How to write professional emails to improve your career success (with tips from 24 experts)•
A home address isn’t the only address that most people have these days – an email address is another. Unless, of course, they live in a computer-free location, environment or lifestyle…in which case they probably aren’t reading this article!
In any case, the important thing to know about email is that it’s a main method of communication in professional settings in most industries and it’s a critical aspect of most job application processes.
That means that unless you know – and use – the best practices for professional emails, you’re likely sending unprofessional emails that might just be slowly ruining your professional life.
To make sure you never make an embarrassing mistake in a professional email, here’s a huge roundup of professional email writing tips from 24 experts. These experts are either: teachers, professional writers, career advisors, or other type of professional that has years and years of experience writing and receiving a variety of professional emails with great success.
Expert tips on how to write professional emails:
James Westhoff, M.Ed., CCC (Certified Career Counselor)
Director of Career Services at Husson University’s Center for Student Success
“There are a number of considerations one should keep in mind when trying to craft professional emails. First, make sure you proofread your emails. Everything is a writing sample and you should care about being correct in your email.
Next use a formal tone in all of your correspondence until you are given the green light to be less formal. Use Mr. or Ms. until the person tells you to call them by their first name.
Be sure to make your subject line specific about your e-mail. Never leave it blank or extremely vague.
Also, don’t provide attachments until you are asked to do so. You can offer to send attachments in your correspondence, but don’t do it until you are given permission to do so.
Make sure you include your contact information so people know how to reach you if they need. In addition, make sure you are organized in your e-mail and that it has an introduction, the information you are trying to convey, and then a conclusion of how follow-up will occur.
When you are writing an email about something that upsets you, it’s a good idea to take a break before you hit the send button. Don’t write an e-mail in anger. You could regret what you send later.
Keeping you email short is always a good idea. Everyone appreciates someone who can get to the point quickly.
Be careful when you are send emails through your telephone. Phone auto-correct feature can make your e-mails look very sloppy.
Finally, don’t use slang, abbreviations, or emoticons in business e-mails. Think of your e-mail as a business letter. If you wouldn’t do something in a letter, don’t do it in an e-mail.”
Maureen McCann, BA, CCDP, MCRS, MCIS, MCCS, MCES
Executive Career Strategist at Promotion Career Solutions
“Begin with your reader in mind. Your message, when it arrives in the receiver’s Inbox, is competing with 10, 20, 50, 100+? messages filling the inbox of your reader. Keep that in mind as you craft your message. You have to get and keep your reader’s attention.
1. Subject line:
Keep it short, engaging and to the point. Some examples:
“*Step one of six:* Drafting the Annual Report”
“*Action Required:* Need your review of page 6 | Annual Report Draft Due Friday, June 14th”
“*Time Sensitive:* Annual Report due Friday | Please review ASAP”
“*For Your Information:* Annual Report finished and sent to the executive. Thanks for your contribution”
Adding these phrases to the beginning of your email subject line will help the reader assess the urgency of the message.
2. Stay focused.
While it’s polite to ask open-ended questions, you want to limit exchanges from something like:
Person A. We should meet to go over this.
Person B. When do you want to meet?
Person A. I’m good with whatever time works for you?
Person B. Could you do Monday?
Person A. Sure. But Friday works better for me.
Person B. So how about Monday at 2:00?
Instead, Person A. could have written: “We should meet to go over this. Could you do Friday at 9:00?’ And cut out the multiple back and forth exchanges.
3. You don’t have to say thanks via email
There’s nothing more annoying than getting a notification on your phone, grabbing it out of your pocket, fumbling around, opening the mail app because you have a new email, opening the email and it says nothing more than:
Save the thanks for the next time you see the person, or speak to them on the phone.”
CEO of Mailbird
“First, take a look at the email that you are using. Does it clearly list your full name and come from a business account, and is your avatar a professional representation?
Does your subject get right to the point, without including any trigger words for spam?
