How To Do Professional Email Writing (A Step by Step Guide)
Professional Email Writing is one attribute that is vital for every one of us to have in this day and age. In today’s digital world email has become the medium of formal communication. Be it a cover letter for a job application or an email you send once you get hired, it is important to write it effectively in a professional manner.
Just like how there are dress codes that are termed to be professional there are a set of codes that will make your email professional as well. Let’s take a closer look at those codes for Professional Email Writing.
We can classify these codes broadly as
- Rules for Professional Email Writing
- Format for Professional Email Writing
We will also be looking into a few effective tools you could be using for professional email writing.
If you are not a working professional yet, you might feel that you have got ample time to work on your professional email writing skills. But it is a skill that is pretty easy to pick up. It is also a skill that might come in very handy at any given moment. With that said let’s take a dive into the rules for professional email writing and get things rolling.
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Rules for Professional Email Writing
These are not any kind of standard fixed rules. But knowing them and keeping them in your mind will be helpful.
The first and foremost factor to consider when you start writing a mail is its purpose. For example, let’s say I am writing an email where I am sending over a video I edited to get approval from a client. Then I should attach the file that needs to be reviewed and I should also share the details of the project for clear-cut understanding. The objective of the email is to get approval and so I should also ask if any changes are needed in the video. Finally, I would attach the required details to complete the payment process if there are no changes as well. Only if the purpose is identified at the start then a proper structure can be achieved when writing the email. So it’s obvious that once you identify the goal behind writing the email then everything else falls right into place.
The Other End
Knowing who is at receiving end of your email is also very crucial to professional email writing as only then the most appropriate style and approach can be used. You could be writing an email to your colleague so you could afford to be less formal in this email. But when you are writing a business email to a new client or someone who you have never met or seen then the approach has to be different. There is a tool called Crystal that can make this part easier for us. Let’s take a look at it when we cover a few helpful professional email writing tools.
Be to the Point
Just because we have the option to write long passages doesn’t mean it is needed. Like how I mentioned earlier that emails are being used mostly for business communication it is important to keep all your points precise and concise at the same moment. Be to the point of what you are trying to accomplish by following the above two steps sincerely.
Using proper etiquette
Once you have written the complete content, make sure to see if you have used the proper etiquette. If the word etiquette is new to you, it is nothing but a fancy term for the customary codes of polite or professional behaviour. Make sure you have started the email by greeting the person. It is also important to verify if you have addressed the person you are writing to with the appropriate terms like Mr/Mrs/Ms. Last but not least it is crucial to thank the person at the end of the email. Each person would be spending his/her time reading your email and so ending the email without even a simple ‘thank you would not be professional.
Make sure to not use any kind of shorthand or any short forms when composing your email. It will not look professional and it might lead to a lot of unnecessary confusion and so it is always recommended to use standard terms and not colloquial terms. Another important element that should not be used in professional emails is smileys. It will make the email look very informal and it will also seem to resemble chats on social media platforms and not a professional conversation.
Beyond these general aspects that most of us follow one must also remember at what time the mail is being sent and if it is a business email then make sure you are not sending the email beyond their working hours or on days that are leaves. Try to avoid emails when the person is on leave unless it is extremely crucial.
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One aspect you have to steer clear of when it comes to professional email writing is hedging. Hedging is nothing but the gap between making statements as facts and making statements as claims. It is extremely important to portray confidence when it comes to professionalism.
So if you add sentences to your email that does not seem like confident statements with facts then it becomes difficult for the reader to feel confident about you. It would seem as though we are not so sure of our capabilities when we make statements like ‘I hope to complete the task by 5 P.M’.
Use a statement like, ‘I will complete the task by 5 P.M’ instead. There is a clear tonal shift between these two statements. It is vital to double-check your facts so that you can be confident about what you say using the medium. This aids in us being able to avoid using words like hope, most probably, possibly, conceivably, etc.
