How To Write A Professional Email (With Examples)

By Abby McCain - Sep. 14, 2021
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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There’s an art to crafting a professional email. 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.

    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

Professional Email Do’s:

  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.

Professional Email Don’ts:

  1. 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”

  2. 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). 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.”

Professional Email: CC and BCC

CC stands for “carbon copy” and this field is used to keep other people in the loop, even though they aren’t the recipient. For example, you might email your coworker a report along with instructions and CC your boss so that she’s aware of your progress on the project.

You can CC multiple people at once, and everyone will be able to see the recipient along with every other CC’d person.

If you are included in a CC, the sender probably does not expect any action from you. If they do expect a response or provide a call to action, be sure to hit reply, not reply all. If your email is relevant to all the people who were CC’d, you can choose to reply to all instead.

BCC stands for “blind carbon copy” and this field is used when emailing a group of people who don’t know each other and prefer to remain private. For example, you might email the project lead a set of project guidelines and BCC a team of independent contractors whose work depends on following those guidelines.

Each person who is BCC’d will only see the sender, not the other recipients. If you are included in a BCC, you can only reply to the sender.

Professional Email FAQ

  • How do you start a professional email? To start a professional email, use a common greeting like “dear” or “hello” followed by the recipient’s name. If you know the recipient well, you can use their first name and if you don’t know them, use Mr., Ms., etc. followed by their last name.

    If their name isn’t gendered, use their full name. If you’re sending an email to an unknown recipient, try to make the greeting as descriptive as possible. For example, “Dear Software Developer Hiring Team” or “Dear ABC Inc. Customer Service Team.”

  • What should a professional email include? A professional email should include a subject line, a salutation, body text, a sign-off, and a signature (your printed name).

  • What email provider is best? Gmail is the overall best email service for personal and business use. Everyone is familiar with @gmail.com, and so are more willing to trust and open emails from these addresses.

Examples of Professional Emails

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. Sample Email to a New Contact

    Subject: Recent data analysis grad – informational interview request

    Dear Ms. Thompson,

    I’m a recent graduate of UCD who’s looking to work in data analysis, and when I saw your recent blog article about the future of machine learning for long-term predictive analysis, I was compelled to reach out.

    My undergraduate thesis was on a similar topic, and I’d love the chance to hear advice from an expert in the field I aspire to enter. If you’re available for a video or phone call sometime in the next few weeks, I would love a chance to chat.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to connecting,

    Warm regards,

    Sally Myers

    555-333-6666
    www.linkedin.com/in/sally-myers

  4. Sample Email to a Group

    Subject: New Q2 Targets

    Hey everyone,

    After Tuesday’s meeting with marketing and Thursday’s with the engineering team, we’ve decided to alter our targets for Q2 this year.

    Attached you’ll find a spreadsheet; tabs on the bottom indicate department, so you can quickly navigate to find out how your team’s goals have changed. If you have any questions about these changes, please bring them forward at Friday’s all-hands meeting. Alternatively, you can schedule a time in my Google calendar or shoot me an email if you have a quick question.

    Thanks,

    John

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Author

Abby McCain

Abby is a writer who is passionate about the power of story. Whether it’s communicating complicated topics in a clear way or helping readers connect with another person or place from the comfort of their couch. Abby attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in writing with concentrations in journalism and business.

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