As a student, blogger, journalist, and human being in this day and age, I send a lot of emails. Emails are a major form of communication in the professional world and often are the first impression between two people. I have found that it is typical for people to send extremely unprofessional emails and behave unprofessionally in a setting that demands professional behavior.
I have decided to take this opportunity to teach all of you how to send a professional email. I was lucky enough to learn how to do this back in high school in my personal finance/entrepreneurship class (thanks Mrs. Zocco!) but for those of you who never learned professional email etiquette, here’s your chance!
Learning in a hands on environment works best for me, so if you feel the need to get some practice, feel free to follow along by sending me an email of appreciation. (I’m only half kidding so here is my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Before we get into the lesson, please familiarize yourself with the parts of this sample email:
So, here we go. We have three major parts: greeting, body, and closing.
The greeting is pretty simple. How you address the person (Sir/Madam, Mr./Dr. Smith, John) really is going to depend on the situation and is at the discretion of the writer. If you’ve met the recipient, address them as the name they originally introduced himself or herself as. If not, use your best judgment and keep in mind that more formal is generally the way to go.
You can use “Hello” or “Dear” in the most formal circumstances. When I find myself in the gray area that is still a professional relationship but is evolving to a more casual one, I typically keep the same format but substitute with “Hi” and, on a rare occasion, “Hey.”
Remember, the greeting is formatted with the comma AFTER the name of the recipient. Notice it says “Dear John,“.
The body of an email should contain three part: introduction, main body, and conclusion.
The introduction should include who you are (if recipient is not familiar) and a brief summary of what you are going to talk about throughout the email.
The main body should be split up into micro-paragraphs (it is okay if they are only a couple of lines each) in an easy to read format. This is where you go into detail about what you need to say.
Conclusions are pretty straightforward: wrap it up! I typically will invite the recipient to contact me and let them know that I am eager for his or her response. This lets the recipient know that you would like a reply.
The closing has one part that is 100% necessary and then another part that is only used sometimes.
The first part is the actual closing. This is were you’re saying ttyl and signing your name. (Please note: ttyl is not an acceptable closing phrase unless you are 12 or have a burning desire to be unemployed.) There are many closings you could use, but I typically stick with “Warm regards,” “Thank you,” “God bless,” “All my best,” “Warmly,” or “Sincerely.”
Personally, I typically use “Sincerely” in circumstances that require extreme professionalism or when I’m sending a super salty or passive aggressive email (such as one that is a reply to an email that was also a reply of just “okay thanks” to a well thought out email that I had previously sent).
The first email that you send to somebody in a thread should include your first and last name (and possibly your signature). Further replies and such could include just your first name.
So, on we go to the topic of signatures. As I mentioned before, these are only necessary sometimes. Most professionals will use these and so do some students. As a student, I do not use a signature. As a blogger and journalist, however, I do. I have two different signatures, as I used two different email addresses for these roles.
Signatures sometimes contain an icon or headshot if that is something mandated by your company, but will typically include your title, company name, email address, and one or two phone numbers (to cell phone, office, fax, etc.) Sometimes, professors and teachers will include their degrees, as well. I mix up use of bold and italics on different lines of my signature just for purposes of aesthetic and ease of reading. Some companies will require a standard format which would most likely be made known when your email account is set up.
So we’ve covered the basics on format of a professional email, but there are a few more things that we must cover.
First off, use a professional email address. Your email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org email addresses from a decade ago aren’t going to cut it any more. This is 2017 and you need a big kid email address with your name in it. You may have to add a number or a period to find an email address that has not been taken, but having at least first initial and last name are crucial.
Second, do not use slang or emojis. This is pretty straightforward. Don’t do it.
Another important part of the email is the subject. I don’t have much advice for this other than make sure it doesn’t look spammy. It’s the first thing the recipient reads so that is important, but make it relevant and to the point.
I hope this little lesson helps. If you have a co-worker or client who needs this lesson, please feel free to share with them (they may be offended but oh well.)