Include a greeting directed to the recipient, free of emojis or anything else that might be cute, but detracts from the message of the email.
Get right to the point in the opening paragraph, saving the next paragraph to go into deeper detail. That way, the recipient can make a quick judgement call before diving deeper into the email. Fast explanations also keep emails from being designated by the recipient as spam.
Hit your message home with a good call to action, and end your email with your full name, company name and contact details.”
Gina Curtis, SHRM-CP, aPHR,
Executive Recruiting Manager at JMJ Phillip Group
Executive Trainer/Coach at Employment BOOST
“When crafting a professional email, keep your subject line short and give a generalized idea of what the email is regarding to clarify what you are reaching out. Always include an appropriate greeting for a professional email using introductions such as Dear, Hello, or Good morning. On the case you do use CC or BBC, always double check that you are addressing the correct individuals on the email.
Remember that tone is hard to read in an email. Keep it friendly and professional but avoid using emojis or overusing exclamation marks.
After completing your email, always check your spelling and grammar. Emails will last forever and represent you in the future. Even if the work day is busy and you may want to send off emails quickly but it’s important take the extra couple of seconds to re-read your email.
Once you receive an email, remember that someone is waiting for your response. When possible, we try to respond to emails within 1 hour but no longer than 24 hours.”
Director of Human Systems at Off Road
“In the course of a day at Off Road, we might send and receive hundreds of emails, and it is important for businesses like ours, and yours, to write an effective and concise email. Reaching your audience and having them take the intended action is an Art. If you want your emails to get the attention they deserve, construct them using the following tips.
If your goal is to increase engagement and a response to your email, keeping your message concise is important. It may take longer than you realize to write an effective email, as Mark Twain said, “If I had more time, I would write a shorter letter.”
One topic per email.
Resist the temptation to put multiple subjects into an email. Constructing an email with multiple topics creates the potential for the email not be fully answered, or not answered at all. Too many requests or too much information hinders this form of communication.
Write like you speak.
Developing strong relationships with people in-person and through digital communications channels, like email, is important for a business to operate efficiently. Being professional and consistent in your language helps to strengthen interpersonal and business relationships.
Have a concise construct to the body of your email. Here is an example:
-Use a clear, short subject line.
-Include an opening greeting such as: Dear, Good Morning, Good Afternoon
…followed by their name. Depending on your relationship with the person (they could be a colleague, client, or new contact), you may want to consider the introduction used).
-If you have had a connection with the person, take this opportunity to remind them how you are connected.
-Clearly state your purpose for the email.
-Clearly write what action you are asking the person to take and when you would like the action to be completed.
-Include a professional closing such as respectfully, sincerely, best regards, appreciatively, or all the best. Close the message by signing your name even when you have a standard signature attached to the bottom of your email.”
VP of Marketing at Faveable.com
Emmy-nominated former TV news anchor and show host
“While working as a news anchor and host of a weekly public affairs show, writing professional emails was a daily requirement. I would regularly communicate with elected officials, non-profit heads, business leaders, and more. Keeping it professional was always important, as I had a reputation to uphold and trust to build. I would say one of the most important aspects of writing professional emails is to be thorough and clear in what you’re communicating. Don’t leave whoever you’re emailing guessing. That’s why I always avoid shorthand and slang in emails.
Another tip is to proofread your email at least three times before pressing send. Two of those times, physically read the email out loud. Does it make sense when you read it back? Will it leave the recipients of your email guessing? Could the message be misconstrued? Is there a way to improve what you’re saying? Those are all great questions to ask yourself.
Another tip would be to make sure you include a signature with your contact information, and also let whoever you’re emailing know when/how they can follow up with you. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to get ahold of someone you need to! Finally, don’t forget to thank the person you’re emailing or wish them a nice day!”
Licensed Corporate Etiquette Consultant-Speaker-Trainer
“One of my most-requested training sessions is “Email Etiquette for a Business” session.
