Emails are the business letters of the modern world, making them incredibly important communication tools both within your company and to the wide world outside your doors.

Even though your best buddy may understand the encoded messages you send via the Internet, chances are much better that your business connections are struggling to get your meaning — especially if you frequently have to explain yourself after you click send. They may not want to say it, but I will: it’s you, not them.

This doesn’t mean your condition’s hopeless, though.  There are plenty of ways to become a better emailer, including:

Reading more carefully. I swear, more emails chains are ruined by skimming than any other single thing. Read your emails. Read every word. Only once you’ve done that should you reply with your comments. This goes doubly so for email chains you’re starting. Read what you intend to send as if you’re the recipient and make sure each point is crystal clear.

Asking direct questions. The reason email has become so incredibly popular for business is because of its insane efficiency. But, like any system, your email is only as efficient as its least efficient link, or something. Don’t dance around questions you need to ask or statements you’ve got to make — just get down to it. If you need to ask someone why they chose a hideous purple font for the company’s letterhead, pull off the bandage quick and write what’s got to be written.

Formalities. There’s a lot of debate on whether or not emails should be as formal as business letters. Emily Post certainly thinks you should retain the use of “Dear Mr. So and So,” but the jury is out on this one. Use the address you feel is appropriate to the situation, with no forced propriety. If your company’s culture is relaxed, you’re better off to demonstrate that right up front with a “Hello, Tom!” instead of a “Dear Mr. Thomas Morgan.” Welcome to the age of the Internet, the world is becoming increasingly more familiar and it’s all because of our collective love of pictures of cats.

Whether your co-workers are hesitant to loop you in on their messages or your email chains are turning into black voids that suck your productive time away, these tips will help you turn your less than stellar email performances into the stuff that executives are made of.

Who knows, after you’ve mastered your email box, you might even figure out how to program the microwave in the break room?