How to Write a Proper Professional Email

Experienced professionals exercise a high degree professionalism in their communications, regardless of whether they are communicating verbally or in writing. As a student, working to obtain the skills and credentials needed to flourish in the highly competitive professional world, it only makes sense that you should start practicing professional communication skills early on.

It is important to always put your best foot forward in everything you do, email communication is no different.

In a world where people have become digitally connected and constantly available, text message communication has become the norm. Because of this, professional email writing – or professional correspondence of any type for that matter – has become some what of a dying art. The reality of it, email is an effect and highly valuable means of communication and it is essential to know how to craft a professionally formatted email – especially in the working world.

When it comes to business email communication, there really is no second chance. Once it is out there, it is out there. Granted some email servers offer message retraction options, but they seldom work or pull back the message before the receiver reads it (all part of being continuously connected via our mobile phones!)

In order to present yourself as a credible professional, and a representative of your employer or school, you MUST know how to write a professional email that not only gains the trust of those reading it, but also leaves them with the impression that you are knowledgeable and competition.

We will go into more detail later on, but here are a few standard email etiquette tips that everyone who will write a commercial email should be mindful of in their day to day online communication.

  • You are a professional, act like it: How you use the technology provided to you by your employer is a serious issue. Using your company branded email address to send harmful, non-business related message or to forward chain letter, jokes or other spam mail can get your lagged by your company’s IT department. If the offence is serious enough, or contradictory to your company’s acceptable use policy, you risk termination.
  • Keep the subject to the point and professional: The subject field often determines whether or not the person receiving your emails opens it or sends it straight to the junk folder. This is your first chance to engage with a prospected customer, a current client, a superior or so on. Make sure the subject line clearly indicates the topic of your email, and uses proper sentence structure.
  • To whom or to who it may concern: Also on the list of things to consider is how you address your contacts, particularly if they are new to you. Initially, you should always assume the highest level of courtesy: Dear. Mr. Jones, Good Day Mrs. Smith. Continue doing so until you are on a more personal level with the contact, or until they ask you to address them as something else.
  • Don’t be too swift to hit reply all: This button has gotten people in some serious hot water before. You need to be VERY careful about whether or not you really need to reply to ‘all’ and never use this button in hopes of getting a coworker in trouble. It will only make you look petty. This advice is especially important if you were BCC’d or blind copied, on the email.

Using Proper Email Format

Despite the popularity of email as a method of communication in the business world, proper professional email formatting if often overlooked. However, and this should come as no surprise, properly formatting your email increases the chance that it will be read, replied to and the receiver will react favorably to your correspondence.

Let’s take a minute to learn how to create a professional email following the standard business email format.

  1. Know your audience: Not all email readers are the same, therefore, not every business email needs to be formatted identically. Some business email etiquettewarrant a more formal structure, where others might be a little more lax. If you are unfamiliar with your recipient always air on the side of caution and choose a more formal email  Remember, the format your decide upon will ultimately affect how you start and end your message, it will also decide the type of language and the tone used. To look professional, email formatting is as important as its content or the style of the language you use.

Here is a quick style guide:

Use a more informal email format if:

  • Your company believes in a more personal touch – or encourages things to be less conventional
  • You are addressing the email to someone who is well known to you
  • You are writing a personal email that contains both business and non business information

Choose a formal approach if:

  • Your company requires it.
  • You do not know the recipient
  • You are addressing the email to someone who is your superior
  1. Know how to structure a business email: How you format your email makes a world of difference. Proper business email structure helps to better deliver your message. One that is poorly formatted will leave a sour taste with the recipient.

All business emails consist of these four standard parts:

  • The subject line: This is the first thing that your reader will see, and it will help them to decide whether or not they want to open your email or send it to the trash can. Your subject you be no more than ten words, and as direct as possible.
  • The salutation: This is how you address the recipient. If they are not a personal friend or well known to you, be as formal as necessary.
  • The body paragraphs: The is the main part of the email. Similar to other forms of writing, you should have clear introduction and also a closing statement. These should be written in short, but complete, paragraphs that are no longer than one or two sentences in length. If it helps to convey your message and keep things organized, use bullets or alphabetized lists.
  • The signature line: Normally, depending on the email processor you are using, this should be set up to be included by default.