1.) Use a greeting such as Dear or Hello followed by recipient’s name. It’s the “hello and handshake” of this faceless communication. Avoid going straight into the content without a greeting.
2.) Keep email brief and to the point. No one has time to read lengthy emails.
3.) Write a specific subject line with the most important words first.
4.) Use bullets and numbering for a list of items or questions. It’s much easier for the reader to read and digest.
5.) Place a ‘call to action’ in its own paragraph so it doesn’t get overlooked by the recipient.
6.) Make sure the tone of the email is positive and friendly. Re-read for tone before sending.
7.) Impeccable spelling, grammar and punctuation are a must to reflect well on the company or organization.
8.) Use ‘reply all’ only when all recipients need the information. Generally it’s best to only respond to the sender who will send a summary of responses to everyone.
9.) If attaching a document, attach it first, then write the content of the email. This avoids forgetting to attach it and having to send an oops email!
10.) Include complete contact information in the email signature block. This is a courtesy to the recipient who may need to call or mail something to you.”
President and CEO of MTG IT Professionals
“In writing an email some of the biggest pet peeves I have are when users do not properly use the “To” and “CC “fields as well as the Subject line and signature. I constantly mentor our employees on proper communications when using emails and to treat them like conversations and not text messages.
1. If you are talking to someone you look at them, hence the TO: field, and if you have an audience, CC them. If your attention moves towards a different person, edit the TO and CC fields accordingly. Avoid the BCC field unless you are 100% certain that the person you are BCC knows they were BCC and does not reply to all thus showing your intent to undermine the rest of the recipients.
2. The subject line should be relevant to the subject with meaning. This way others know the topic and can follow. If the conversation takes on another meaning, either start a new thread or change the subject.
3. REPLY TO ALL. This may be my biggest. email users need to know how to use the reply to all function. Very frustrating when a person needs to now go back and copy and paste the recipients on the previous email so that everyone is back in the loop. In some cases you cannot easily find the others eMail address.
4. Signature Line, Every email program both on the computer and mobile device has the ability to automatically add a signature line with your Name and Contact information. These simple rules to follow saves time and minimizes poor and or lack of communication. The message comes across more clearly and all are able to follow the meaning or intent behind the eMail message as well as easily communicate back.”
CMO at Nextiva
“First and foremost, if you’re writing an email to somebody new (or a recent addition) to your network–especially if you are inquiring about a job–you need to take time proofread your email. That means you may want to build time into your schedule to first draft your email, then sit on it a few hours before going back to it with fresh eyes for a quick edit.
My second piece of advice is to keep it short! The people you’re asking questions to have busy work and personal lives, and there’s nothing as exasperating as opening up an email from someone you want to help and finding you first need to digest a 7-paragraph essay.”
Account Supervisor, Digital Liaison of Antenna
“When writing a professional email, the most important element is clarity and brevity.
Although pleasantries are expected at the beginning and end, it’s best to keep extra verbiage in the core of the email to a minimum. There are also certain words to avoid. The words that I suggest eliminating from your professional vocabulary at all costs are “just” and “as soon as possible”. The word just implies that what you are communicating is not important, and if it’s included in an email, it should be important! As soon as possible is a phrase that has made its way into common vernacular, but it doesn’t assign an actual deadline and often communicates the opposite of what is intended. You are much better off stating an actual date or time to avoid awkward follow ups against what you made out to be an arbitrary deadline.”
Head of PR at Weblium
The trend is not new in itself, but it continues to gain popularity. It’s not about FIRSTNAME in messages, but about the message itself. Noise and information waste per person only becomes more, the time that a person is willing to spend on content classification is only reduced. Therefore, the content should be personalized and high-quality, sharpened under the interests of the client. Therefore, it works well in segmentation based on data from your site using Google Analytics. By sending the user useful information based on his preferences, the pages viewed earlier, you increase the effectiveness of each message.
