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Writing emails to friends and family is one thing. You just say whatever is on your mind, using the everyday language you would use to speak with them. In a personal email, you can even use slang and emojis.
Not so with a professional email!
If you are writing a professional email for any reason, you need this guide to remind you of the Dos and Don’ts in order to achieve your professional goals.
This guide will help you avoid some of the mistakes many people make when they write professional emails, or underestimate their importance. Just because an email seems informal does not mean that it actually is—you need to treat a professional email as if it were a fancy letter on embossed letterhead.
A professional email can get you the results you want.
Consider the following situations in which you may need to write a professional email:
So what is a professional email, and how is a professional email different from any other email?
Don’t let the term “professional” frighten you in any way. With a little practice, you can easily write a good, effective professional email without taking too much time or trouble. This guide will even offer you a template you can use to save you even more time and trouble.
A professional email generally has a focus and a purpose. You want to keep it brief and to the point. Don’t tell your life story and leave out unnecessary details or emotions. In fact, it is best to write a professional email when you are in a calm state of mind to avoid getting too personal.
Another way of looking at it is: a professional email is the opposite of a personal email.
If you are writing to anyone who is not a friend or family member, it is going to be a professional email. Writing to a total stranger requires a totally different use of the language and a different tone and style.
Especially if the email is specifically related to your job or career, you want to hone some basic professional and business writing skills. Writing a solid professional email will make your email stand out among the hundreds of others the reader might receive in any given day.
When writing a professional email you can also keep in mind the following list of Dos and Don’ts.
A professional email has the following main components:
Let’s look at each of these individually.
The subject line of a professional email is like its title. Don’t leave it blank, but don’t make it too long or obscure either. Here are a few examples of appropriate subject lines for professional emails:
The “address” of a professional email does not refer to a street address or an email address. Rather, it refers to the way you address someone formally in the email communication. The same use of the word address occurs in printed letters. The most common forms of address used in informal communications include “Dear ….” and “Hey ….”
In professional emails, you can also use “Dear” but you can also safely use “Hi.” The word “Hi” might not seem formal, but it is usually a better way of opening a professional email to someone whose name you do not know than it is to use “Dear Sir/Madam.”
If you do not know the person’s name, it is still a good idea to use “Hi” as a relatively informal address instead of launching straight into the body of the email.
The body is the meat of the professional email. You will want to keep your body as short as possible while still covering the main points. A professional email can be as short as a few sentences or as long as three or four paragraphs.
Generally, the opening line of the professional email will introduce yourself and why you are writing the email.
From there, you would go into more detail throughout the body of the professional email.
Also important to include in the body of your email is what you hope to achieve. Do not assume the reader can read minds. Come right out and say what it is you need or want in a polite way that invites feedback and further discussion.
The closing refers to the words or phrase you use to sign off. In a professional email, you have a good degree of leeway depending on the situation. You would not want to use the formal closing “Sincerely” for a relatively informal professional situation, just as you would not want to use “Cheers” when writing to a person in a significant position of power.
Always follow the closing word or phrase with a comma.
Always follow the closing word of phrase with your name. In a professional email, use your first and last name. For example:
Consider the following examples for good professional email closing statements:
An email signature is not like the signature you use in a printed letter, in which you scrawl with a pen.
In an email, you can include a standard digital signature.
Keep in mind that many email apps or web-based email services include a default signature. You may not even be aware of that signature, but your reader will notice and it could come across as unprofessional.
It is also best to avoid using cute or inspirational quotes in your email signature. Professional emails should be clean and unadorned, with a signature that includes just your name, phone number, and perhaps your company’s logo.
Not all professional emails will include attachments. However, you may have been asked to send an attachment or need to send one. Photo files, documents, or PDFs are examples of attachments you may send with the professional email.
For example, if the professional email is to complain about a faulty product, take a picture of the defect and attach it in the professional email you send to customer service.
If you are seeking re-admission to a school, you could upload a copy of your latest transcript or your transcript from another school you were attending in the interim.
If you are applying for a job, the professional email could include your resume and/or your digital portfolio.
When sending an attachment, indicate as much in the body of your email. You could say, “I am attaching a copy of my latest school transcript,” “See attached for an image of the incident,” or “Attached is a copy of my resume.”
Alternatively, you could write the word “attachment” or “attachments” in parentheses following the closing of the email as such:
Avoid sending too many attachments. If you need to send the person many different files, it would be more professional to upload the files to a Dropbox or Google Drive account and provide a share link to those files.
SUBJECT LINE: This Email is About Something
Dear Ms. Kempler,
The purpose of this email is to continue our discussion from last Tuesday.
This is the body of your email.
Close the email with a positive message about how to proceed or how to contact you.
SUBJECT LINE: Completing my Nursing Degree
Dear Dean Stanton,
I attended Hallows University for three years, during which I also worked full time at Baptist Hospital as an LPN. As a single mother of three, balancing the demands of the rigorous RN program at Hallows with my career and my children proved challenging. I had help during the first two years from financial aid programs. During the third year of the program, the federal funding for the grant stopped, and I was left without any means by which to pay for the tuition. After consulting with my academic advisers and the financial aid manager, I decided to take a year off. I am writing you now to request readmission to the RN program at Hallows. I would also like to request an adjustment of the final year of the program to allow me to complete it over two years instead of the usual one.
When you review my transcripts (attached) and my resume (also attached), you will see that I have maintained a good track record at school while also demonstrating leadership skills in my job at Baptist. A nurse for five years already, becoming an RN is a natural step on my career path. I need the RN degree in order to accomplish the goals I wish to fulfill including those directly related to patient care and also goals related to healthcare management. It is my ultimate goal to become a healthcare administrator who can make a difference in the policies and procedures of my organization.
I am also honored to have become a member of the Hallows student body. The faculty have been fabulous for preparing me for my future career as a nurse leader, by introducing me to fundamental theories of healthcare management and administration. I assure you that I will represent Hallows with honor when I graduate. However, I can only graduate if I have your help in extending the duration of the program. I understand you would be making an exception in my case. Your kindness will pay off in volumes, though, as with that extra year I can achieve the good grades that will propel my career and allow me to become the best RN I can possibly be. Thank you for your time and I look forward to discussing my options for the completion of the RN degree.