What’s so difficult about writing an email? Nothing. That’s the problem: It’s too easy, and you should take care that a professional message is just that — especially if you use email primarily for social interaction and are unaccustomed to sending business emails. Here are some guidelines for businesslike electronic communication.
1. If you write professional emails from a personal address rather than a company account, use a professional-looking address. Don’t ditch your quirky or ribald account name, but acquire a more sedate one, consisting simply of your name and/or a description of your professional services, for business communications. Also, avoid using animations, complicated fonts, and busy backgrounds in your messages.
2. Use the message header to encourage recipients to read your message, stating the purpose of the message distinctly and concisely.
3. Use a formal salutation unless you’re on a first-name basis with the recipient — for example, “Mr. Smith” or “Dear Ms. Jones,” followed by a colon. If you don’t know the recipient’s name and can’t obtain it by contacting the recipient’s company, write “Dear Sir or Madam.” (Double-check now that you’ve entered the recipient’s correct email address and have not inadvertently included any other addresses.)
4. Introduce yourself and the purpose of your message in the first paragraph. Use short paragraphs separated by line spaces to clearly and concisely communicate well-organized information. Don’t clutter your message with detailed apologies (though you should certainly begin with a brief apology if your message is overdue, and then get to the point) or with digressions.
5. Conclude with a summary and, if you have any requests, a courteous and concise explanation of actions you would like the recipient to perform. If you are not requesting a response, simply inform or remind the recipient that your services are available, or mention something similar that is appropriate to the context.
6. Sign off with “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” or the like and your full name, followed by your job title and company name, as well as your company’s website and other social-media contact information, or your own if you are self-employed or are contacting the recipient as an individual, not as a representative of a company.
7. Use your email program’s spell-checking tool, proofread your message, and read it aloud in a separate pass. If you used any language that might not be perceived as professional, save the message without sending it and review it later, when you can be more objective about whether it is appropriate.