10 Tips for Writing a Professional Email

10 Steps to Writing a Professional Email

1. Draft a clear, simple subject line

The subject line is one of the most important parts of an email, since it is what recipients see first in their inbox. You can think of the subject line as the title of your message. It should tell the reader why you are writing or what you are writing about. Create a subject line that is direct, so your recipient immediately understands what your message is concerning. This subject line should summarize the purpose of your email in a few words or a concise sentence. Keeping it brief and only including the main point of your email can improve the recipient’s ability to see your message in their inbox. Your subject line should be three to five words long. For example, use easy identifiers like "Graphic Design Position Application" or "Inquiry—Graphic Design Team." These subject lines are concise and tell the reader exactly what they can expect from your email.

Always write a subject line. Emails without one will say "No subject" in the recipient's inbox and might go unread. You can make a good first impression by writing a clear, concise, and attention-grabbing subject line.

Avoid gimmick such as ALL CAPS or RE: at the beginning of every email.  These may get attention once or twice but will soon be seen as deceptive practices to encourage you to read their email and will result in your email being marked as SPAM.

2Do not write your entire email in the subject line

Placing everything you want to say in the subject line may save you time, but it conveys to the recipient that your time is more important than communicating clearly.  Some email systems will not properly display or deliver a message that has no body.  If you cannot take time to write the message body, don't waste your time or your recipient's with the email in the first place.  It will only be seen as manipulative or disrespectful.

3Use a standard font and standard background

Keep your email’s default font, text color, and background for a neat, professional appearance. Default text settings are often black or dark gray text in a simple, easy-to-read font. By using standard fonts and colors, you can better ensure your recipient understands your message and trusts that it is genuinely from you. 

While some email applications allow you to change the background, it is rarely a good idea.  These backgrounds can make your email hard to read for others and do not easily allow your message to be quoted or referenced in subsequent email replies.

4Be polite and positive

Maintaining a professional relationship with employers, customers, clients, and coworkers you interact with over email requires a professional tone. You can accomplish this by using formal language instead of slang, complete sentences, correct punctuation, writing out all words and avoiding exclamation points.

If you must address a disagreement through email, provide positive feedback and make sure any criticism you give is constructive. Keep these emails brief and use an in-person meeting or a phone call instead if possible.

5. Use your personal email for casual messages

If you are sending informal communications about topics not related to the business, you should use your personal email account.  Using different email addresses to separate your personal and professional communications also helps you keep your messages and contacts properly organized.

6Keep “interesting article” emails to a minimum

Filling up your co-worker’s or business partner’s inbox with all the internet articles that you find interesting may lead to your emails being ignored or blocked.  Later, when you have something important to say or ask, your email may not be read or seen at all.

7. Only “Reply all” when necessary

Think carefully about whether your response needs to go to everyone who was included in the original message.  Only use the “Reply all” option when you’re providing information that is relevant to the entire group. Otherwise, the “Reply” option is usually best.

8. Start new email threads for new topics

If you want to address a new topic with a group or individual, begin a new message rather than adding the matter to an existing and unrelated thread. This method can ensure you and other recipients keep communications as organized as possible.

9. Respond to messages promptly.

A timely response helps clients and coworkers stay on schedule.  A brief response is often appropriate for things like acknowledging receipt of a file or confirming a meeting time.

10Inquire before including an attachment

Ask your recipient if you may send an attachment before including one with an email. Inquire about the best format for these files to make sure your recipient can open it easily. Including a link to a file hosted in the cloud is often easier than attaching files, particularly when files are large. Internal communications are often an exception to this rule, meaning you may send documents to coworkers using your internal email server.

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