Email Ettiquite 101: How to Write a Professional Email
Nowadays, we rely on our inboxes for nearly all our professional and personal business needs.
Whether you’re writing on behalf of your business or on the opposite side as a client, we use emailing to learn about new topics, collaborate on projects and even invest in services. Hence, the need to be as clear and concise in our writing as possible.
With the increase in text based business communications also comes an increased need for writing skills. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the need to be simultaneously tactful and productive. While elusive, however, there are many tips and tricks to alleviate anxiety about writing the perfect professional email
Each professional email should be approached by tailoring common wording to your particular environment, recipient, and need. Proper professional “lingo” and email structure are simple to pick up and apply.
To help out, we’ve compiled a brief guide that includes:
Below you’ll find everything you need to build your professional communication toolkit and set up templates that feel authentic to the reader.
We know it’s all too easy to fire off emails based on your train of thought. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hectic business day to day. This can lead to your email and other text based communications coming off as rude, demanding, or callous.
That’s why it’s important to take a pause before even setting your hands down on the keyboard to ask a few basic questions. This will determine the tone and flow of your correspondence. Questions to ask yourself before writing a professional email include:
Follow this up with considering if you need an immediate response or if the time frame for a reply is flexible. Including this information for your recipient in a courteous and clear way will avoid awkward situations.
For example, you may bullet point, highlight, or otherwise set this information apart in the email’s formatting.
Identifying information about yourself, colleagues, and clients should never be sent unprotected through the internet. Always remember that anything you send can also be screenshot, forwarded, or printed out. If the information you are conveying seems questionable (and you don’t yet use an email encryption service like Canary Mail) request a follow-up meeting.
For example, you’ll want to confirm with people outside of your corporation if it is okay to include their email, phone number, or other identifying information in an email. It should also go without saying that professional emails should be free of gossip, personal plans, and inappropriate images.
Tone and nuance are the hardest things to convey through text. No matter the recipient, you always want to write in a polite manner. However, keeping in mind the relationship between you and the recipients (and those between the recipients and each other) will most likely dictate the degree to which you control the outcome of your email.
For example, are you in a position where your schedule is concrete or flexible? Do you have the authority as a superior to set task deadlines or are you a peer requesting tasks be completed in a timely manner?
CEOs, artists, educators, scientists, and in fact all professionals benefit from knowing how to write a professional email. While the specific details included in an email vary greatly between industries and job responsibilities, most professional emails all fall into similar categories.
Since the “how” of composition always depends on the “why” here are some common examples of professional email topics regardless of your chosen career:
Each topic has its own level of time sensitivity, degree of familiarity, and even amount of technicality. With a template at hand, however, the writing process is greatly simplified and expedited.
Whether you’re looking for a refresher on modern email etiquette or are just starting out, it’s important to review the basics.
Like any piece of writing an email as a beginning, middle, and end. Unlike other composition methods, professional emails are meant to be responded to. This is what makes them so difficult to write efficiently.
Regardless of their purpose or your job title, every professional email has:
Long emails such as newsletters and meeting notes should also include headings to separate the email’s main sections.
The subject line should always summarize why you are sending the email. This may also include the main point or take-away.
When communicating with clients and potential customers you may want to consider adding your company’s name or acronym to the beginning of the subject line.
Even though your email address may have your domain name at the end, the subject line is the biggest and boldest thing your recipient will see in their push notification or inbox. This will help them know when best to fit their response into their schedule.
There’s nothing wrong with simply using the tried and true “dear” and “sincerely.”
If you’re looking to be more personable, though, the sign-off is a perfect place to indulge in some branding. Remember to keep it short and middle of the road. Unless you are working for or with a religious organization, keep the “blessings” and other god-talk for personal emails.
Bullet points and numbered lists are the best way to ask/answer questions, delegate tasks, and summarize pertinent information (dates, times, prices, etc.). Longer emails also benefit from deliberate structuring in the form of section headings.
In the case of newsletter and marketing material, it’s great to be creative but in small doses. A blog is the best platform to utilize if your goal is to connect more deeply through writing with your clientele. Keep group emails like this short and sweet, while also redirecting your base to your site and social media.
