Career Development

Email Etiquette: Tips for Writing Professional Emails

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Writing an email with proper etiquette can be challenging, especially when you are sending your message to different audiences. You might have questions about how formal you should make an email and whether or not informal emails have a negative effect on your professionalism. This article will review email etiquette, its purpose within the workplace and the different levels of professionalism that alter the way you use email etiquette.

What is email etiquette?

Email etiquette is a concept in which email users apply well-advised written communication tactics to their email-writing. Good email etiquette can be displayed through proper usage of subject lines, salutations and overall clarity of message.

Why is email etiquette important in the workplace?

Email etiquette is important because it can demonstrate professionalism, prevent miscommunication and in doing so, create a method for good communication that can further promote professional relationships within the workplace.

Tips for practicing professional email etiquette

Here are a few helpful etiquette tips you can use to enhance your professional email writing:

Use a professional email address

You should have a professional email address that includes your name such as ‘bsmith.’ If your current email includes phrasing such as ‘beachlover497’ you do not want to use this email address as it could diminish your credibility.

Consider your audience

Take a moment to review your relationship with the recipient. Do you speak with them on a daily basis? Are they a colleague or member of upper management? Have you had prior communication with them? Are they a part of the same culture as you are? These are all factors to consider before you begin to write a professional email.

Use a clear subject line

You should always use the subject line to summarize the topic that the email will address. If you do not include a subject line, your email could be overlooked.

Include a business salutation

Your relationship with the recipient can determine the level of formality that is used in your salutation. Regardless, you should avoid phrases such as ‘What’s up,’ or slang terms like ‘Yo,’ and instead use salutations such as ‘Dear,’ ‘Greetings,’ ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning.’ 

Keep it short and easy to read

Your recipient most likely has a busy schedule and many other emails to read. By keeping your email short and to the point you can avoid unnecessary topics and encourage your recipient to read and respond to your message. This can also be helpful in avoiding miscommunication and promoting clarity.

Avoid jokes or humor

Refrain from using humor or sarcasm in your emails as written communication does not allow for tone of voice. By sticking to clear language, you can get your message across without confusing or indirectly offending the recipient.

Use a closing statement

You should always include a closing salutation followed by your name. The type of statement you use can depend on your level of familiarity with the recipient. For example, the phrases ‘Sincerely,’ or ‘Best regards,’ might be used in an email to a hiring manager, while ‘Thanks,’ or ‘Have a great day,’ might be used in an email to a coworker or supervisor.

Include a signature block

To enhance the professional nature of your email, you can set up a customized signature block to be inserted below your name.

Proofread your writing

After composing your email, be sure to read through it to check for grammar and punctuation errors, as well as tone and clarity.

Add the recipient’s email address after proofreading

To make sure that you don’t hit send before you’re ready, only add the recipient(s) email after composing and proofreading its contents.

Remember that emails are forever

Even if you delete an email, it can still remain accessible through software and data-saving tools. Therefore, only send emails that you would be comfortable with the head of your company seeing.

Reply to emails in a timely manner

Once you have sent an email and received a response, you should respond within 24 hours. If the email you receive requires further attention or is too lengthy for your immediate response, send a quick email to the recipient that states when they will receive an answer. This can help communicate that you have received their message and will respond within a given time frame.

Email etiquette at each professional level

Here are some situational examples that allow you to alter email etiquette and tailor it to the relationship you have with your recipient:

Professional informal

Professional informal emails can be exchanged between coworkers or employees and supervisors who are actively engaged in email communication with one another. You should still use professional email etiquette and its related tips, but you can replace certain formalities as you are familiar with the recipient.

The following example reviews a proper informal email among coworkers who are familiar with one another. It addresses the recipient in an informal yet professional manner and includes a clear message along with the sender’s name and statement of gratitude.

Example: 

Hi Karen,

When would you like to meet to discuss our sales presentation?

Thanks,

Mark

Business formal

A business formal email could be used to address someone you are professionally acquainted with but do not interact with on a daily basis. In this case, you can use a salutation that that is slightly less formal than ‘Dear.’

The following example reviews an email sent from one department head to another. They demonstrate an element of informality while still remaining professional as they are not as familiar with the recipient. 

Example: 

Good Afternoon Paul,

I am reaching out to see if you have a date available in the coming weeks to meet with me about our two departments. I think there is an interesting way that they could work together to maximize cross-department communication.

I look forward to speaking with you,

Melissa Smith

Traditional formal

Traditional formal email etiquette can be useful in addressing an individual with whom you have not met or been in contact with before. This could include hiring managers or prospective clients.

This email example incorporates the traditional elements of email etiquette and uses formal language and salutations to address the recipient. Notice how the sender addresses the recipient by their full name. Once a more personal relationship has been established, formal language can be reduced to more general terms such as ‘Hello Marcus,’

Example:

Dear Marcus Brown,

I am writing to inquire after an application I submitted on June 15, for the position of Assistant Manager within your company. 

I look forward to speaking with you further.

Sincerely,

Kevin Robertson