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How to Write Professional Emails

Email is one of the most common forms of written communication in the world - and the most commonly abused. Too often email messages snap, growl, and bark - as if being concise meant that you had to sound bossy. Not so. Here are some tips for writing professional emails that sound great every time.

1. Always Fill in the Subject Line.  Use a topic that means something to your reader. Not "Notes" or "Important!" but something specific like "Deadline for Applications."

2. Begin with a greeting.  It's important to always open your email with a greeting, such as "Dear Lillian,". Depending on the formality of your relationship, you may want to use their family name as opposed to their given name, i.e. "Dear Mrs. Price,". If the relationship is more casual, you can simply say, "Hi Kelly," If you’re contacting a company, not an individual, you may write "To Whom It May Concern:"

3. Put your main point in the opening sentence. Begin by stating your purpose. For example, "I am writing to inquire about …" or "I am writing in reference to …" It's important to make your purpose clear early on in the email, and then move into the main text of your email.

4. Type it Like an Official Document.  Don't use ALL CAPITALS (no shouting!), or all lower-case letters either.

5. Avoid chat-room 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).

6. 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, keep it classy and polite.

7. Mind Your Manners. Think of the basic rules you learned growing up, like saying please and thank you, and meaning it. Address people you don't know as Mr., Mrs., or Dr. Only address someone by first name if they imply it's okay to do so.

8. End With Closing Remarks.  Before you end your email, it's polite to thank your reader one more time as well as add some courteous closing remarks. You might start with "Thank you for your patience and cooperation." or "Thank you for your consideration." and then follow up with, "If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to let me know." and "I look forward to hearing from you." Then, include an appropriate closing with your name. "Best regards," "Sincerely," and "Thank you," are all professional. It's a good idea to avoid closings such as "Best wishes," or "Cheers," as these are best used in casual, personal emails.

9. 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.

10. 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 careless.

11. Reply Promptly to Serious Messages.  If you need more than 24 hours to collect information or make a decision, send a brief response explaining the delay.

12. Wait to Fill in the "TO" Email Address.  Check over your writing and attachments to make sure it is exactly the way you want it before entering a "to" address. This will keep you from accidentally sending an email prematurely. In the past, I have accidentally clicked on the send icon, when I really meant to click on the attachment icon.