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Home » Email Ettiquite 101: How to Write a Professional Email

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:

  • Questions to Consider Before Writing
  • Common Email Topics and Themes
  • How to Structure a Professional Email
  • Overused and Problematic Email Phrases to Avoid
  • Top Professional Email Phrases to Use
  • How to Use Canary Mail Templates

Below you’ll find everything you need to build your professional communication toolkit and set up templates that feel authentic to the reader. 

Questions to Consider Before Composing Your Email

how to write professional emails

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:

  • How pertinent or time sensitive is my message?

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.

  • What (if any) sensitive information is included in my email?

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. 

  • What power and group dynamics are at play between me and my recipients?

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? 

Types of Professional Emails

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:

  • Scheduling
  • Inquiries
    • Services a Company Provides
    • Job Openings
    • Pricing
    • Inter-Departmental Procedures
  • Introductions
  • Follow-Ups
  • Group Wide Notifications
  • Out of the Office/Vacation Reminders
  • Contract Negotiations

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.

Quick Tips for Writing Professional Emails 

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:

  • Subject Line: These are the first words that the recipient sees on their push notification or in their inbox. Make them snappy and to the point. This will alert the reader to when your email can be scheduled into their day and what mindset they should be in while reading (i.e. as a client, professional, hobbyist, etc.).  
  • Introduction: Who are you and why are you writing? For some, the former may be well-known, but for others you’ll need to supply that information. This goes beyond you name and may include your professional credentials, job title, and agency you are emailing on behalf of. 
  • Body: This can be as simple as listing the times you’re free to meet or as complex as outlining an agenda. Either way, it should only contain the basic information that the reader needs to have available. Long bodied emails might be summaries of a call, terms and conditions of a contract, or task delegation for a team.   
  • Wrap-Up: This should include how the recipient should respond, what information you need from them, and when you expect to hear back from them.
  • Sign-Off: This may seem simple, but many professionals are put in the position of writing for a superior or their whole team/department. Be clear about who the message of the email is coming from and use typical phrases like “best regards,” “sincerely,” etc. especially when writing for someone other than yourself.

Long emails such as newsletters and meeting notes should also include headings to separate the email’s main sections.

The most effective professional emails:

  • Start with a meaningful subject line that summarizes the main point, 
  • Appropriately addresses the recipient(s) and signs off the sender, 
  • Have a concise body,
  • Highlight, bold, and/or otherwise denote main takeaways,
  • Avoid slang,
  • Address points made in previous communications (both verbal and written).

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How to Structure Your Professional Email

professional email structure

Meaningful Subject Line

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. 

Appropriate Address and Sign-Off

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. 

Concise Body

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.

Communicating Take-Aways

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: 

  • Exactly how you should be contacted in regard to the email,
  • Confirmation of your meeting time and date, 
  • Next steps you and/or the recipient should complete.

Addressing Previous Communications

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. 

Overused and Problematic Email Phrases to Avoid

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:

  • “Sorry to bother you.”: There is no need to apologize when you’re simply doing your job. Leave this out altogether and be concrete about what you as a team need to do and by when.
  • “No problem.”: The issue with this phrase is twofold in that it a) makes the recipient feel as if you’re forgiving them for something and b) may give off a false sense that your task will be simple, quick, or both when there might actually be unforeseen problems.
  • “To be honest with you.”: While you may be trying to soften the blow or deflect unwarranted criticism, this phrase will actually make everything you’ve said up to this point seem disingenuous. 
  • “I’ll try…”/”I’ll do my best.”: Professional emails should be as concrete as possible. If you really need to communicate that there may be a snafu to you accomplishing something be upfront. For example: “I will contact my supervisor to get their opinion.” or “The best I can do is next Friday.” (Then push out your own expectation to give yourself ample time).
  • “The problem is…”: The business world and consumers don’t like problems. Instead, frame your obstacles as exactly that: obstacles or challenges. Immediately follow up with a possible solution or the information of someone who could best resolve the situation.
  • “As I mentioned before…”: This phrase immediately raises big red “passive aggressive” flags. Not to mention, it makes those who may not have fully comprehended your last correspondence feel inadequate and like they are being judged. If you find yourself on auto-pilot typing these words, it’s best to recommend a verbal meeting. 
  • “Checking in.” This phrase, especially when included in a subject line, is the quickest way to fill your recipient with trepidation. Consider reserving it only for when deadlines have been missed or in other strenuous circumstances. 

Key Professional Email Phrases to Have at Your Fingertips

professional email writing

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:

Informing the Recipient of Your Purpose 

  • “I am writing to you about XYZ.”
  • “Just a quick/friendly reminder about XYZ.”
  • “I wanted to update you on XYZ.”

