Despite the rise of instant messaging, emails remain a widely-used pillar of professional communication.
Email is still the most effective medium to send work-related information, such as job applications, work reports, company announcements, and inter-organizational messages.
Knowing how to write work and business emails is an important skill to acquire. In the workplace, having such knowledge can make you a better communicator and set you up for success.
Here you’ll learn what a professional email is and how to write one. Plus, we will provide some helpful tips you can use for future reference.
What is a professional email?
A professional email is used for business or work purposes. Unlike personal emails, these emails have certain standards to adhere to.
A professional email might be a cover letter, recommendation letter request or resignation notice.
If you are a new business owner, you will need an email address with the name of your business in it.
Instead of having email@example.com, your address should be firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using a custom domain will make your company look more credible and professional in the eyes of clients and customers. If you don’t have a professional email address yet, try using the Zyro Business Email service.
When to write emails professionally
Professional emails are more attention-grabbing, concise, and to-the-point. They minimize misunderstandings and ensures that your intention is expressed correctly.
Just like the way you dress, how you write also reflects your attitude and personality. It represents your voice when communicating with a coworker, client, or authority figure.
Writing professional emails helps establish credibility and reliability, which will suggest you’re the right person for what they need.
5 Steps to write a professional email
Step 1: Pay attention to the subject
Email subjects are often taken for granted. People forget that the subject line is the first thing people see, and can make or break your email campaign.
In fact, nearly half of recipients decide whether to open an email based on the subject alone.
Within a few words, the subject should clearly communicate your email’s purpose and prompt the receiver to open it. To craft the right subject line, you need to determine what kind of email you’re sending.
Make sure to send an email that contains one purpose only. Including more will make the subject and body more lengthy and break up the email’s primary focus.
If you have a hard time coming up with the right subject line, try summarizing the email’s goal in one sentence, then remove some unnecessary words to make it shorter.
Ideally, the subject should be between six and ten words.
Let’s say you want to send a reminder for an important office meeting. In this case, you can use “Reminder: Meeting for [purpose or project] on [date].”
Here are a few subject line examples for different occasions:
- Application for Social Media Specialist: [Your Name]
- Sick Leave Request for [Your Name]
- Meeting Rescheduled for Friday
- [Customer’s name], Your Favorite Items are on Sale!
- Black Friday Deals are Ending Soon
Step 2: Write proper greetings
Adding a greeting is good email etiquette, as it explicitly addresses who should be accepting the message, and can dictate the level of formality used throughout the email.
As a rule of thumb, the more familiar you are with the recipient, the less formal your language can be. In such instances, you can opt for greetings like Hi or Hey.
However, if you don’t know the recipient’s well, it’s best to address them with Mr., Ms., or Dear.
You can use their full name or last name only:
- Dear Susan,
- Dear John Smith,
- Dear Mr. Smith,
In certain cases, you might not find the name of your recipient. In these instances, avoid using “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Such phrases might suggest you don’t know who should be reading the message.
A better alternative is to refer to them by their position, such as:
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear Marketing Manager,
Don’t forget to use a comma after the person’s name.
Step 3: Use an appropriate structure for the email body
You’ve made the receiver open your email, but whether or not they understand the email’s purpose is decided by the body text.
The body is the meat of your email. It should expand on the subject line, briefly and clearly. At the same time, the body has to be tailored to the reader so they will take the desired action.
You need to use a proper structure, whether it’s direct or indirect. The difference between the two lies in how each of them organizes the following elements:
- Main point. It expresses the purpose of your email, be it a reply, request, notification, or a reminder.
- Relevant context. This part explains why the main point is necessary. That way, the reader can understand your reason for contacting them.
- A closing statement or paragraph. You can include a polite call-to-action, write a brief summary of the body, or simply thank the recipient.
The direct structure begins with the main point, which will be elaborated on by relevant context. Then it ends with a closing statement or paragraph.
This method is used when the audience already knows the topic, or will likely approve of your message.
Say you need to send an email requesting annual leave. You have notified your manager beforehand, which means you can use the direct structure and write the following:
“I am writing this email to request for my annual leave starting from June 8 to June 12.
During this time, I will be traveling to my hometown to attend my sister’s wedding.
You can still contact me while I’m off work and I will reply as soon as I’m available.
Thank you for your understanding.”
On the other hand, the indirect method is used when the recipient has little to no knowledge of the topic. It starts with a relevant context so that the audience can be eased into your main point.
To demonstrate the use of this method, let’s try out a scenario where you have to decline a job offer:
“Thank you so much for considering me for the position of Data Analyst at your company.
