Business email can be a wonderful tool, linking you remotely to your business from any point in the world 24/7/365. It's a great time saver, but it can become ineffective, if not used properly. Many executives receive hundreds of emails each day. Some people are forced to filter unwanted information or delete emails from those people they don't know. Properly formatting and writing your email may help avoid deletion, while projecting a professional business image.
The Parts of a Business Email
Like a business letter, business email follows standard formatting conventions.
In a business email, it is inappropriate to leave the subject line blank. Create a short phrase or sentence that describes the subject of your email, such as "Budget Meeting" or "Update March Schedule." A good email subject line is:
It's easy in an email to start typing without stopping to greet the person you are addressing. A business letter that just starts in with no salutation would appear abrupt and out of place. An email is the same way, and should follow the same rules as a letter. Start an email with Dear ___________: Consider your familiarity and rank, as well as cultural considerations as you address the person you are emailing. If it is to someone you have not yet met, or someone higher in the office hierarchy than you, utilizing a formal title such as Mr., Ms., or Dr. is appropriate. When you address a business Email, make sure you use the person's proper title and, above all else, make sure you spell his/her name correctly.
Just as in a business letter, you should include a short paragraph of introduction, explaining the purpose of the email. Keep this section short and to the point. You will be able to expand in later paragraphs.
You represent yourself and your business in an email, just as you do in a letter or any other communication. Treat a business email as you would any other important company document. Expand on your opening paragraph, watching for logical flow. Keep your sentences short and action-oriented. Numbered lists or bulleted items can break up blocks of test and provide your reader with an easy summary of the points you are making.
Summarize your key points, and clearly restate any actions you would like to see your correspondent take, as well as any actions you will take. Keep it brief and to the point.
Don't abruptly end the email after your closing paragraph. Just as you would in a letter, include a closing salutation such as "Yours Truly," or "Sincerely." Next type your name. Many companies have required signature block formatting. If yours doesn't consider organizing your signature block as follows.
Your Full Name, Position
Tips for Business Emails
Keep the following in mind as you write your business emails.
Good Writing Rules Still Apply
Don't allow yourself to become to casual. Pay attention to grammar and spelling. Check the copy carefully before you send it off. Once it's gone, you cannot recall it.
Write to the point with all Email and keep paragraphs short. No one wants to wade through screens of useless puffery. It's insulting to someone who values their time. And never write in ALL CAPS. It's annoying and smacks of a certain immaturity; it's considered the written equivalent of shouting. Let the person you're writing to figure out that you're trying to convey emotion.
Hold Your Business Email Tongue
Resist the impulse to fire back a reply in the heat of the moment. With snail mail, you have time to cool down before dashing off a scathing reply. Email is instant and a little dangerous. Reread the message. Count to ten. Then take another whack at writing. Should you give into the anger impulse and reply without thinking, that reply can come back to haunt you. Never send something via email that you would not want forwarded to hundreds or thousands of people.
Delete Long Email Message Threads
Click 'reply', instead of "compose" for responses to a continuing thread. Should the thread get too long forcing you to wade through a couple screens of addresses and "CC to" headings, just send a new email reply. You can also erase the body of the letter, but leave in the heading. Use the "Reply to All" button sparingly unless you want everyone to get a copy of your reply. Most people won't need it or bother to read it.
Keep It Active And Short
Unless you think your recipient needs extra sleep, use the active voice. Passive voice adds needless length. On the other hand, don't make your letter so short and terse that your recipient has to figure out your code and what you're talking about. Remember your letter may be one of several hundred received that day. Too long and it's trashed. For techniques on how to edit your memo, see Writing and Editing.
Watch Your Tone
Match your correspondent's tone: informal, friendly first name or formal. A greeting of some sort like "Hello, Harry!" or "Greetings, Sylvia" is a nice touch and adds an element of warmth to what can often be a cold medium.
With attention to detail, you can convey the image you want in your business emails. Always take the time to compose them carefully to make sure you present yourself and your company in the best possible light.