How to Write a Professional Email
Steven Brady — Nov 20, 2020
As email is increasingly the most common type of formal conversation, it is more essential than ever to understand how to write a professional email. Whether emailing to recap an important meeting or to communicate an update or simply to follow-up, a well-composed email says a lot about your professionalism and plays a big role in influencing the response from your reader.
While you can generally be as lax as you like when emailing friends or family, professional emails follow subtly different guidelines in regard to introduction, tone, formatting, and style. Remember you are sending them to individuals who can decide whether to engage with you or not just by looking at your email, which makes it imperative to adhere to the basic rules of professional email writing.
So, what are the core considerations when writing such a correspondence? Here we identify a few key points on how to write a professional email.
Greetings should come first when writing a professional letter. The standard way to start an email is still “Dear (X)”, but when reaching out to prospects or candidates, it’s OK to be less formal and more approachable. A simple ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ can often be the right choice. Consider your audience! Younger people and more tech-literate folks may appreciate a straightforward introduction over a formal one.
Similarly, it’s worth mentioning here that you should avoid the general ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ as it might come off the wrong way, depending on who is receiving the email. If you’re uncertain regarding whether to use Mrs., Miss, etc., simply ‘Ms.’ is usually the safest option.
Before moving on to the main text of your email, make sure you mention why you are sending the email in the first place. Your purpose statement will depend on whether (or not) you are responding to an earlier request; for example, if you are responding to someone who had asked about your company, you can say,” thank you for contacting us.” If you are writing back after receiving a response to a request, you can begin with, “thank you for your quick response.”
Remember that your audience will judge the relevance of your email through your introduction. For this reason, make sure it states precisely the reason for writing. Equally important, observe correct grammar and punctuation for the sake of professionalism.
The audience for professional emails is, well, professionals, so the language you use in your correspondence should be professional.
A formal email should observe the rules of grammar with respect to the choice of words and phrasing. For instance, if writing to an executive you intend to work with in the future, avoid using a language that you use to communicate with friends as it depicts you as nonprofessional. Moreover, ensure that the tone you use matches your language. There are high chances that if you observe formality, your audience will want to know more about you.
More and more often, however, these rules can be bent, and depending on your audience, you may want to include some carefully considered lightheartedness or a tactically chosen emoji. A lot of people will appreciate your good humor and enjoy the informal approach. As always, just make sure you know your audience.
Always keep emails short and to the point since your readers might not have the time or inclination to read through a long text. You can achieve this by ensuring you only address a single subject or topic in your email. This way, you avoid making the message unnecessarily long and burdensome to read. In any case, writing short and precise emails shows you respect your audience’s time, which adds to your credibility.
Remember, brevity is the soul of wit, so remove any information that is irrelevant to the topic, filler words, and any extraneous content that your email can work just as well without. While editing, confirm that you used short sentences that are easier to read.
After you are done with crafting your email, it is time to end the correspondence. Here, you need to appreciate your reader for their time using polite remarks. For example, you can write, “Thank you for your time” or “I look forward to hearing from you soon.” Your closing remarks should be determined by what you intend to achieve with the interaction, so if you expect the reader to respond, you can write that you look forward to hearing from them in the future.
Besides letting the reader know that you are signing off, closing remarks embody courtesy. This means if you do not include them, your recipient might have doubts about your professionalism, which can even discourage them from doing business with you.
Ending your email with an appropriate closing is just as important as the rest of the message. While you can use fancy ways of ending an informal email, professional emails require you to be more formal and less creative. Some standard sign-off options include;
Yours or Yours Truly
Regards or Best Regards
Maintaining an element of professionalism from beginning to end is important because it indicates authenticity and respect. Just like with the other elements of a professional email, make sure you know your audience! ‘Cheers’ or ‘best wishes’ are often excellent closings, but depending on who you are engaging with, something more formal might be a better fit.
You definitely don’t want to spend all that time crafting an email only to realize you sent it with embarrassing grammatical errors. This is why you need to take the time to proofread it, as this will allow you to spot any issues. Another reason you need to go through it is to confirm you have included all the referenced attachments.
An ideal email is concise, free of errors, and straightforward. One typo isn’t going to sink you, but a well-edited email demonstrates professionalism and diligence and goes a long way in determining the impact your message has on the reader.
Emails are indispensable in formal interactions, and learning the nitty-gritty of writing them is critical in determining how you interact with other professionals. Being informed on how to write a professional email doesn’t require you to be a masterful editor or versed in every aspect of etiquette, you just need to follow the best practices outlined above.
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