No matter how fast or slow we type the content, we are always prone to make some common mistakes. So it is very important to proofread what you have written before hitting that send button. Unlike WhatsApp or Instagram, we can not take back what we have sent and it will remain a record forever. We would only have a few seconds after hitting send to undo the action. Those few seconds are not enough to proofread your content. So it is always a good practice to proofread your content once or twice and then send the email. There are specific tools that can help you when it comes to proofreading as well.
Format for Professional Email Writing
There are various parts of an email and each of them has to be formatted or defined in a certain way.
CC and BCC:
This has been a common confusion among many people who use email daily. So let’s get this part clear before we head on to other aspects of professional email writing. If you are sending an email to just one person then it is pretty straightforward. But when it comes to sending the email to multiple people then each type has its purpose.
If you are writing an email to a group of people from who you are expecting a response then adding them directly under the ‘To’ category would be the best option. For example, if you are sending an email to your team for a project and so on then, this would be the best option.
But at the same time, if you are sending an email to someone in particular and want to keep someone else in the loop then using ‘cc’ would be the best way to go. For example, you could be sending an email to a client and want to keep your team lead or boss in the loop regarding it then you can cc them. That is why it is also known as ‘Courtesy Copy’ in addition to being known as ‘Carbon Copy’.
The bcc option is suitable when you want to send a copy of the email to someone but do not want the main recipient to know. This option can be used when you want to send a group mail to a large number of people in your company or so. It can also be used when you have to communicate between two strangers to maintain the privacy of the other person.
The very first thing that appears after your name is in the subject line of that email. So it is important to be as clear as possible in the shortest way possible. The subject has to be spot on with what the email is about. If the subject is written incorrectly, vaguely, or misleading it would ruin the entire email.
One common mistake that can happen when it comes to maintaining proper subject lines in emails is that at certain times we would just hit reply to all emails we receive and build long conversations. But we would still be using the same subject line as the first email even though the topic of the conversation has changed. So make sure to create separate conversations for each topic using appropriate subject lines.
Attachments & Links:
If there is a need to attach files to your email then it is vital to rename your files before you attach them. If there is more than 1 file to be attached then renaming the files would be mandatory. Concerning what we have written in our email, the files must be named so that the person reading the email would be able to easily understand which attachment to refer to.
An alternative to this would be to create a folder with the proper file names and upload it to Google Drive. Drive files can be added to emails easily and they look clean as well. By sharing the Drive files and folders it becomes easier to manage the storage that we use in our emails.
When it comes to adding links or URLs to the mail for reference purposes or any purpose for that matter. It would be a better option if the links are not pasted directly making the mail look messy. It would be better if the links are hyperlinked to the text in the email. This will make it look clean and professional.
The body of the email is the most important aspect of any email. So make sure to follow all the rules that we have already discussed earlier with proper salutation, text, and closing.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how you can start the body of your email based on your need.
If you are looking to draft a regular email initiating the conversation. You can start by using any of these options
- I am writing with regard to… (Subject of the email)
- I am writing in connection with… (Subject of the email)
- I am writing in reference to… (Subject of the email)
If you are planning to send an email to send out information be it good or bad or any important update then you can start with any of these options
- I am writing to let you know…
- I am delighted to tell you… (if it is good news)
- I regret to inform you that… (if it is bad news)
You might even be responding to an email you received. In that case, you could use any of these options too
- I am writing in response to…
- I am writing in reply to…
There are many options you could use as the closing of your email and here are a few examples
- Looking forward to hearing from you soon
- Thank you in advance
- For further information, please do not hesitate to contact me
- Please let me know if you have any questions
- Thank you for your time/attention
Just like how we add a signature at the end of a normal letter it is also pivotal to add your signature at the end of every email. For example, you could be communicating with a new person for the very first time for business purposes. If you don’t add your signature at the end then it could cause a lot of confusion. The person you are writing to might find it very hard to understand who you are exactly in your office. At the same time if you have mentioned your name, designation, and finally the name of your company along with its physical address and company website, the person reading the email can easily identify the email to be authentic and it would also provide all the necessary information. If you are expecting a call back from anyone then you could even share your contact information.
