Email is one of the most widely used forms of communication both in and out of the workplace. Because of its speed and efficiency, you will likely use email in some capacity no matter your role or industry. You can write professional emails for a variety of reasons. For example, you might need to recap an important meeting, exchange information, relay an important update, or send a letter of introduction.
A well-composed email provides the recipient with a friendly, clear, concise and actionable message. Learning how to write an email that meets all of these criteria can take practice.
Consider the following tips and best practices to help you write effective, professional emails: Identify your goal, consider your audience, keep it concise, proofread your email, use proper etiquette and remember to follow up.
Professional Email Format
- Subject line
Best practices: Identify your goal, consider your audience, keep it concise, proofread your email, use proper etiquette and remember to follow up.
Related: How to End an Email
Six steps for writing professional emails
If you’re not sure how to start an email, these five steps can help you craft a professional message:
1. Identify your goal
Before you write an email, ask yourself what you want the recipient to do after they’ve read it. Once you’ve determined the purpose of your email, you can ensure everything you include in your message supports this action. For example, if you want the recipient to review a report you’ve attached, let them know what the report is, why you need them to review it, what sort of feedback you need and when you need the task completed.
2. Consider your audience
When you compose an email message, make sure your tone matches your audience. For example, if you’re emailing a business executive you’ve never met, keep the email polished and free of any jokes or informalities. On the other hand, if you’re emailing a colleague with whom you have a good relationship, you might use a less formal, more friendly approach.
3. Keep it concise
Your audience might have little time to read through your email, so make it as brief as possible without leaving out key information. Try not to address too many subjects at once as this can make your message lengthy, challenging to read and difficult to take action on. When editing your email, take out any information that’s irrelevant to the topic you’re addressing. Use short, simple sentences by removing filler words and extraneous information. This will make your note shorter and easier to read.
4. Proofread your email
An error-free email demonstrates diligence and professionalism. Before you send an email, take a moment to check for any spelling, grammar or syntax errors. Also, double-check to ensure you’ve included any attachments you may have referenced in your message. If it is an important email to critical stakeholders, you might ask your direct supervisor or a trusted colleague to read over it before you send it.
5. Use proper etiquette
Include a courteous greeting and closing to sound friendly and polite. Additionally, be considerate of the recipient and their time. For example, unless it’s an emergency, avoid emailing a contact asking for something after-hours or while they’re on leave.
6. Remember to follow up
Most people receive several emails per day, so they might miss or forget to respond to your message. If the recipient hasn’t replied within two working days, consider reaching back out with a friendly follow-up email.
Related: 20 Ways to Start an Email
Format and structure of formal email
There are five elements to consider when formatting your email. Here is a breakdown of each:
1. Subject line
This is a short phrase that summarizes the reason for your message or the goal of your communication. It is important to include a subject line when sending a professional email so your audience knows exactly what to expect and is able to locate the message easily if needed. For example:
“Follow Up: Product Presentation”
This is the first line of your email and generally acts as the greeting. For example:
“Hi Mr. Samson,"
Just like the body of a letter, this is where you’ll share your full message. For example:
“Thank you for attending the new product presentation this afternoon. I’ve attached a video file of the full recording so you can share it with your team. Please let me know if you have any questions.”
This is the last line of your email before your signature and should wrap up your message. This is also where you may reiterate any requests you’ve made in the body of your message. For example:
“I look forward to speaking with you on Wednesday. Thanks again!”
The signature is where you identify yourself by name, title and any other information relevant to your communications. Most email programs allow you to set a fixed signature that’s automatically added to the end of every email you send.
Senior Software Engineer
ABC Company, Inc.”
Related: Guide to Writing a Business Email
Examples of professional emails
Here are three examples of professional emails:
1. Email to a new contact
Subject Line: UX Research Contract Opportunity
I hope this message finds you well. I’m reaching out today because I’m managing an application redesign project here at ABC Company and seeking a skilled UX research contractor to help analyze several sets of usability testing data.
This is a three-month project beginning February 1st, and we estimate it will take roughly 15 hours per week. All work can be completed remotely, but you’re welcome to use our workspace.
Please let me know if you’re interested in this project and we can set up some time to discuss the details further. I look forward to hearing from you.
User Experience Director
ABC Company, Inc.
2. Email to a group
Subject Line: Marketing Meeting Canceled
The marketing strategy meeting scheduled for this afternoon has been canceled.
I apologize for the late notice, but I know everyone will welcome the extra time back in their day. We will reconvene at our regularly scheduled time next Wednesday.
Gretchen Van Buren
Senior Marketing Manager
3. Follow-up email
Subject Line: Re: Availability for Introductory Meeting
I just wanted to check back in regarding the date for your meeting with Mr. Al-Jamil. Just let me know whether June 5 or June 6 works better for your schedule.
Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time or just looking to improve your electronic communication skills, learning how to write a professional email is a critical skill. By using the above tips and examples to guide your email efforts, you’ll be composing effective messages in no time.