Some people believe that email is on its way out in favor of messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams. This couldn’t be further from the truth—it isn’t going anywhere. In fact, email remains the most common way for businesses to keep in touch with clients and colleagues.
But knowing how to email professionally can be daunting, especially if you’re learning English as a second language. It involves so much more than simply using fancy business English vocabulary. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to say and how to say it. And if you’re not careful, an email can come across as unclear, sloppy or even rude.
In this post, we’ll discuss how to write a professional email by giving you seven helpful tips.
- Keep your subject line clear
- Get to the point
- Use a clear, concise structure
- Avoid slang
- Have a strong closing
- Use a respectful and professional sign-off
- Check and check again
Start your journey to reach fluency
1. Keep your subject line clear
Nothing is worse than receiving an email with a vague subject line. If your recipient can’t tell from your subject line what the email will be about, there’s a good chance they won’t open it at all. Give them the opportunity to quickly scan your subject line so they can prioritize your email according to its importance and urgency. One more thing: Keep it as concise as possible, but not so short that it loses all meaning.
Do write: “Possible postponement of Friday’s meeting”
Don’t write: “Friday”
2. Get to the point
Much like your email’s subject line, your reason for writing should be clear from the start. The recipient of your email is likely busy and not interested in digging for details. Respect their time by letting them know what you’re writing about from the get-go.
Do write: “I’m reaching out because I would like to discuss the results of the recent survey.”
Don’t write: “I hope you had a relaxing weekend! Mine was great. Did you get some time with your family (or away from them, haha)? Anyway, the survey results are in and we should discuss them.”
3. Use a clear, concise structure
Have you ever read an article online that was made up of long, rambling sentences and huge paragraphs—or even just one big block of text? Maybe you have, or maybe you just gave up halfway through because it was simply too much. You probably wondered why they didn’t break up the text into shorter, more scannable sections.
The same goes for emails: When you’re sending a professional email, make sure you organize your ideas into clear, cohesive sentences and short paragraphs (just two or three sentences long). If it makes sense for the topic, you can even include a bulleted or numbered list.
“This week, we aim to:
- Analyze the updated data
- Check the case studies
- Finalize and publish the report”
Don’t write: “We have a few different things I’d like for us to get done this week. We need to analyze the new data that we received and then check the case studies. We need to finalize the report, too. We should also have the collective goal of getting it published and finally getting it off of our plates so we can put a nail in it.”
4. Avoid slang
As tempting as it might be, you should make sure your email doesn’t contain slang, as it might cause misunderstandings or confusion. Even if you’re sure the recipient will understand what you’re saying, you never know who else could see the email if it needs to be forwarded.
Do write: “The information about the upcoming layoffs is strictly confidential.”
Don’t write: “Pls keep the deets about who’s getting canned on the DL.”
5. Have a strong closing
If your goal is for your recipient to take some sort of action, make sure it’s clear in your closing. Don’t be vague! Even if you think you’ve implied everything you need to in the body of the email, don’t leave room for misinterpretation. If you’re not clear, the recipient may not realize there are next steps to take.
Do write: “I would appreciate your feedback on the new direction of the merger, as outlined above, at your earliest convenience.”
Don’t write: “I hope that all makes sense!”
6. Use a respectful and professional sign-off
It might seem like a small thing, but when it comes to writing a professional email, the wrong sign-off (or none at all) could leave a bad taste in your reader’s mouth. If they took the time to read what you had to say, you should sign off in a respectful and professional manner.
Do write: “Best regards,”
Don’t write: “Get back to me ASAP.”
7. Check and check again
Nothing makes an email seem more unprofessional than typos or grammatical errors. Make sure that your email is error-free by proofreading it—twice! If you’re not confident in your own abilities, use a grammar-checking tool (just make sure not to blindly accept every suggestion; they’re not perfect).
Do write: “I was very impressed with your presentation in the meeting today.”
Don’t write: “I was veery impressed white your presentation the meeting today.”
Know how to construct professional emails to get your message across
In business communication, it’s critical to know how to write a professional email. Keeping your emails clear, concise and error-free will ensure that they’re not only opened and read but that your message comes through loud and clear.
Start your journey to reach fluency
Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and children, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.