The most commonly used conclusions above the signatures are ‘Yours Faithfully’ and ‘Yours Sincerely’. There are specific scenarios when these terms have to be used. Let’s say you are writing to a person whose name you do not know. Then you would have referred to the person as ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. In this scenario, you can use ‘Yours Faithfully’. On the other hand, if you are writing to a person whose name you know and have referred to the person by their name like Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms plus name then you can use ‘Yours Sincerely’. The other options are
- Thanks & Regards
- Best regards
- Kind regards
Even after following all these steps, your email could look extremely unprofessional when you use decorative fonts. It is said that the fonts that are used in logos, resumes, or any text has a psychological effect on how we perceive them. For a closer look at professional fonts and their impact take a look at my article on them. You could find a list of the professional fonts like Oswald, Roboto, Helvetica, etc that I have mentioned for websites and resume in the article. Those fonts would also be very much apt to be used when drafting your professional email.
Tools for Professional Email Writing
We have covered the must know portions of both the rules and format for professional email writing. Now let us take a look at a few tools that could make our life easier by making our work simpler.
Grammarly is most definitely a must-have tool for professional email writing. We will not always have all the time in the world to go through and verify every single aspect of our written content. By using Grammarly we can easily check for spelling mistakes and some general grammar issues too. Grammarly would play a pivotal role during proofreading. At times even if we have typed something incorrectly our brain might read it correctly. This results in the mistake going unnoticed. The other very useful feature of Grammarly is that it analyses the text to find out the mood of the message. So once we have typed the email it would be easy to find if what we had in our minds and the final content are the same.
Spell check tools are a must-have when it comes to professional email writing. If you do not prefer using Grammarly then are several other options that one can use for the very same purpose such as Hemmingway.
Yes, knowing the person we are writing to help can make a lot of difference. But it is not possible to know everyone you are writing an email to. Crystal can be used to find out what kind of tone and language would be the most effective on the recipient. So once we have that information we can use Grammarly to see if we are getting it right.
So Crystal works its magic by implementing its ‘proprietary personality detection technology’. It analyzes everything we have written online like social media posts, blog posts, and so on. It then uses the data is analyzed to conclude. Crystal is claimed to be highly accurate and is one professional email writing tool that you should take a look at. All thanks to the level of accuracy, Crystal was called ‘creepy’ by Wired.
Unlike WhatsApp, we will not get any update if the receiver has read the email. Sending unnecessary follow-up emails to find that out will not be the smoothest way to stay updated. So it would be highly recommended to use email tracking tools instead. We can keep track of the status of the email and not disturb anyone by unnecessary follow-ups.
One such tool that can help us keep track of information is Polymail. We can also find out at what time they have read the mail using this tool.
It would be highly recommended to not use technical jargon in your email in an attempt to enhance the quality of the words used in it. At times few terms might seem like normal words to us and turn out to be jargon to many. We could end up making this mistake even without us realizing it. This is where Jargon Grader comes into play as it analyses the text and identifies commonly used Jargon.
An alternative to this tool would be ‘Unsuck it’ which fulfils this same purpose. It also suggests other meaningful words that can be used in their place.
This feature can be used if you are using Gmail. The main purpose of this type of email is to send sensitive or confidential information securely. For example, if you are in need to send a company strategy to a person and want to make sure the information does not go past him then this is the best option available. Using this model we can restrict the receiver from forwarding the email, copying its content, or even taking printouts. We can also define expiration periods for these emails. These emails can be made even more secure by making the receiver open the email only by getting passcodes. These features are a few you wouldn’t want to miss out on when it comes to professional email writing.
One might feel like the number of rules, formats, and tools for professional email writing we have discussed to be overkill. But it is not the case, as you will face such scenarios and find these tips to be lifesavers very shortly.