How to be professional with email

emailEmail is the single most used media within the workforce.  People write so many emails daily that they tend to forget the importance of professionalism.  Email exchanges tend to be carelessly put together and sent with misspelled words or other errors.  Below are the steps to write your email professionally:

1. Plan

Often times the first step of planning is overlooked.  Planning can just entail thinking about what you are going to say.  Workers are bombarded with emails and many could be prevented if this important step was completed.  In this stage you should ask yourself:  “Should this email even be written?”  or “Would another medium (such as Instant Messaging) be more appropriate?”

2. Subject line

The importance of the subject line is usually down played.  This is the one line that is used to grab the readers’ attention.  As mentioned, workers get so many emails that they have to prioritize which email should be read first.  Make your subject line attention grabbing.  Do not confuse the subject line with a summary.  The purpose of this line is to intrigue your recipient so that they will want to open and read your email.  Do try to limit the number of words in this line.  Lines that are overly wordy will lose attention as they try to read each word.

3. Greeting

Start with a professional greeting.  This depends on your relationship with the recipient.  With a colleague that is a friend a “Hi Jordan” might be appropriate; whereas, if it is a supervisor a simple name or even a “To whom it may concern” may be needed.

4. State your purpose.

Try to be clear and concise.  Try not to be overly wordy; keep your points plain and simple.  Do not come across arrogant or unsure.  Always state your exact purpose without sounding wishy-washy.

5. Conclusion

Many professional email writers are unsure of how to close their email.  Closing with “Love” or “Best wishes” is too informal and personal.  It is better to close with “Sincerely” or “Thank you”.

6. Review

This is a step that is almost as important as planning.  Not reviewing your email can cause co-workers to lose respect for you, start an argument or even get you fired.  Reviewing your message can avoid sending unintended tones, spelling or grammatical errors or incorrect information.

Here are some quick tips that I have compiled from the writings from Richard Nordquist:

Quick tips for writing:

  • Always fill in the subject line with a topic that means something to your reader.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPITALS (no shouting!), or all lower-case letters either (unless you’re e. e. cummings).
  • As a general rule, PLZ avoid textspeak (abbreviations and acronyms): you may be ROFLOL (rolling on the floor laughing out loud), but your reader may be left wondering WUWT (what’s up with that).
  • Be brief and polite. If your message runs longer than two or three short paragraphs, consider (a) reducing the message, or (b) providing an attachment. But in any case, don’t snap, growl, or bark.
  • Remember to say “please” and “thank you.” And mean it. “Thank you for understanding why afternoon breaks have been eliminated” is prissy and petty. It’s not polite.Add a signature block with appropriate contact information (in most cases, your name, business address, and phone number, along with a legal disclaimer if required by your company). Do you need to clutter the signature block with a clever quotation and artwork? Probably not.
  • Edit and proofread before hitting “send.” You may think you’re too busy to sweat the small stuff, but unfortunately your reader may think you’re a careless dolt.

Cheryl Baker is a business student at the University of South Florida.  She is currently enrolled in Professional Writing (ENC 3250).

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