2. Quality over quantity
Less text, more meaning. You have 6 seconds to convey the essence. Best customer care is saving his time. On the other hand, quality refers to the technical side of mailings. Spam
filters are becoming more evil and you need to look more closely at the indicators of the Delivery rate, Open rate, Click rate, Bounce rate. Keep track of the relevance of the content, write interesting and catchy topics of letters, check the text for the presence of stop words and segment the audience. It is better to send fewer letters with which there will be more actions (transitions, views) than to send a million letters without a single opening.”
Founder & CEO of Listables
“Aside from grammar, in my opinion, the best and most effective way to write a professional email is all in the formatting.
You are always trying to convey a message, give instructions, or solicit a response with your email. With proper formatting, it makes it very easy to do that. From adding bullet points to bolded titles, and proper paragraphs, you make the email easier to read, comprehend and take action. Whether that be a reply or something else.”
Owner and Copywriter at Writing Reign
My #1 tip for writing professional emails is to take the emotion out of them. When we get an email from that puts us on the defensive, our first instinct is to respond in kind. Instead of doing this, take a moment to breathe, reread the email, and respond only with the facts. By writing a fact-based email, you’re placing the focus back on the actual situation and removing any emotional triggers involved.
My second tip is to remove words like ‘just,’ ‘so,’ and ‘maybe’ from email. They are used in spoken language, but in a professional setting, those three words make your message sound less confident. Use phrasing like, I’m emailing you to discuss… instead of I’m just checking in to discuss…. It’s more direct and makes it clear to the recipient that the conversation is serious business.
Finally, my last tip to take the formality out of emails. You can balance writing a professional email while maintaining a conversational tone. The key is to add personality to the opening and end of the email. These are also areas where you can add levity to the message or soften bad news.
Bottom Line: Take the emotion out of your emails, remove any words that sound unconfident, and add a conversational tone to write professional emails that earn respect.”
Owner of Mark Armstrong Illustration
“I write two kinds of emails: cold emails (queries) to people I don’t know (prospects), and “regular” emails to clients and people I do business with.
My tip for writing cold emails is to make them warm. You do that by researching the person you’re writing to. You google them. You read about their business, check their LinkedIn profile. You verify their job title— are they really the best person to write to? I always try to find something they’ve written so I can comment on it.
Doing the research allows you to personalize your email— especially the subject line; e.g., “I enjoyed what you said about such-and-such.” It boosts the odds they will open your email. It also tells the person you’ve done your homework, which helps establish credibility and trust.
My tip for writing regular emails is very simple: use white space. Keep it short, and skip a line after every sentence or two. Don’t cram everything into long paragraphs. People are busy, reading emails takes time. Make your emails as easy to read as possible.”
President & CEO of Penheel Marketing
Virtual CMO for CPAs and Small Business Owners
“Your first consideration should be why you’re writing/sending the email in the first place. What question are you asking or answering? Why do your readers need it? Why now? Once you know those answers, headlines are your ace in the hole. Using a tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Generator, Torch, Phrasee, Boomtrain, or others will help you to craft the headline to help increase open rates.
My next tip is to segment your list into the high-open rate members and the less-frequent openers. Send your priority emails to the high-open rate list to help increase open rates overall. Then, on a monthly or quarterly basis send a “We miss you…” email to those who haven’t opened one in a while to help re-engage the slackers.
Finally, make it personal. Use words that are less “professional” sounding and more conversational. Include a person’s name, job role, or title somewhere unexpected in the email. Sure, anyone can put a [first-name] field in the open, but when you’re writing about something that impacts a person, using their name in the content is a wow factor.”
Marketing Manager at Wicket
“I have been working as a Marketing Professional for over 9 years and have learned a lot about what engages prospects, leads, customers, partners, sponsors, and my team! Of course, depending on the person you are emailing, the tone and content will vary.
