How to Send a Courteous Business Email

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Using common courtesy on business emails in key to your organizations success. Sending a rude, ill planned email can result in alienating your customers and letting the competition win.

Using common courtesy on business emails. Email in our business lives has become a constant. Gone are the days when we sent of polite letters of inquiry and waited for a response; we need and want information at our fingertips and email is the answer. Sadly, in our instant gratification society we simply forget our manners; and business emails are no exception.

I've made the mistake of being unprofessional in a business email a few years back; I had worked briefly with a Lady over the Internet and when I was looking for more work (she said I could contact her) I sent an email saying 'Hey do you have any work this week'. A week later I got a polite but firm response. 'While we have previously worked together and I did and do encourage you to contact me, please remember I have a name, and if you had read my website you would have seen the proper email address for work enquiries'.

Ooops! Not only had I not used a professional format; nor the email address she had preferred to be contacted on, my real errors were in not taking the time to see and appreciate how she preferred to be contacted, and then using an air of over familiarity with a Lady who was a business contact not a long time friend. I never made the same mistake again.

Since then I've become a lot more careful about how I handle business emails. Common courtesy is the least we can give when we are looking for information, advice, or more usually work if you are a freelancer like me. While a stilted overly formal email won't get you very far, I have developed seven key steps for sending out effective business emails.

Use the subject line appropriately

Too often we don't use the subject line of our email correspondence effectively. This line should clearly indicate EXACTLY the purpose of your email. If you are responding to an Office Assistant Job state something to the effect of Re: Your Vacant Office Assistant Position; if your looking for assistance from a company on debt solution use something like, Looking for information on debt relief. Being clear and concise in your subject line is almost a guarantee that you will get a faster response. Companies are inundated with business emails each day, and the vague ones often go to the end of the list if they get responded to at all!

Use a proper salutation

Whenever possible use a person's full name and title in a business email. If your emailing Mr. John Smith CEO of ABC Enterprises, do it just like that. If you cannot get a person's full name and title from a website you may have to begin with 'Hello Claire', or simply address it to the right department, never use 'To Whom It May Concern'. Also, with our gender in specific names, never assume a Jamie is a guy, or a Toni is a girl, a safe bet is to simply use 'Hello Jamie', and continue with the body of the email. For European business emails it is generally correct to refer to a lady as 'Miss' not 'Ms' unless you specifically know that she is married. The other important thing to remember is correct spelling of a business associates name. No-one likes to have their name misspelled.

Spelling and Grammar

It amazes me how many people simply cannot utilise the spell check, grammar check or use the space bar. I've received some pretty awful business emails myself; but when they are giving me work as a freelancer I am not going to correct them! That said, always remember to check your email manually for errors. Words like 'weather' and 'whether' will typically not show up as being incorrect in a computer check.

Keep it brief

Unless it is a really complex business email, I tend to go with the kiss method of correspondence; keep it simple stupid. Business associates and potential employers don't want to read our long winded emails, but they do appreciate (and often hire) someone who can come to the point quickly! If you have utilised your subject line correctly, the receiver has already gotten a quick idea of why your emailing so build on your subject line and don't go off on a ramble! I try to do my business emails the same way I would a blog entry, about 200 to 400 words.

Close your email properly

Nothing is worse than reading a business email that just stops. Common business courtesy in emails means that we should close our email properly. A simple, 'Yours Sincerely' for someone we are seeking advice from or 'Kind Regards' for someone we know a little better usually suffice. Also if you have an automatic signature on your email make sure it includes your title (especially important if you are self employed) and your alternate contact information such as telephone number. Also make sure your email address is professional; I simply use my full name and gmail address, using something like, will not endear business associates to you.

Use the CC function carefully

Time is short, and often we forward emails to everyone we think needs to hear what we have to say. Not everyone likes their email address to be given out, and this is especially true in the business world. If you have a complex situation that requires you to forward the email, consider using the cut and paste function, so that no-one gets offended. If you are going to do a group email to several different companies, get permission first!

Common courtesy in business emails is essential if we want to receive timely and accurate information, and especially if we want to get an interview. By having an appropriate email address, using the subject line appropriately, using a correct salutation, being brief and concise in the body of our email, closing properly, and not inappropriately spamming business associates, goes a long way in being seen as a courteous person in the on-line world.

Make your business emails count!

1 comment

Hector M
Posted on May 18, 2010