Here is an example of a business email:

What is Professional Email Etiquette?

Here is a quick overview of the most common Do’s and Don’t of email communication in a professional setting.

Do clearly indicate your subject
Most people get hundreds of emails each and every day, and the majority of them end up going straight to the trash. If you don’t want to get categorized as spam, make sure that your subject line is as clear as possible.

Don’t forget to include your signature
Similar to all other formal letters, your email needs to include a signature that tells the recipient who are you and how they can reply to you. Email processors, like Microsoft Office, can be set up do automate this.

Do include a professional salutation.
‘Yo’, “What’s up” and “Holla” simply won’t cut it – regardless of how well you know the person you are writing to. Instead say “Hello” or “Dear (insert the name of the person). Be mindful not to shorten someone’s name unless they have told you that it is okay to do so.

Don’t try to be funny.
It is hard to translate humor through text. What you think is hilarious might be offensive to someone else, especially without the benefit of facial expression or vocal tone.

Do proofread before you hit send
You should expect to be judged by the way you write an email. This means that if your email is filled with bad spelling or poor grammar, you are likely to be seen as sloppy or lazy. All email processors have an onboard spell checker – use it.

Don’t make assumptions
Your message should always be drafted as if it were a stand along email, even if it is in response to a group of emails. This means  that you should always include a subject, steer clear of one liners, and remember to reference any necessary previous communications. It is likely that the person you are emailing has seen many different emails that day and probably won’t remember the events leading up to yours.

Do reply to emails
Afford each legitimate email sent to you with a timely and courteous reply. Even if you don’t have the time or an answer at the moment, reply to the email letting the sender know that you’ve received their email and will follow up when necessary.

Don’t forget to properly introduce yourself
This is especially true if you are reaching out to someone that you’ve never spoken to before. You should prepare a brief introductory statement that explains who you are, what you do and the purpose of your email.

Do be aware of anti-spam legislation
Depending on the country you are in (or the country of the person you are emailing is in) there might be anti-spam legislations that prohibited unsolicited emails for commercial purposes. Some of these come with fine exceeding $100,000. Make sure you clearly understand the laws in your jurisdiction and that you follow them.

Don’t use too many emojis or exclamation marks
These types of things are fine if you are a teenager sending a text message, but they tend to be seen as a huge annoyance in the business communications world. There is a time and place for a ‘meh’ or baby dolphin emojis, your professionally formatted email is not that place.

Proper Usage of Email in Conversations

An email conversation is sometimes referred to as an email thread, they work by treating related emails like a conversation or discussion and grouping all related emails together in the email inbox. In most email processors, all that needs to be done to start an email conversation is to hit reply all.

Email threads are useful to the business world because they:

  • Reduce inbox clutter: In a non-email thread scenario, if you have the initial email and five replies, you will see six emails in your inbox. With a group conversation, you only see the initial email and the replies next to it.
  • Group related emails together: Most business professional receive more email than they will ever read. It is easy to miss important messages or to be confused about what someone might be talking about.
  • Facilitate group communication: Group emails are essentially team communication, they allow all members to communicate and contribute and help to keep these communications organized and efficient.

Email Salutations – Which Ones To Choose?

As mentioned earlier, how you choose to address someone when you send them an email will depend largely on how well you know them, or who they are to you.

For instance, if the are unknown to you, or they are higher in authority to you (think your boss, your teacher, the President, etc.) you will always choose more formal greetings.

Examples of these being:

  • Sir, Madame
  • Jones
  • Smith
  • Forbes
  • James

You will continue to address them by their formal salutation until you have become better acquainted with them, or until they ask you to address them as something different. Ie: “Call me Bill.”

In the event that you are emailing someone that you know on a personal or more intimate level, or your company practices a less formal approach to business, you would address someone by their first name. However, the one thing that you never want to do without permission is shorten someone’s name. For example, never call William Bill unless he has told you that is okay.