However regardless of who you’re emailing this one tip is vital to facilitating a relationship. Often we forget that we’re people, emailing other people, and developing relationships is ultimately the goal of the email at the end of the day. The most important tip to me is to always focus on them instead of you. Do your research, find some sort of commonality and personal angle to tie into your email.
For example, go on to the person company’s social media channels, maybe they recently threw an event, adding a line in asking how the event went shows that you genuinely follow their company and pay attention to what they’re up to. It’s important that this does not distract from the purpose of your email, keep all your email short and sweet. But be sure to show interest in celebrating the person, or company the person you’re emailing works at to identify interest in them, rather than only focusing on you.”
Logan Allec, CPA
Owner of Money Done Right
“1. Get to the point early on in your email.
Busy people don’t want to read non-essential information before understanding your point. Even worse, they may not even get to your main point if it’s buried somewhere in the third or fourth paragraph of your email. So rather than giving a long introduction explaining why you need what you need, lead with the action or answer you need from your recipient, and then expand with further explanation if necessary. This kind of direct communication will help you to more effectively get what you want out of your email requests, and it will also be appreciated by those who receive them.
2. Use a searchable subject line.
Although you’d hope that everyone to whom you send an email will read it immediately, that’s not always the case. Often, people will have to search for your email in their inbox days or weeks after you sent it. And in these cases, it’s super convenient for them if you took a few seconds to use a brief, searchable subject line that captures what your email is about.
3. Use formatting for clarity.
Good formatting can make the difference between an effective email and one that ends up ignored. This is especially true if you are conveying a lot of information or requests in one email. One smart and easy way to format a series of items is by using a bulleted or numbered list. Most email platforms make it extremely easy to insert such a list, so there’s no reason not to use this functionality. Also, if your email is particularly lengthy, use the standard word processing styles such as bold, italics, and underline to emphasize key points. But don’t overdo it! The entire point of using these different styles is to highlight the one or two key points in an email, not to bold every five words.”
Operations Manager at My Trading Skills
“A professional email needs to have a concise yet meaningful subject line. This tells the reader exactly what the email is about, and helps them determine whether it’s important or not. I discard without reading any emails that land on my inbox without subject lines.
Another important tip is to keep your message short, direct and organized so that the recipient gets the gist quickly and correctly.
It’s also imperative that you avoid attachments as much as possible in professional emails. They consume bandwidth and might carry viruses, which makes many professionals reluctant to open them. To be on the safe side, simply copy paste the important sections of the document onto the body of the email.”
Founder and Principal of Texas Hard Money and Source Capital Funding
“Create a Professional Signature
A personal signature is a great way for your emails to look more professional. Include your name, job title, company name and contact info. If you want to jazz it up even more, insert your company logo. This is an easy way for recipients to quickly see who you are as a professional.
Provide an Accurate Subject Line
The subject line should be a short description of what information the email contains. The recipient should have a general idea of what the email is going to contain before opening it.
Keep it Organized
As with any professional letter or email, keep it organized. Include a brief intro if this is your first time speaking to the recipient and state why you are reaching out. The body of the email should be the details of the message you’re sending. Provide a closing statement wrapping up the message and state whether you’ll be in touch or if you would like them to contact you. No need to provide contact information, as it should already be included in your signature.
Be Mindful of Timing
Always be prompt with your email responses. It looks unprofessional on your part to be unresponsive for a long amount of time. If you are unable to email back right away, let the recipient know you’ll get back to them with a response as soon as you can. That way, they at least know you received the email and haven’t forgotten about replying. The timing of when you send emails is also very important. Be mindful of the day and time you are sending your emails. Try sending out emails beginning to mid week in the mornings. This gives the recipient plenty of time to respond.”
Thomas R. Harris
Owner of The Exceptional Skills
“1. Be clear about the subject in the subject line
Don’t try to be catchy or trick people with the subject line. Just be clear about what the email is about so the other person knows what to expect.
2. Change the subject line as the subject changes
If you are conversing over email, and you change the subject, change the subject line. This lets the other person know what the topic is now about and helps you and the other person when you search for the email later.
