How to Write Business Emails (That Won’t Embarrass You or Your Company)

FT Contributor  | 

You’ve probably received an email in the course of your professional career that left you scratching your head. Vague or unprofessional messages can negatively impact professional relationships, slowing down career development and potentially causing you to miss out on a raise later on down the road. When it comes to sending business emails, it’s important for you to follow best practices in order to avoid making errors. This guide will help you write effective and professional emails at work.

Should You Send a Business Email or a Business Letter?

While email is the more common form of communication in today’s workplace, there are still situations where a business letter is better suited. There are some minor differences between business emails and traditional business letters in terms of formatting and purpose. Highly formal or confidential matters are best discussed in formal business letters. Emails, on the other hand, can serve more routine purposes in the business world, discussing things like in-office communications, routine updates to stakeholders, or internal meeting requests.

Business Email Formatting Basics

It’s important to be professional in email communications. Failing to do so can negatively impact how others in the business world perceive you and ultimately affect your future opportunities. A well-composed email is concise, precise, and friendly without appearing too casual. Following these guidelines will help you craft the perfect business email.

Layout

As with business letters, block formatting is common in business emails. The entire body of the text should be left-aligned and single-spaced. Instead of indenting paragraphs, use double-spacing between them.

Font

Unlike business letters, there is a little more wiggle room in regards to the font you use in your business emails. However, you should stick to a standard font as most web fonts are not supported by popular email clients. Use at least a 10-point font to improve legibility. Acceptable fonts include Arial and Helvetica.

Writing a Professional Email

Not all work emails have to follow a specific format. Routine messages or quick replies — particularly to people you work with regularly and have strong relationships with — do not require a formal structure. If you’re emailing someone outside of your company or someone with whom you have little to no relationship, it’s safe to use the following structure and advice as guidance.

Subject Line

Every email you send should include a subject line. It should be short and concise, almost like a summary of the information enclosed in your email. Include the most important words or phrases towards the beginning of the subject line and avoid the use of filler words. If your email is time-sensitive or requires a response, include that language in your subject line.

Introduction

When sending a professional email, always be friendly. Get to the point quickly, but avoid being terse, which can come off as impolite. Greet the person you are emailing with a brief introduction. If you have a relationship with them, you can ask how they’re doing or mention a relevant event. If you’ve never worked with the recipient before, provide them with a brief introduction as to who you are.

Body

The purpose of your  email should always be clear and concise. Many people only skim emails, so it’s important to get your message across in one to two sentences. If you’re looking to persuade your reader, make your case using facts or data. If you’re looking for information to clarify something, ask a clear and definitive question. Short and specific emails will be read, understood, and answered.

Conclusion

Include a brief conclusion in your emails to summarize your point. How you format your conclusion depends largely on the subject matter of your email. If you’re familiar with the recipient, thank them for their time or let them know you’ll be waiting for their reply. If you have an ask of the recipient, include a call to action (CTA) in your conclusion. Let the reader know exactly what you want them to do after reading your email by using action words like “buy,” “download,” or “subscribe.”

Following Up

Knowing when to follow up with a professional email is important. In general, waiting for two to three days before sending a follow-up email is acceptable, but this may vary depending on the urgency of your issue. Be polite, concise, and direct when sending follow-up messages. If you get no response after several attempts, it’s okay to simply ask the recipient if you should stop following up.

Business Email Example

Below are examples of an introductory business email and a follow-up business email. Each follows the formatting we discussed above.

Introductory Email: 

Subject Line: Your Free Marketing Consultation

Hi Mary,

Thanks for expressing interest in Cook’s Club. By filling out our online form, you’re on your way to perfecting your at-home cooking skills.

Right now, we’re offering new customers three FREE months of shipping on all of our meal-planning kits. Each kit comes with the ingredients and recipes you need to create delicious and healthy meals for you and your family. Once the three months are up, you’re eligible for a discounted Cook’s Club rate!

Please let us know when you would like to schedule your first delivery. We’ll send some exciting menu options for you to choose from. If you have questions, please contact us via email or call at 1-800-777-5544.

Sincerely,

The Cook’s Club Team

Follow-Up Email:

Dear Mary,

You recently filled out our contact form online inquiring about our meal kit delivery service. We hope you received our initial offer of three months of free shipping. This week, we are excited to give you an incredible new offer — 20% off of your first order!

Many families don’t have the time to prepare fresh, healthy meals every day. Cook’s Club eliminates that problem by providing you with easy-to-make weeknight recipes with the freshest local ingredients delivered right to your door.

We would love for you to share our meal kit service with your family at this special discounted rate. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

We hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

The Cook’s Club Team

Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Message

In order to maximize the effectiveness of your professional emails, there are a few additional factors you should consider. If you want a response to your email, it’s important to consider when you’re sending it, who you’re sending it to, and how you’re going to personalize your email to capture their attention.

The Best Time to Send an Email

You may have the perfect headline and the most concise email, but the time you send that email matters, too. On a daily basis, people open more emails than they respond to. Fortunately, carefully choosing the time you send your emails can help warrant a response. Sending emails early in the morning or late at night brings the odds of receiving a reply from one in three to one in two. People are inundated with emails during the workday. In the morning or at night, people are more likely to respond because they’re receiving fewer emails.

Choosing a Recipient

Getting your email into the right person’s hands also plays a major role in getting a response. Conduct research to determine who will be most equipped to help you get what you need. Reaching out to specific individuals, rather than group inboxes, will maximize your chances of getting a swift response.

Avoid Sending Impersonal Messages

Templates are great tools for efficiency, but if your email lacks any personalization, it may get disregarded as spam. To avoid this, personalize each email that you send. You can still use a template, but make sure to tweak it based on who you’re sending it to. Include relevant details to indicate to the recipient that you aren’t a bot. Without being unprofessional, be sure to show your human side.

Sending a professional, well-thought-out email doesn’t have to be difficult. Keep your work emails professional and you’ll get the most out of them.


Image Source: https://depositphotos.com/

This post was updated December 12, 2019. It was originally published December 12, 2019.