As college students, we are all focusing on that next phase in our lives. This can be different for each and every one of us. Yet, whether we are on the track towards social, teaching, health care, or other professional careers and our next step to success in the “real world,” it is important to have a good understanding of how to write a professional email. If you don’t, you could be at-risk for a trainwreck of negative responses (for example, you could miss out on an internship opportunity, be the subject of your professors’ Facebook posts, begin to notice that your boss is avoiding you, or try to make important points in meetings only to have your supervisor ignore you).
Email etiquette is important. Thus, as we apply for jobs, graduate school, or communicate with our professors, it is important to show these individuals that we are worthy of their time. Based on my own experiences and tips from professors, I believe that you can do this by following these five steps for writing an email to which other professionals will be responsive:
1 – State your purpose in the subject line. Since the subject line is the first part of the email that the recipient views, you need to make sure that you are briefly stating the purpose of the email in a professional manner. If you do not put a subject, you take the risk of them not paying attention to the email. Moreover, if it is unprofessional or contains typos, the recipient may not take you seriously or read the email at all.
2 – Use an appropriate greeting salutation. The way you address the individual to which you are writing the email can convey your professionalism and respect for the person. If you are writing an email to a professor or your boss, it is important to address then as Professor/Mr./Mrs./Dr., or a professional salutation that conveys their education or job status. See Hey You! Salutations for Success and Disaster by Jill Bowers for more information on salutations.
3 – Make certain the body of the email is clear and concise. Think about the purpose of sending the email and state it within the first few sentences. Make sure that your purpose for sending this email is stated early on in the email, and be concise (no rambling) when you are conveying your points/the message you are trying to make clear. Write in professional language, using formal (for example, “It was my mistake”) rather than casual register (for example, “my bad”) and complete sentences.
4 – Close with a statement and signature. The conclusion is typically a sentence long that provides a clear deadline, call to action, or shows gratitude for the individual who has taken his or her time to read through the email. For example, “I know you are busy, and I sincerely appreciated your time meeting today,” or “I am hoping to collect all of this information by next Tuesday.” Once you complete your final sentence your signature should include a closing salutation (for example, “With Regards,” “Sincerely,” or “Best”) followed by your name and contact information.
5 – Proof-read. I know that it is easy to get into a hurry; yet, to avoid typos, grammatical errors, or sending messages that could easily get misconstrued, you should consider writing the email in Microsoft Word first. For important emails, you could also ask a friend or colleague to proof-read the email. Think about how you might perceive the email if you were reading it. If it’s an email that might involve any sort of emotional reaction, you should consider waiting a few hours before responding. It may sound good at the time, but time (or a good night’s sleep) may prevent a train wreck of negative conversations.
Sources and additional information:
Edited by: Jill Bowers