ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Monique Lugo-López is the President and Chief Operating Officer at Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón.
Email communications are a reflection on you and your company.
For this reason, professionals are expected to send well written and error-free business emails. Let’s face it, it doesn’t look good when you send two work emails in a row because you needed to fix a mistake you made in a previous email.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to have you writing professional emails in no time!
PHASE 1: BEFORE WRITING THE EMAIL
1. KNOW YOUR WHY
Know why you’re sending the email and what you need from the recipient. If you don’t know why, then it’s not necessary to send the email. Sending unnecessary emails is a waste of time and effort for you and the recipient.
2. THINK BEFORE YOU “REPLY ALL”
“REPLY ALL” should only be used when the email you’re sending is relevant to each and every recipient. Ask yourself: “Who needs to know?” If the email you’re sending has nothing to with any of the other recipients, then you are just filling up their inbox with unnecessary emails and sending messages to the wrong people.
3. PAY IT FORWARD
When forwarding emails, briefly explain what the forwarded email is about so that the recipient can know what you need from them from the get-go. Be sure that you also have the permission to forward the email you want to send, since there are emails that contain personal or confidential information. Never forward emails to someone that needs to forward it to another person. Don’t start a forward chain.
4. DO YOUR RESEARCH
If you’re going to send an email to someone from another country or culture, it’s important that you research the recipient’s culture first in order to avoid any misunderstanding that could affect your company’s professional relationships abroad. Avoid humor and sarcasm. Use simple grammar and be as concise and straight to the point as possible. Different cultures approach emails differently. For example, in Japan its customary to ask about the weather in the first sentence of a professional email.
PHASE 2: WRITING THE EMAIL
5. USE STANDARD FONTS AND FORMATTING
Have a standard format to use in every email. Use your company’s standard font, text size, and text color for each email, so that your emails look clean and are easier to read. The same rule applies when copying and pasting a text to the email, make sure it looks nice and tidy.
6. KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL
Always send business emails through your work email address, not your personal email. Using your personal email address can lower your credibility level as a professional, especially when sending emails with confidential information. People are more likely to trust and open a professional email address, rather than a personal email address that they might not recognize.
7. THE RIGHT SUBJECT LINE
The subject line of an email often determines if a person is going to open your email immediately or not. It should be specific, clear, and concise. Most people’s inboxes are cluttered with emails. You want to make sure you get their attention. Write subject lines that describe what your email is about. Avoid all caps, all lowercase or exclamation points which can get mistaken as Spam.
Never leave the subject line blank and stay away from vague subject lines such as “FYI”. Your subject line should speak of the email message. For instance, if you’re going to send an email about the details of a meeting to your co-worker, the subject line could be, “Information About Upcoming Design Meeting.”
8. FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER
Start your email with phrases such as “Good Morning,” “Good Afternoon,” “Good Evening”, “Good Day” or “Greetings”, “Dear Shannon/Ms. Williams”. Never begin emails with informal phrases like “Hi” or “Hey”. Using informal greetings in business emails makes you look unprofessional.
9. BRIEF INTRODUCTION
When sending emails to new contacts or acquaintances, it is important to introduce yourself at the beginning of the email. Unless you’re certain, do not assume the person receiving the email knows you or remembers you. State your first and last name, your position, the name of the company you’re representing, and how you received their contact information. If you have met before, remind them of who you are, and where and how you met.
10. BE CAREFUL WITH WHAT YOU SEND
Regardless of who you send your emails to, you must never forget that they can one day be leaked or made publicly available. Therefore, the emails you send should always be professional, courteous, and appropriate. In other words, send emails that you would have no problem posting on a bulletin board, publishing online or reading out loud in a deposition hearing. Private matters are handled personally, not by email. Also, confidential information is not email friendly.
11. LESS IS MORE
Write your emails in a way that they can be easily understood. Avoid wordiness and lengthy sentences. Break down your email into short paragraphs to avoid overwhelming the recipient, and use the active voice instead of the passive voice. You should state why you are emailing in the first two sentences. After that, you have lost the recipient’s attention.
12. DON’T SCREAM
Sending an email with all capital letters can be interpreted as if you were yelling at the recipient. Using all caps in an email is unprofessional and can also make the recipient feel bad. Stick to using sentence case. Avoid emailing angry and be mindful of the use of exclamation points.
13. NO FUNNY BUSINESS
Don’t incorporate humor or sarcasm into your emails. You never know how the recipient may interpret it and what you write can be taken out of context. Use grown up language and avoid using shortcuts for words, slang and emoticons.
14. INCLUDE A CLEAR CALL TO ACTION
If you need something from the recipient, provide straightforward instructions so that the recipient has a clear idea of what he or she needs to do and by when. This lets the recipient know if a response is needed.
For example, don’t say, “I need the documents as soon as possible”. This statement does not specify the date the recipient should send those documents and it doesn’t explain the sense of urgency. Do say, “Could you send me the proposal documents by Wednesday in PDF form?”. Turning your request into a question avoids confusion and encourages a prompt reply from the recipient.
On the other hand, if no response is needed, it is a good practice to state it in the email so the recipient doesn’t feel obliged to respond. This also helps you control the amount of emails delivered to your inbox.
15. CLOSING LINES
You should include a closing line after the call to action. Some of these types of closing lines can be: “Let me know if that’s okay with you.” “I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.” “Do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.” The closing line should be helpful for the recipient and/or make the recipient feel good.
16. SIGNING OFF
Sign off on emails with phrases such as “Best Wishes,” “Kind Regards,” “All the Best,” “Sincerely” or “Thank You.” Then follow your sign off with your professional email signature. Your email signature should include your full name, position, company name, work phone number, work email address, and the company website. You can also include an image of your company’s logo and social media handles. Create a business card like signature that’s automatically added to the end of every email you send. This is a great opportunity to showcase you company and yourself.
PHASE 3: SENDING THE EMAIL
Always proofread before hitting the send button. Look for any spelling and grammatical errors. Take advantage of spell check and read your emails out loud to catch any other mistakes you might have missed.
18. CHECK ATTACHMENTS
In order to show consideration, let the recipient know if you’re sending an email with an attached file and explain what the attachment contains. Give attachments a name related to their content. Before sending, do check that the attachment is included in the email and that it’s the correct one. When sending large attachments, you should warn the recipient. You can also compress them into a Zip file or create a sharable link in which the recipient can download the attachment.
19. VERIFY THE EMAIL ADDRESS
Never send an email without double checking that you have the correct recipient email address. Be careful with recipients that have similar names and emails. Sending an email to the wrong person makes you look careless and can compromise information.
20. PLEASE REPLY
When receiving an email, it’s important to reply promptly. If you have taken long to reply, begin by apologizing and let the recipient know the reason for your delay. The more time you let pass not replying to the email, the more uneasy or anxious the recipient will get.
It’s a best practice to reply within 24 hours, even if you don’t have the answer to their question or you’re missing information they requested. If that is the case, you should respond to let them know that you have received their email and that you’re working on getting the information that they need.
An example of this type of email would be:
“Good morning Mrs. Smith,
I have received your email and am currently working on gathering the files you requested. I will send the requested files as soon as we have them at our disposal.
Thank you for your patience.
When it comes to sending business emails, details matter. Sending emails the wrong way, can make you and your company seem unprofessional (even if that’s not the case). Follow this step-by-step guide and you can rest easy that your emails will be professional. And be aware, some communications are not email compatible. When that is the case, you should pick up the phone or schedule an in-person meeting.