How to Write A Professional Email in 10 Easy Steps
Most professionals today prefer email communications to telephone communications. I'm one of them. Telephones always seem to ring at the most inopportune time and telephone calls have to be answered. To leave a telephone ring until your voice mail picks up is very unprofessional if you are there to answer it. I hate that when it happens to me because I hate talking to machines, even if they are intelligent machines that ask me intelligent questions. I think that most people hate talking to machines, intelligent or not. Computerized answering services that offer the caller a million option to choose from is also unprofessional and far too impersonal for my liking but that another issue. Emails on the other hand announce their presence and then lie there quietly until we have the opportunity to open them and read them. With email communication, the sender doesn't expect an immediate response. A response within a reasonable period is acceptable. Email is the most often used method of business communications today but for many it's the least productive because they have no idea of how to compose an effective business email. Most business people really don't understand the dos and don'ts of composing a business email. My objective with this article is to teach you how to compose an effective business email in 10 easy steps.
The first step in composing an effective business email is to fill in the subject line. The subject line cannot be left blank. Sending an email with a blank email will, in most cases, go unopened for several equally important reasons. When I get an email with a blank subject line, I seldom open it. I figure if the subject of the message wasn't important enough to the sender to have told me what it is in the subject line, then it's not important enough for me to spend my valuable time reading. An email from someone that I don't know without a subject line is likely to go opened. I won't take the time to save it to a file and then scan it for viruses so I can safely open it. Too many viruses are sent in emails these days. The subject line must be filled in and it must be definitive. A one-word subject line, like "Parking Decals" doesn't make the grade either. What about parking decals? A subject line like, "Renewal of your parking decal" is an effective subject lines because the person reading the subject line knows why he/she should be interested in the message.
The second mistake that far too many people make when composing an email message is that they take far too long to get to the main point of the email. Business emails aren't emails to a friend but a business communications. We are busy people and don't have time to wade through idle chatter even if we are friends. You need to keep your friendly emails separate from your business emails and should have separate email addresses for each. It doesn't matter how close you are to the person you are contacting you need to come to the main reason for the business email right away. Be polite but be concise and be direct. Come straight to the point. Don't waste the reader's valuable time with superfluous matters.
The third thing that you have to remember to never do is to start an email with the words "this must be done by closing time today" or with some other words to that effect. We receive dozens of email every day so always start your message by telling us exactly what you are talking about, what must be done by closing time today. Be specific in your opening statement. Don't waste our time by making us figure out what you need to have done by closing time today. If you force us to play twenty questions you may not have it done by closing time today.
The fourth thing that you never want to do is to use all capital letters because it sounds as if you're shouting at us. At the same time, you don't want to use all lower case letters. Many people get into the habit of never using the shift key to capitalize the first letter of the first word of every sentence or to capitalize other letters and words that should be capitalized because of chat rooms and from it being accepted in personal emails. All business communications should obey the rules of good grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.
The fifth thing that you should avoid at all cost is using email abbreviations or chat room acronyms in business emails. They have no place in any business communication. If you mean, "please," types "please" don't type "PLZ."
The sixth thing is to always be brief but be brief in a polite way. If you see that your message is going to extend beyond three or four brief paragraphs, consider revising the message or attaching the message as a file to a brief introductory email message. The important thing here is to be polite. Never be abrupt so it sounds as if you're barking out orders or growling at the recipient.
The seventh thing to remember, and this is a biggy, always remember to say "please" and "thank you" and say them as if you mean them. The best way to do that and have them come across as being sincere is to actually mean them when you say them. Never use them in a way that sounds condescending, prissy, catty, etc.
The eight thing that you must always include in a business email message is a signature block that give your contact information: business name, your full name and title, business address, telephone number, fax number, and web site URL. Don't clutter up the signature block with a clever saying or quote. It's unprofessional.
The ninth thing that you should always do is proofread every email before clicking on the send button. If you send a message that sounds as if it was composed by a ten year old, don't be surprised if people that you never intended to read it receive it and start kidding you about your "way with words" or maybe it would be more appropriate to say your "lack of a way with words."
Finally, the tenth thing that you need to do is to reply promptly to business emails that you receive, 24-hours is considered a reasonable length of time to respond. If, for some reason, you need more than 24-hours to compose a definitive reply send a brief message immediately explaining why you need more time before replying to the sender's message.
The simplest way to keep from making business email bloopers is to compose the business email the same way you would a business letter to be sent by "snail mail."