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Do’s And Don’ts Of Writing Professional Emails

by Margaret Hurst
Marketing Specialist

September 22, 2015

Did you know that over 195 billion emails are sent and received every day? You probably use email in you professional, academic and personal lives multiple times daily, so there’s no reason not to do it right.

Emails may feel less formal than traditional letters or notes because composing and sending them is such a fast process—but don’t be fooled. Your emails to your boss, coworkers, professors, advisors, fellow students and more still have to be professional.

You want to present yourself to others as smart, competent and courteous. We’ve laid out some do’s and don’ts of writing professional emails so you come across as your best self every time you hit send.

Do: Use A Meaningful Subject Line

The subject line should be informative and unique. Email inboxes fill up rapidly and if your subject line isn’t clear, concise and summative of the contents, then it might not get opened. Additionally, if someone wants to look up the email later for reference it should be easy to find.

Don’t: Write A Long Subject Line

If your subject line is too long, it will cut off in the recipient’s preview. Research shows that subject lines with six to ten words have the highest open rates, so try to stick to that.

Do: Include A Salutation

Even if it’s as simple as, “Hi Bob,” it is polite to include some sort of greeting before jumping ahead to the purpose of your email. If you haven’t spoken to that person in a while you can add a, “Hope all’s well” or “How have things been since we last spoke?” Keep it short.

Don’t: Go On And On

Keeping emails brief shows that you respect the time of the person reading it. Include only the essentials. 

Do: Get To The Point

Come out with your main point or request in your first line. You can add additional contextual information after that, but if make people dig for your main point you’re unlikely to get a response.

Don’t: Use Internet (Or Other) Slang

Please don’t use LOL or ROFL in an email to your professor, boss, or anyone whom you don’t consider a close friend or relative. It can come across as unprofessional or even juvenile. Just because email is online, does not mean that it is any less formal than communications in other settings.

Do: Set An Expectation Of Response

Set a specific time that you need a response by rather than leaving it open-ended. Try saying something like, “I’d like to get your thoughts on this by EOD Tuesday.” Setting clear expectations of the response that you need will help guide the recipient.

Don’t: Leave Out A Closing

Conclude professional emails with a closing sign-off and your signature block (you can create this in your settings). Some things you may want to include in your signature are your company, title and phone number.

If you need more writing help, there are plenty of resources available to you.

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