11 Email Writing Tips: How to Write a Professional Email


What Email Writing Tips Can Ensure Every Email You Send Breaks Through the Inbox?

Like it or not, email has become a core component of daily work and the quality of your emails can spell the difference between success and failure. Further, emails are about more than just about getting your point across: you’re also competing for attention with a multitude of other emails. The average person spends over five hours per day reviewing emails (209 minutes checking work email and 143 minutes checking personal email), and – perhaps as a consequence – 35% of emails go unread.

Thus, success with emails is a multilayered affair: you have to get people to open the email, then your email must make the right impression while successfully conveying the intended message. Finally, it must drive the desired action. Failure at any point could undermine the email’s effectiveness or even, in extreme cases, cause it to backfire entirely. But what do you need to know to learn how to write a professional email?

Getting Emails Right

To write successful emails, here are our Top 11 tips.

Email Writing Tips for The Subject Line

1: State your topic in the subject line

The subject line may be the most important component of the email because it determines when (and if) an email gets read. When emailing professionally, avoid misleading or shock-value type subject lines; they might get an email opened today, but they will burn your credibility and future emails will get ignored. Instead, briefly and plainly state the topic of your email.

2: Write specific subject lines

It’s not enough just to notate the abstract topic; a good subject line gives the recipient a good idea of what the email is about. This helps the recipient triage prioritize it. In other words, the message might be about your “meeting today,” but you don’t want to leave the subject line there. The recipient will have no idea what the email is about. Instead, you’ll want to elaborate and say something like, “Talking points for our meeting today” or “Can you reschedule today’s meeting” or “Don’t forget today’s meeting.”

3: Write actionable subject lines

This is one of our biggest “Do’s” out of our email “Do’s and Don’ts.” If you need the recipient to take some kind of action, say so in the subject line. For example, you might write, “Two questions that need answered.” You might also add something like “Response needed” at the start of the subject line. You can also add a signifier like “URGENT,” but only if it actually is urgent. Otherwise, like any other misleading email subject line, you’ll just end up burning your credibility.

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Email Etiquette Writing Tips

4: Greet the recipient formally.

Email can feel much more informal than other written communications, but avoid being overly casual, especially with professional emails. According to a survey on email etiquette from time management service RescueTime, over half (57%) of workers believe a formal greeting like “Dear” or “Hello” is necessary for work emails.

5: Don’t write emails when you’re emotional.

Email isn’t the right channel for emotional or difficult conversations, as it’s too easy to say something you might later regret or say something that will be interpreted badly or misunderstood. Emails can easily come across as patronizing, passive aggressive, angry, and more, even when the writer doesn’t intend it. Either wait to write the email or hold that conversation offline.

6: Get to the point.

Every email is asking the recipient for one of their most valuable resources: their time. It’s rude to intrude on their time with overlong emails that are unnecessarily chatty, especially in a professional context. Respect the recipient’s time by getting to the point early and quickly.

Email Writing Tips to Ensure You Always Come Across as Professional

7: Use proper grammar and punctuation.

Yes, you want your emails to sound friendly and accessible, but you also want them to read as professional; therefore, pay attention to spelling and grammar. A carefully constructed email implies that you take the topic of the email (and its recipient) seriously. And people notice errors. The RescueTime survey also found that nearly three-quarters of its respondents regard spelling and grammar mistakes as “a big deal in work emails,” especially if these errors make the message less clear.

8: Also pay attention to email formatting.

DO YOU WANT YOUR READERS TO THINK YOU’RE YELLING AT THEM? Don’t use all caps. Formatting issues in the email can be just as detrimental to the recipient’s experience of reading the email as grammar mistakes. This also means breaking up text into short paragraphs that are easier to read and using bullets and boldface to help readers glom onto important points.

9: Proofread, proofread, proofread.

To ensure your emails contain no mistakes and are highly readable, always re-read them closely before hitting send. For particularly important email messages, re-read multiple times.

Email Writing Tips to Help Drive Action

10: Tell your readers what action you need them to take.

We addressed this briefly in Email Writing Tip #3, but it’s worth reiterating. A shocking number of emails never actually tell the recipient what they should do with the information in the email. Do you need them to answer a question? Show up somewhere at a certain time? Send you something? Then say so. If you leave it to the recipient to guess, most likely they’ll just do nothing.

11: Reduce the burden of email.

This tip actually comes from Victoria Turk, a senior editor at WIRED UK, from her TED Talk. It’s a great point: given how many emails people receive, senders should always be considerate and make it easy on the recipient. She walks through writing an email in her TED Talk (video below), but the key point is always: make the email easy for the recipient to deal with.

Additional Resources

  • Writing in the Workplace: Strategies to Plan, Write, and Revise (almost) Any Document. In acclaimed writing instructor Pamela E. Hurley’s most comprehensive book yet, you’ll learn that you, too, can be an effective business writer through tips, tricks, and how-to’s. Download Writing Strategies for Corporate America today!
  • Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Professional Email Communication. Learn more email writing tips for how to write consistently successful emails. Read now!

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