3. Be short and concise
No one enjoys long, drawn out emails (or has time for them). When you write someone an email, be clear, concise, and get to the point. Try to stick to a maximum of 2-3 paragraphs, depending on the purpose and topic of the email.
4. Don’t try to sound too formal
When you write, write in the way you would talk to the person. Don’t try to sound technical or put in big words – it works against you.
5. Check how it sounds
Before you send, read your email out loud. If it doesn’t sound natural, rewrite it. Also ask yourself how it comes across. If you received the email, how would it come across to you? How else could it come across to someone else? Is the message you are trying to send clear? This can help you avoid confusion and misunderstandings.”
Chief Executive Officer of Penate Productions
“In order for your e-mail to not be overlooked it should address 3 aspects.
1. Readability- Spelling and grammar counts. Whilst small mistakes or errors are forgiven, don’t give your recipient anything less than your most stellar effort. Keep your vocabulary to a 7-8th grade level. I am attaching a screenshot of this email. I use the app Boomerang that installs on G-Mail. Depending on word choice and amount of questions written. You will receive a readability/respondable score for your email. How you do one thing is how you do everything applies.
2. Message- Did you get your point across? Could you have said what you needed to say in 5 sentences vs. 13? Would there be any reason that the recipient would perceive a different message than the one you are trying to convey? It is best to write in a neutral tone for most topics since the form of writing is the most easiest to be misinterpreted.
3. Delivery- We are not looking for an F. Scott Fitzgerald masterpiece. But did you hit your main points right away? What’s the purpose of your e-mail again? Depending on the importance of your e-mail revise accordingly and have a colleague take a quick read. It is always a good idea to get someone else’s perspective on what you have written.”
Lead Digital Marketing Strategist at Fueled
“My biggest tip for writing a successful professional email is to *keep it short.* This may sound silly, but you’d be surprised how many people will craft emails that are 2+ paragraphs long. It is super rare that a busy individual has time to read that. My advice is to keep your email to max 1 paragraph, if possible. Also, try to strike a balance between professional language and language you’d use with a friend. I’ve seen lots of emails archived or deleted if they’re too dry or robotic sounding. Don’t overthink it and be natural! The most important thing is that you get your point across efficiently.”
“1. Just because it’s an email doesn’t mean you can or should be super casual in your writing. You can still make it look like business correspondence with the name and company at the top left just like on real snail mail correspondence, even in plain text. If you’re copying someone—which is obvious in the header—put cc at the bottom under your closing and your name with the name and title/company of who is being copied.
2. Try to avoid sending attachments to people you don’t know. If you must, then say so in the subject line, like “XYZ job-site photos attached”. Many people won’t open attachments they are not expecting.
3. Be brief, and edit ruthlessly. People are busy, and most individuals don’t read emails carefully or even read them to the end. You have a better chance of getting your point across if it’s very brief.
4. Read business emails several times before sending. There’s no place for mistakes in business correspondence. Do not rely solely on a spellchecker. Look up a word if you’re not sure about it.”
Content Marketing Specialist at Online Optimism
“Make sure you structure it well. Writing professional emails isn’t about creativity or entertainment; it’s about communicating information in a clear and concise manner. Say a lot with a little, and make sure the flow of ideas is logical. It’s also important to break the text up. No one likes a wall of text, so make sure that when you finish an idea you’re starting a new paragraph or section.
Know your grammar. If you’re unsure about a rule or punctuation, either Google it or change your wording to break the thought up into separate sentences. Writing within your knowledge of grammar will seriously improve the readability of your emails. Overextending your grammar will result in run-on sentences that are difficult to follow.
Avoid five-dollar words. Along with using straightforward grammar, you should also avoid five-dollar words. Antiquated and overly complex wording doesn’t make you sound smart, and people can see right through it. Do your best to keep it simple and write modestly.”