Professional Email Writing 101


Has this ever happened to you? You open your inbox only to receive the following,

Subject: URGENT!!!!

do you have the pictures??!! I nred them for my report, do you think you’ll have them ready soon??? I dont want to be late sending it in

thx ttyl

Have you ever received an email like that? Have you ever written one yourself? Maybe not one as urgent, but from time to time we’ve all sent an email we realized was riddled with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or was interpreted the wrong way.

You are not alone. There are many people out there - professionals included - who don’t know how to write a proper email. You can turn in the most beautifully written reports or perfectly designed graphics, but can still fall short when it comes to email writing. Don’t fret. We are going to take you through each step of writing an email so that when you’re done reading, you will be a master at them!

Step 1 - Subject Line

This is one of the most important parts of every email you send. If you don’t get the subject line right, no one will want to open your email, which is the whole point of sending one. When sending an email to a close friend, it’s okay to use lines like “Did you hear about this?” or “Check this out!” In a professional setting, though, they would come across more as click-bait rather than important emails. Instead, try using subject lines such as;

  • Important: Needs review

  • Re: Plans for Don’s retirement

  • Scheduling conflict

  • [document] - [company name] - [project name]

KEY ADVICE: Always keep the subject line as short as possible. You will go into more detail in your email so there is no need to put it all in the subject. Also, the less exuberant punctuation and language you use, the more likely the receiver will be to open your email.

Step 2 - Greeting

It may seem like this is an easy one, but sometimes it can be hard to know exactly how to address someone. It also depends on whether it is your first time contacting a person or whether you have had an email chain going for a while.

Before you write anything else, start with formal “Dear.” If you know the first name of the person you are sending an email to, it is completely acceptable to use it. If you feel like your interactions with the individual are more formal, then use Mr. or Ms. in front of their last name. Whatever you choose to do, the most used punctuation following is a comma. For example, you could say:

  • Dear Breanne,

  • Dear Ms. Vidal,

  • Dear Mr. Rowbotham,

For less formal situations, it is perfectly acceptable to start the email with “Hello _____,” and use the same naming conventions as noted above.

KEY ADVICE: Once the recipient responds to your first email, and you need to continue contacting them, respond in kind to their tone. If they are less formal, it is okay to be less formal in return. Instead of saying “dear” each time, simply state their name - just don’t forget that comma!

Step 3 - The Message

There are generally two main types of emails that you would send in a professional setting: a request or a thank you. Both are different from each other but it is important to know how to write both.

For a request email, always make sure you are as concise and polite as you can be. Daniel Potter from Grammarly shares

“In stating your purpose, you want to be direct, but not to the point of seeming brusque or rude. If this feels like an awkward balancing act, err on the side of formality. Just as it’s better to be slightly overdressed at work than too casual, it’s usually better for your first email to a new contact to be exceptionally polite.” For example,

  • I am sending this email as a request to gain more information regarding the topic of our meeting on Monday.

  • I am a video producer for a small marketing agency in town and I have heard that you give excellent seminars on video related matters.

KEY ADVICE: Try and stay away from the word just - “I am just writing to find out…” - as it undermines the importance of your message or it makes it sound like you are inconveniencing them by asking a question. Be direct, yet polite, and don’t undermine yourself.

For thank you emails, it is pretty straightforward. Always include what you are thanking them for in detail, so they know it is not just a generic email.

  • Thank you for taking the time to come in and speak with the team about proper email etiquette in the workplace.

  • We appreciate your help with planning the fundraiser for the local soccer team; your hard work did not go unnoticed.

KEY ADVICE: Keep it short and simple. The more concise you are in your messages, the less confusion there will be over the context.

Step 4 - The Closeout

How you end your email is just as important as how you start it. Always tie things up with a line that clearly states the purpose of the email.

  • We look forward to working with you on this project.

  • Please take the time to review the document I’ve attached and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

  • I look forward to our meeting at 2:00 pm on Wednesday.

Once you have chosen your closing statement or call-to-action, then you need a sign-off to end the email. Try to stay away from ones like “cheers” or “later,” as they are more informal. It is better to use more professional sounding options, such as:

  • Sincerely,

  • Best regards,

  • Yours truly,

  • Respectfully,

KEY ADVICE: Creativity is great, but try to keep it for personal emails between friends and family. It’s always better to air on the side of too formal than too casual.

Hopefully, these tips will help you in your quest to create the perfect email that people will be impressed by. If you have any questions let us know in the comments below!

Morgan Wilson - Office Administrator

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