Does writing professional emails give you jitters? Are you one of those who read their emails over and over again before hitting send?
Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Email anxiety is extremely common in working professionals today.
Let’s try to make this simpler, an email is a form of conversation. If you treat it like an unwanted chore, it will become one for you and for the reader. Draft your emails like you are talking to a person; not casually or informally, and you’ll nail your emails.
Mastering effective communication takes time. But, with empathy and grammatically correct writing, the art of email writing can be mastered.
Our comprehensive guide will help you write confident emails and get rid of that anxiety that writing professional emails brings with it – and get better responses while doing it.
Table of Contents
Anatomy of a Great Email
Speak to someone from HR, Sales, or your VP, and they’ll tell you the overwhelming volume of emails they receive daily.
Riddled with spelling mistakes, typos, extravagant colors, emoticons, or simply plain old bad writing, most of these emails are major turn-downs. Wrong grammar is a perfect recipe for a bad email; inevitably sent straight to the Bin or worse, marked as Spam.
To ensure your email doesn’t fall under the above category, we have a guide for you to make your emails STAND OUT. This will not only improve your email communication skills but also help you get the desired outcomes from them.
Simply because we live in a 280-character world doesn’t mean our emails need to be that way. Your first correspondence with your reader should make a lasting impression. To do that, we are going to break down that perfect structured email for you.
Anatomy of an email: Subject, Opening, Body, and Closing.
Let’s take a deeper look into it:
The most important yet often overlooked part of an email is the Subject Line.
No matter how great your email body is, if the reader doesn’t even open it or worse, throws it into spam, it’s all a waste. Over 40% of emails are opened on mobile devices, so if you’re testing a subject line ensure it looks readable on both mobile and desktop.
Having a crisp, and to-the-point subject to your emails definitely goes a long way – try to keep your email subject under 9 words and 60 characters.
A good email has a well-written subject line packed with all the basic information needed. 4 things to remember while writing a subject line:
- It should be concise – visible entirely on desktop as well as mobile phone notifications
- It should sharply reflect the agenda of your email
- It should release all the information in one prompt
- It should be a ‘Call to Action’ in itself
If your email is your first correspondence with someone, be it a job application or a sales email, spend a lot of time crafting the right subject line. I often leave the subject line till the end of my email in case the mail structure isn’t defined yet.
A catchy subject line will grab your reader’s attention and just give them that extra nudge to open your email.
Email openings can often feel forced or downright archaic. No one wants to start their day with a command. Acknowledge and address the person by their name and try to build some rapport with a personal message (a spelling error here is a crime!)
Start your body with a quick friendly greeting depending on your relationship (good morning or I hope you had a great weekend is a good start). This ensures you value your reader and makes your email personalized.
An exception is a long thread of communication. It becomes natural to drop the opener and signals for a better professional rapport.
What is okay:
- Starting with a quick hello – Hi/Hey/Dear [name]
- Greetings – Good Morning, Hope you are well, etc.
- Context from previous conversations – Hi [name], Hope you had a great vacation
What is NOT okay:
- Addressing by name without a proper greeting in first correspondence
- Using nicknames in the opening of professional emails
- Saying “To whom it may concern” or “To whomsoever”
- Misspelling the name of the reader
- Assuming the gender/marital status of the recipient
Examples of proven email openers:
- Cold outreach
- Follow up in a thread
- Reconnecting with a customer
- Action items in a thread
- Sharing information
Here comes the crux of your message. Start with a clear statement stating the agenda of your email. All the required information, details, facts come in this meaty section of the email. Add a line of context if it’s not a thread of conversation or if you are following up.
Keep your email body as brief as possible, get to the point quickly instead of keeping the reader wondering. While we understand that not all emails can be 5 sentences long, they should include 5 basic details:
- Who you are
- Why are you writing the email
- What do you want from the recipient
- Why should the recipient do it
- The next step
No paragraph should be longer than 3-4 sentences and make sure you are spacing it right. The email should answer all the potential questions and requests too.
Ensure the body of your email is concise and gives away data in a cohesive way. Add questions if you need a response. Always add ‘ask’ or ‘action items’ first and not at the last.
What is okay
- Using bullet points where required
- Highlighting actionable items, but judiciously
- Using a legible font
What is NOT okay
- Cluttered unscannable paragraphs
- Incorrect hyperlinks or missing attachments
- Less than 5 sentences (unless it’s a part of an ongoing thread)
- Using illegible font. Comic Sans, Lobster, and Impact are some to be avoided
Remember, a great email body will astonish the reader with your brevity and can go a long way in earning their respect.
As important it is to get off the right foot, so is your parting. Closing is not the same as the conclusion of an essay. Wrap your email in a way to nudge your reader. Be it a ‘call to action’ or gently winding down the conversation.
Use action steps depending on whether it’s a meeting, an expected revert back, or asking for input. If you are just sending information, you can add “Feel free to ask any questions.” If you are writing to express gratitude, you can go with “Thank you for your contribution” or “I really appreciate this.”
What is okay
- Part well with a friendly sign-off.For formal emails: Regards, Thanks, Sincerely, Best wishes
For friendly business emails: Cheers, Best, As ever
For requests or expressing gratitude: Thanks in advance, I appreciate your help
- Add your professional signature at the end. If you don’t have one, you can simply create one furnished with the necessary contact information. This becomes especially important if it’s your first correspondence with the person.
Here’s a tool you can use to make a professional email signature.
What is NOT okay
- Using bad sign-offs: Common closings like ‘love’ or typos like ‘thnx’ are better left for personal texts and not professional emails
- Using default sign-offs: Sent from my laptop, Sent from my iPhone, etc show you don’t care enough to remove the default
9 Other Pro Tips to Remember
- Use Reply All only when necessary. No one wants irrelevant updates clogging their inbox
- Always CC the relevant people to share the responsibility
- Use Bold and Italics sparingly
- Cut down on those overused exclamations (!s) unless you mean to yell
- This one is important: Always respond within 24 hours. And do not follow up before 48 hours unless urgent
- Proofread your email with free tools available online. Hemingway Editor and Grammarly can help you avoid major mishaps
- Do not add emoticons, typos like ‘k thnx’ in a professional email
- The faster you respond, the shorter your response can be
- Always use a respectful tone in your professional email
Final Step: Always Proofread Your Email
Once you are done drafting your email, don’t simply hit-off send.
Remember, once it’s done, it’s done (except for the 10 seconds when Gmail allows for do-overs). So make sure you have your facts straight, your grammar is impeccable, and there are no typos or spelling errors.
TIP: Think how you would feel if your email went public. This is the ultimate check to remind yourself of the importance of electronic communication aka email. So re-read your email at least once and re-do it if required.
This is a good time to check the tone of your email. Your agenda decides if it’s a friendly email or requires a business-like formal tone. Take a step back and observe how it can be perceived for a first-time read by your reader. Essentially, humanize your email.
It’s a mode of communication, and the great art of email can do with some beautiful words. If it’s not urgent, go with ‘No rush on this.’ If someone’s done a good job, throw in a quick compliment ‘Hey, you did a terrific job on this, thanks for making us look great’ for everyone to see.
At the end of the day, remember, if it helps to talk instead of going back and forth on an email, then just pick up the phone. With so many written platforms at our fingertips and less disposable time, use your words sparingly but impactfully.
I know you are going to impress your audience with your confident words. Happy emailing!