Figuring out how to write a professional email can be difficult. Don't worry. You're not alone.
Even though most of us need to write emails at work daily, it's not as easy as it sounds. Even if you'd craft business emails every day, it can feel like you're never done learning to communicate effectively in English. How to get my point across clearly? How to appear polite yet friendly? How should I start the email?
When you open a new email, you usually know exactly what you want to say… but then you see a cursor blinking, words can get stuck in your head. You can even start to second guess your thinking or doubt your writing skills. While writer's block is real, when it comes to learning how to send professional emails, practice makes perfect.
With these five steps and best practices, you can compose emails that help you put your best foot forward in every workplace situation.
5 easy steps to write professional emails
Whether you are sending a cold email for a job, introducing two people to each other, or following up on a sales lead, these simple steps will guide you through crafting an effective email that meets your goals.
- Off to a great start with the right greeting
- Give thanks
- Explain your purpose
- Leave a good impression with your closing
- Sign-off professionally
1. Off to a great start with the right salutation
When you're writing a business email, it's important to make the best possible first impression with a professional salutation, also known as a greeting, which is a fancier word for saying "hello."
If you don't know the reader well, always open your email with a formal email greeting.
- Dear <First name>,
If you're reaching out to start a new relationship, then you should use their surname.
- Dear Ms./Mrs./Mr. <Last name>,
If your working relationship with the person is more casual, it's okay to use a more friendly salutation.
- Hi <First name>,
It's always a good idea to learn as much as you can about the person you'll be reaching out to. If you don't know the name of the person you are writing, it's usually a safe bet to use "Dear Sir or Madam," or "To Whom It May Concern:". Be sure to notice the irregular capitalization and punctuation in the latter option, and note that sometimes the first one is too formal – and can be seen as outdated, stuffy, or politically incorrect.
2. Give thanks
Beginning by thanking the recipient is the proper thing to do whether you are reaching out to someone for the first time, responding to someone contacting your organization, or hearing back from a person.
If you are making the initial contact, you should thank the person for taking the time to read your email, followed by their name.
- Thanks for taking the time to read my email, <First name>.
If someone outside your organization is reaching out to you with an inquiry, you can say
- Thank you for contacting <Company name>.
When someone replies to one of your emails, be sure to say:
- Thank you for your quick reply.
Expressing gratitude makes the reader more receptive to what you write next, helps you come across as respectful, and is part of good email etiquette.
3. Explain your purpose
If you are initiating communication after you thank the recipient for taking the time to read your email, begin by stating your purpose.
- I am writing to ask about [Product offering X].
- I am writing regarding [Job posting Y].
If you've received an inquiry for the company, answer their question or connect the customer with the right colleague to give them an answer.
- To answer your question here is [Information they requested].
- I'm connecting you with my co-worker <Name> (CC'd), who'll be able to address your inquiry regarding [Topic Z].
Be clear about your purpose at the top of the first paragraph, then move onto the email's main body text. However, you should remember that the reader is a busy professional just like yourself. Get your point across quickly by keeping your sentences concise.
4. Leave a good impression
Before you send your email, it's a good idea to thank your reader again and add polite closing remarks.
Begin with something along the lines of:
- Thank you for your patience and cooperation, <First name>.
- Thanks for your consideration, <First name>.
After this, continue to finish off your closing paragraph politely.
- If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out.
- I look forward to hearing from you.
5. Sign off professionally
The last step is to include a professional email closing with your name. Traditionally, this is called a "valediction," but this word is a bit outdated, similarly to salutation. According to proper email etiquette, the level of formality of your sign-off should match the greeting.
If you started the email informal manner, good choices for sign-off include:
- Kind regards,
- Best wishes,
If your greeting was more casual, consider closing with:
- As ever,
- Thank you,
Don't forget the comma after the closing, let alone add your name to the next line after it.
It's customary to include an email signature that includes your full name, title, company, and relevant contact details in professional emails for identification and communications needs outside the inbox.
Best practices for writing professional emails
In this section, we'll cover the most important best practices for writing professional emails. While each email's content is different, there are general principles that apply to all of them. You can use these guidelines as a final checklist to ensure that you're giving yourself every opportunity to succeed with your message.
Here are the 5 best practices for writing professional emails:
- Understand your recipient
- Mind your tone
- Keep it short and sweet
- Format for clarity
- Proofread before sending
1. Understand your recipient
Whom are you writing to? This may sound silly since it's obvious you can't write a persuasive email without having someone's email address to send it to.
However, even when you're working in a B2B capacity, you should remember that you're writing to a person, not a business.
None of us are our jobs, and the best thing about people is that we're human. So make sure you remember you're writing to a human. Keep it light, kind, and conversational. Always be uplifting and helpful in your responses. Write the type of email you'd want to receive.
2. Mind your tone
Whom you're writing to will set your email's tone and often dictate your greetings and closings too. Maybe you're following up with a recruiter after sending a LinkedIn CV, or perhaps you want to create a positive first contact to make nurturing a lead easier so you can close a sale. These situations often require different tones: an email following up on a job application should be more formal than one aiming to land a client.
3. Keep it short and sweet
It's best to keep a professional email short and sweet. Communicate what you're trying to say clearly and concisely so your recipient understands that you respect their time. One to three short paragraphs of three to five sentences apiece is more than enough. Still, it's important not to keep it too brief – a professional email should be at least three sentences long.
4. Format for clarity
To make your email easy to read, separate different components with paragraph breaks. Consider using bullet point or numbered lists to bring more structure to your message. If you want to highlight what's most important, use bold instead of changing the font's color. However, refrain from using bold for more than one word or phrase in your email. When it comes to choosing a font, stick to classics and use standard font size.
5. Proofread before sending
Last but not least, you should carefully double-check what you've written to make sure it reads clearly and concisely. Miscommunication in professional emails can cause many expensive mistakes, and spelling mistakes and grammar errors inevitably harm others' perception of you. When you think your email is perfect, still make sure that the recipient's name is correct.
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