Techy Tip: If you don’t already know how, it’s important to learn how to embed links into your text. This both queues the reader into key information and maintains your emails’ readability. Simply copy the link you want your recipient to access, then highlight the phrase you want to embed it in. From there you can either right click and find “insert link” in the drop down menu or click the “embed link” symbol on your word processor’s toolbar.
Whether your email is long or short, there is always a takeaway. A brief summary of your expectations should always be the last thing your recipient reads. This may include:
It may sound like you’re back in elementary school English Arts, but often the best way to communicate that you have understood a previous email is to restate its most significant information. This will give the colleague, client, or supervisor you are emailing confirmation that you have thoroughly read their email.
Put your questions in a numbered list and/or otherwise mark your questions so that they are easy to spot at first glance. By numbering them, your recipient will have an easier time replying and all parties involved can rest assured that everything has been addressed.
Furthermore, it’s easy to get into patterns of responding that can make your response come off in an unintended way. Certain phrases have become overused and will undermine your overall message. Some have even become coded so that they imply something different from their original meaning.
To avoid coming off as less competent or more abrupt than you actually are it’s important to read and reread your work before pressing send. If you spot any of the following phrases, consider reframing them in a way that is more positive and productive:
Writing can be daunting. Like most other activities, however, it comes with tricks and tools that simplify the process. One such tool is a list of go-to sentences for any situation you can imagine. These phrases are email magic words just like our already internalized “please and thank you.” (Mind you, simple pleases and thank yous still go a long way while composing an email.)
Moreover, many purposes for written communication extend past typical emailing and into professional messaging via Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, and other professional portals. That’s why it’s important to have some basic responses and phrases literally at your fingertips.
With the following expressions in your back pocket, you’ll be able to both write on the fly and create useful templative responses:
Extra Etiquette: When it comes to declining the request of a boss, collaborator, or coworker it is often helpful to outline concrete reasons why their request is unattainable. Here is also where outlining/paraphrasing previous correspondences is a helpful tool for mitigating potential consequences.
One can’t simply talk about email composition without addressing the proper recipient field decorum. Knowing how your email is being read and by whom will dictate a) how much information you are sharing and b) the style of how it is written.
We’ve already compiled a comprehensive guide on how and when to use CC and BCC, but here’s a basic summary:
When using the CC or BCC function, it is important to be clear in the email’s body about each party’s responsibilities in regards to the email. Specifically note if you expect to continue to be part of the conversation or if your part of the task is completed.
Templates are great time savers for responding to identical emails or those that fall under similar topics. They can be as short as reminding someone of your office hours and requesting a meeting then or as complicated as your biweekly report.
Our Canary Mail app makes writing templates and sending them a breeze (even right from your phone). Plus, our unsend feature has your back if you notice that you’ve left something out, filled in the wrong information or edited the template incorrectly.
Here’s a quick overview of how to create, send, and edit a template using Canary Mail:
TEMPLATE CREATE PICTURE
TEMPLATE USE PICTURE
Edit or delete your Canary Mail template:
Canary Mail introduces generative AI for email writing. With Canary Mail, all you have to do is provide a few key details, and the app will take care of the rest. Not only will you save time, but you’ll also be able to rest assured of high-performing emails.
Take a look to these AI related articles to learn more:
Sometimes the key to professional success is like using your own toolkit to build IKEA furniture. You could get the task done using the basic Allen wrench you’re given, but having diverse, higher-quality supplies at your disposal makes the job both easier and quicker.
In the case of email writing, this includes:
Like any form of writing, it’s helpful to compile a collection of standard vocabulary and key phrases. However, be sure to always keep up with which email lingo has become either overused or problematic.
Templates are a fantastic way to address reoccurring and repetitive email tasks. Just make sure to always be updating them with your current availability and contact information.
The Canary Mail app is more than a security conscious inbox merging tool. We’re always innovating productivity tools like AI for email to help you efficiently compose and send emails. With our extensive guide to professional email writing in your backpocket (or rather browser bookmarks), we know that all your future emails will be written quickly and confidently.