Highlighting Key Information  

  • “Attached please find XYZ.”
  • “Please see the information below for more details about XYZ.” 
  • “More information is available by (visiting our website, contacting XYZ, etc.).” 
  • “Attached, please find the document you requested.”
  • “Click here (embed a link) for more information.” 

How You Expect the Recipient to Respond 

  • “Please feel welcome/free to contact me/us via (email, phone number, etc.).”
  • “You can best reach me by (emailing, calling, texting, etc.).”
  • “My office hours are XYZ.” 
  • “Please sign the attached document and send it back by (date).”

Working Collaboratively

  • “Any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated.”
  • “I would appreciate your help in this matter.” 
  • “Please review (link, file, attached document, etc.) and let me know if you have any comments.”
  • “If possible, I’d like to know (more) about XYZ.”
  • “It would be very helpful if you could send us/me.”
  • “I look forward to working together.” 
  • “I’d appreciate it if you could…”
  • “I understand that ‘x’ has caused ‘y.’”
  • “Let’s find a way to best resolve this issue/find a solution.”

Offering to Complete a Service or Task

  • “I would be happy to…”
  • “If I/we can be of any further assistance, please feel free to reach out.”
  • “We are grateful for your interest in XYZ.” 

Reminding Colleagues and Clients of Your Personal Time

  • “Kindly remember that I will be unreachable from (date to date).” 
  • “Your patience in this matter is greatly appreciated.”
  • “If you need any assistance during my absence please contact XYZ/refer to (file, previous email, etc.).”

Politely (But Firmly) Declining a Request

  • “Unfortunately, we cannot/are unable to XYZ.”
  • “I’m afraid it will not be possible to XYZ.”
  • “We regret to inform you that XYZ.”
  • “After careful consideration, we have decided (not) to…”
  • “It’s against company policy to XYZ.”
  • “Despite my/our best efforts…”

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.  

Basic CC and BCC Etiquette

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:

  • Carbon Copy (CC) emails are used mainly to introduce individuals. All recipients in the To and CC fields can “Reply All” AND see all other recipient emails in the To and CC fields.
  • Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) emails are used to keep the BCC recipient informed while also protecting their identity. All recipients in the BCC field can see all those in the To and CC fields but the recipients in the To and CC fields cannot see those in the BCC field. 
  • CCing about every little detail can quickly turn into clutter. Only CC about significant events. 
  • BCCing should NEVER be used secretly or surreptitiously. If your gut is telling you it’s wrong to BCC someone, thoroughly reconsider before pressing “send.”
  • Rare circumstances of appropriate BCC uses include: a) when the recipient has asked for privacy in group emails such as newsletters, b) when reaching out en masse to pitch a project or inquire about open job opportunities, and c) in emergency HR situations on behalf of the party being BCCed. 

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.

Here are some common examples:

  • I have CCed (enrollment team member) on this email so that he/she/they can take (new client’s name) through the next steps. They will be your point of contact from now on.  
  • Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to your question. Therefore, I have CCed (colleague’s name) about (restate the previous email’s question). Please “Reply All” to keep me informed as we continue. 
  • (Volunteer’s Name) has requested to keep their email address private. To keep them in the loop about our agenda and scheduling, I have BCCed them on this email and will continue to do so moving forward. Once everyone has responded to me with their preferences, we can confirm the time and date of our meeting.   

Canary Mail’s Template Feature

Canary email app

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:

To create a Canary Mail Template:

  1. Open Canary and tap the menu icon at the top left.
  2. Open Settings > Templates under the heading ‘Composing’.
  3. Tap the + icon to add a template. 
  4. Write the template text.
  5. Once you’ve finished, the template will be auto saved.
  6. Tap on the + icon to add another template or tap on the Back icon and then Done to exit the Settings

TEMPLATE CREATE PICTURE

To send a Canary Mail template:

  1. Open Canary and click on the Compose icon.
  2. Tap on the Template icon besides the attachment icon and choose a template from the list.
  3. Add the recipient’s email address in the To: field
  4. Make necessary changes in the email body, if any.
  5. When you’re finished, click Send.  

TEMPLATE USE PICTURE

Edit or delete your Canary Mail template: 

  1. Open Canary and tap the menu icon at the top left.
  2. Open Settings > Templates under the heading ‘Composing’.
  3. Here, you can see the list of templates you have created. Click on the template & modify it. Once you’ve modified, the template will be auto saved.
  4. Swipe left on the template to remove. Please note: You can’t undo this action.

Professional Email Writing with AI

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:

Professional Email Writing Take-Aways

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: 

  • An informative subject line 
  • Well-structured body “paragraphs”
  • Clear next steps for communication and task completion

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.

With us, you never have to worry about who has access to your information ever again.

Download our

free trial

to learn more.