Unfortunately, I am unable to accept the offer as I have decided to pursue another opportunity elsewhere at this time.
It was a pleasure to talk to you last week, and I wish you the best in finding the perfect candidate.”
Step 4: Use an appropriate sign-off
Now, time to end your email properly. The closing remark has to be consistent with the level of formality in the greeting and body.
Remember: the less acquainted you are with the audience, the more formal your closing needs to be.
Some safe formal examples are:
- Best Regards,
- All the best,
- Yours sincerely,
If you want to be a bit more casual, you can use one of the following options:
- Thank you,
- See you,
After the closing remark, write down your signature.
This should contain your name and title, but can also include your professional contact details if needed:
Human Resources Specialist
+1 2345 5678
A lot of email programs provide settings to customize your signature, allowing you to automatically attach it to all of your emails in case you forget to add it at the end.
Step 5: Make sure your writing is on point
Before sending the email, check the content for any clarity, grammar, and typographical errors.
Flawless grammar can also leave a good impression on the audience. It will show that you and your company are professionals who take time to ensure perfection.
First, make sure all the essential information has been mentioned. Remove any irrelevant details so that the email is as concise and brief as possible.
Then check all the sentences and words used in your email. Ask yourself: can other people understand what you’re trying to say? Is this the best way to express my message?
Usually, whether your writing is clear enough has a lot to do with its grammar. If the sentence structure, verb tenses, and word choices are appropriate, the recipient should have no problem understanding it.
One common grammar mistake is using run-on sentences. It occurs when you connect two independent clauses incorrectly, like the following:
“The customer sent a replacement request he was too late.”
In this case, the relationship between the two clauses is unclear. If you wish to indicate that the second clause contrasts the first one, proper conjunction should be added:
“The customer sent a replacement request, but he was too late.”
Ensure that there are no typos in the email as well. Though they might seem insignificant, mistyping can be embarrassing and misleading when the error is noticeable.
Pay special attention to names. Make sure to double-check the recipient’s name to see whether you have typed it correctly.
If you’re not sure about your own editing and proofreading skills, use tools like Grammarly to automatically check your email for any mistakes.
Examples of well written professional emails
Not sure what your email should look like? Here are two examples that can provide you some ideas.
Subject line: Monthly Staff Meeting – July 6, 2021
I hope this email finds you well.
I am writing to inform you that we will have our monthly staff meeting on Monday, July 6, 2021, at 10 AM in the XYZ conference room.
Please find the agenda attached to this email.
Be sure to report on your progress from last month and prepare questions. Should you have any other matters you would like to discuss, feel free to let me know.
I look forward to seeing all of you.
+1 2345 5678
Subject line: Sales Representative Job Application – Robbie Sage
Dear Robbie Sage,
Thank you for your interest in the position of Sales Representative.
We received a high volume of applicants for this position and the selection process has been quite competitive.
Unfortunately, after a few considerations, we have decided not to move forward with your application.
However, based on your background and qualifications, we will keep your profile on hand in case another opportunity opens. Likewise, we encourage you to apply again should there be a similar vacancy in the future.
We wish you good luck in your professional endeavors.
Talent Acquisition Manager
+1 2345 5678
Extra tips for a professional looking email
- Craft an effective, attention-grabbing first line. The line after the greeting can sometimes be previewed before the email is opened.
- Refrain from getting decorative with the typeface. Simply use a sans-serif or serif typeface as they are generally work-appropriate
- Emphasize with italic or bold styles. Use them sparingly. Don’t highlight using capital letters as it might give the impression of yelling.
- Avoid textspeak. Don’t include emoticons, internet slang, shortened words, or any other colloquial instant messaging language.
- No humor. Jokes or funny anecdotes might cause misinterpretation.
- Use bullet points or numbered lists if necessary. They can improve your email’s readability.
- Compress big attachments. Smaller files take up less space and are quicker to download.
- Send the email to yourself first. This way, you can see what the email might look like to the reader.
- Deliver the email at an appropriate time. Depending on the recipient, getting work notifications during non-office hours might feel bothersome, unless it’s an emergency.
Since emails are an essential work communication method, anyone should know how to write a professional email properly.
To create a professional email, you should:
- Pay attention to the subject — keep it short and straightforward.
- Write proper greetings — make sure to use the appropriate formality level.
- Use a fitting structure for the email body — choosing the right body structure depends on the audience and their familiarity with the topic.
- Write the appropriate closing — include a closing remark that follows the same formality level as the greeting and the body.
- Make sure your writing is on point — proofread and edit the content for clarity, grammar, and spelling errors before you send the email.