How To Write A Professional Email: Tips And Examples

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 18, 2020
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There is no shortage of emails in the professional world.

Just like anything, there is an art to crafting a professional email, and even if you can’t say what precisely makes for a polished email, you probably recognize the difference between a well-written message and an abrasive, confusing one.

Whether you’re getting used to writing professional emails for the first time or just need a little spot check, keep reading to find out how to make your messages shine.

Steps for Writing Professional Emails

While you should always tweak each email for your recipient and the occasion, there are some general steps that you can follow to ensure your message is as professional as possible.

  1. Start with the subject line. A subject line is meant to give the reader a summary of the email so that they know if they need to deal with it right away or not.

    Don’t frustrate them by making the subject line sound more or less urgent than it actually is. Instead, get to the point about the purpose of the email. It can be as simple as “Meeting on November 18” or “Request for Quote.”

  2. Open with a greeting. Always open with a polite salutation unless you’re a few messages into a conversation. Even then, you should probably at least include the person’s name.

    If you’re writing to a potential employer, someone you’ve never met, or another person with whom you aren’t on a first-name basis, “Dear” is a good go-to, while “Hi” or “Hello” is better for people you’ve corresponded with before.

    Always follow the salutation with the person’s name and a comma or colon. If you’re trying to be more formal, use their title and last name. For example, “Dear Ms. Haywood” is a very polite, professional salutation. If you don’t know their gender, simply use their full name: “Dear Jordan Smith.”

    Using only a first name in a greeting such as “Hello Tom,” on the other hand, is acceptable if you’re writing to a coworker or someone else you’re on a first-name basis with.

  3. Write your message. If you’re writing a casual message, opening with a friendly line such as, “I hope you had a great weekend,” is an excellent way to set a positive tone. If your email is more formal, though, skip this step.

    Your first paragraph should get right to the point about the purpose of your email, whether you’re informing the reader that their order will be arriving on Tuesday or asking for a recommendation letter.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
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    Of course, you shouldn’t be inappropriately abrupt, but the reader also shouldn’t have to read through your whole message to understand why you’re writing.

    As you write, be as concise as possible and keep your paragraphs short. If you need to expound further, set up a follow-up phone call or meeting to do so.

    Include a clear call to action, whether that’s a question or your contact information, and an offer to set up a meeting. Keep this in its own paragraph so that it doesn’t get lost in the rest of the message if the reader is skimming.

  4. Finish with a closing. Sign off with a professional “Sincerely,” “Best,” or “Thank you,” followed by your full name.

    Include your contact information below your name, especially if you’re writing to someone for the first time or if it’s the first message in the conversation. You can even set an email signature to automatically include this information for you.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Professional Emails

  1. Do err on the side of formality. It’s always better to be too professional than not professional enough. If you’ve never talked to the person you’re writing to before, don’t assume anything and stay as polite as possible.

    That means leaving out any quips about the weather or Fridays.

    Even if you’re writing a quick note to your boss or colleague saying that you’re sick and won’t be in or that you’ll need to leave early for an appointment, remember that these emails become a permanent record, so stay professional in your casualness.

  2. Do include a thank you. Whether it’s most appropriate at the beginning of your message, at the end, or both, a heartfelt thank you goes a long way to establishing a friendly tone.

    You could be thanking the recipient for helping you with a project, for sending you information, or for simply considering your request. There is no need to gush, but make sure it’s warm and genuine.

    Be careful with phrases such as “Thank you in advance,” though, as they can sound presumptuous and harsh. This is where “Thank you for your consideration” or a simple “Thank you” as your sign-off comes in handy.

  3. Do write to your audience. There is no one-size-fits-all email template, unfortunately. You’ll need to match your email’s tone, style, and length to each situation and recipient.

    As you do this, don’t stick to a set of rules just because they’re there. Instead, use them as a starting point to help you build a relationship via email. Email is a form of communication, so do what you need to in order to communicate effectively.

  4. Don’t treat an email like a text message. This means:

    • No emojis

    • Few exclamation points (One or two is okay in a congratulatory email)

    • No unusual or colorful fonts

    • No GIFs or memes

    • No abbreviations for common words like “u” instead of “you”

  5. Don’t bog down your message with too many files. If you try to include too many documents, videos, and graphics in your email, it’s going to be much more difficult for your recipient to read and may prevent them from receiving it altogether.

    If you need to transfer large files, put them on a cloud-based server, and send the link.

Tips for Writing Perfect Professional Emails

Now that you know how to write a professional email, here are some tips to make sure you’re able to perfect your message every time:

  1. Try to stick to one topic per email. If you include too many different requests or updates, the recipient will overlook at least one of them. Avoid this by sticking to one topic per email or, if you can’t avoid including multiple items, use bullet points, and group your requests together.

    Keeping it simple also streamlines communication if the recipient needs to forward your message on to someone else, and it helps you find old emails more easily.

  2. Proofread, proofread, proofread. You should always glance over your emails at least one extra time before sending them (pay extra attention to the recipient’s name and any dates you mentioned). But if you’re writing an especially important message, have someone else look it over for you.

  3. Send a test message. If your email has complicated formatting or graphics, send it to yourself or a team member first to make sure they all go through properly. Try to send it to a different email platform, if possible, so that you can see if everything transfers correctly.

  4. Add any attachments first and the recipient’s email address last. Nearly everyone has gotten a follow-up email with an attachment the sender forgot to send with the first message, and chances are you’ll be that sender at some point as well.

    Prevent this from happening as much as you can by adding the attachment before you send your message. Some email platforms will even send you a reminder to add a file if you write the word “attachment” in your message, so consider looking into this as well.

    You can also avoid the embarrassment of sending a message before it’s ready to go by only adding the recipient’s email address when you’re about to hit “send.”

Examples of Professional Emails

Sample Email Following Up After a Career Fair

Subject: Washington State University Career Fair — Sam Smith

Dear Ms. Waters,

Thank you again for talking with me at the WSU career fair yesterday. The information you gave me about internship opportunities was really helpful, and I enjoyed hearing your perspective on the pros and cons of long-term versus short-term internships.

After hearing you talk about Wilson & Wilson Accounting and doing some more research myself, I would love to pursue an internship at your organization this summer.

Would you be willing to talk with me a little more about this process?

I’ll be available throughout the next few weeks, so please let me know when would be most convenient for you. I know you’re busy, so please also let me know if you’d rather speak in person or on the phone.

Thank you, and I look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,

Sam Smith

333-222-4444
samsmith@email.com

Sample Email Asking for a Document From a Coworker in Another Department

Subject: Campus Blueprints for Groundbreaking Ceremony

Hello Jeremy,

I hope your week is going well.

I’m working on putting together a one-sheet for the new building to hand out at the groundbreaking ceremony. Would you mind sending me a copy of the blueprints to use as a reference?

I’m also happy to come by your office to take a look at them there if you’d prefer. If this is the case, I’m available any time during the next few days, so please let me know when would be most convenient for you.

Thank you for all your help on this project. I know our department really appreciates all you’ve done.

Best,

Amelia Rodriguez

Communications and Marketing
555-333-6666
ameilar@email.com

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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