Email is one of the most common channels of communication in a busy office environment, yet many office professionals don’t know how to properly compose an effective business email. Keep in mind that composing a business email is completely different than sending a personal email to friends and family where our tone is more casual and little attention is paid to spelling, punctuation, grammar or format. Writing a business email requires a much more formal approach, similar to writing a business letter, therefore, knowing how to properly format the email and communicate with proper email etiquette is essential in business.
Email is not appropriate for all situations and often times a phone call or face to face conversation may be more appropriate. However, email is great for sending non-urgent information, written communication, delegating tasks and sending attachments. It is also used for communicating with large groups by using features such as Contact Groups in Microsoft Outlook.
Composing a Business Email
The subject, greeting and signature of your email is what will set the tone for your entire message, therefore it’s important to format these properly. Also, properly formatting the body of the email is essential in order to convey your message clearly. Below are some useful email etiquette tips on how to compose a business email:
- Subject Line – Use an interesting, but relevant subject line to properly reflect your message (e.g. Agenda for the New Product Presentation Meeting. Never use large caps as this may be interpreted as shouting.
- Salutation – Begin with the same salutation that you would use in a business letter. For example, when addressing an individual, use a formal greeting such as (Dear Mrs. Bailey or Dear Mr. Baker). Sometimes you may not know how a female wishes to be addressed so it’s appropriate to use the generic Ms. title such as (Dear Ms. Bailey). It’s also appropriate to address a group of people such as Dear Product Management Team.
- Greeting – Just as you do when answering the telephone, use an appropriate greeting to give your message a friendly and helpful tone.
- Body – Keep in mind that most busy people today quickly scan emails for the most important information so be brief and to the point. Add the important information first, starting with an introductory sentence, and then add bullet points to summarize key points. E-mail is a permanent record so never include information that you don’t want to be shared, such as confidential company information.
- Formatting – Use simple formatting to make your message easier to read. A common 12 point san serif font such as aerial or verdana is often sufficient. Keep in mind that your email may now be viewed on a variety of devices and some email systems can only read plain text so limiting your use of formatting is preferred. Also, restrict your use of internet slang words such as LOL, OMG, IDK and emoticons such as smiley faces as these are not appropriate in business emails.
- Drafts – Take the time you need to make sure your email is correct instead of rushing to send it out. Take advantage of the Draft folder so you can work on it at at your own speed. Some experts recommend not completing the “to” address until you are ready to send to prevent accidental transmittal. Be cautious of using the “cc” (courtesy copy) especially when sending external emails. Use the bcc (blind carbon copy) when you want to protect the privacy of the email recipients.
- Adding Attachments – Avoid sending large attachments as these may fill up the recipients mail box. A better practice would be to link to a storage device such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Drop Box or Box.net.
- Signature Block – Use a formal signature block. This can vary depending on what information you want to include. However, the most important information such as your name and contact information should be listed first. This should include your first and last name, phone number and email address. You may also include additional information such as your job title, fax number, website, office address and social media links if appropriate. For example
- Mado B. Brownell
Product Marketing Manager
- Proofread – Proofread your email carefully for correct punctuation, spelling and grammar. Word your message carefully and always re-read it before sending. Tip! Never send emails when you’re mad as once you hit send button, it’s impossible to get it back.