you see “it was possible—but would not guarantee,” with a dash in it. Look twice at that. Is the dash the longer em dash —, or is it just a hyphen -? Is this the appropriate place for an em dash? If you have doubts, don’t use the punctuation or look up the rule in your grammar textbook.

As you proofread the above sample of business writing, you would see this sentence: “Her report was an eye opener; it made me think twice.” It has a semicolon. That’s an unusual punctuation mark that causes business writers problems. You must have a complete sentence on either side of the semicolon. Double-check that.

5. We recommend that you not use dashes, semicolons, ellipses, and other unusual punctuation in your business writing.

You don’t need them in business writing, and many business writers don’t understand how to use them or read them.

Proofread every document you send out in this way, slowly and carefully. That is the only way to produce business writing that is consistently correct.

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Writing Coaching by Senior Instructor Dr. Robert Hogan

Business Writing InstructorDr. Robert Hogan teaches the coaching, tutoring, and individualized business writing courses. Dr. Hogan has been training writers for 40 years in universities, colleges of business, consulting companies, and professional writing companies. He has been been a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County College, and Illinois State University College of Business. He was manager of communications in a telephone billing company and owner of a company writing documents on contract for government agencies and corporations.

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