4 Tips for Sending a Professional Email
I’ve received a lot of emails from students at my alma mater and young professionals interested in learning more about the media and communications industry. Most of the time these emails are clear and professionally written, but occasionally I receive an email that makes me cringe.
Digital communication has become so common with emails, texts, and instant messaging that sometimes the lines can be blurred between them. The problem is when this blurring happens in a professional communication. Sometimes I receive an email where I wonder if the sender bothered to reread it or if they did and just didn’t realize how unprofessional it sounds because of how comfortable they are with digital communication.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when sending a professional email.
1. Use a Formal Address
If you start your email with an enthusiastic “Hi Lisa!” I’m already forming an impression about you. Do we know each other? I’m not big on formalities but if I don’t know you and you’re reaching out for professional advice, using my first name in such an informal manner isn’t the best way to start our relationship.
Start off your emails with a formal address, such as “Dear Mr./Ms.” This sets the professional tone of your email right away and I know you’re interested in talking business and not about hanging out on the weekend. For many this may be the only time you have to use the formality to start off an email. If you get a response and the person signs the email with their first name then you’re safe to address them with it at the start of your next email. However when first developing your connection it’s best to be formal.
2. Avoid Abbreviations or Slang
Email is not the place to use abbreviations or slang that may be common in text and instant messaging. When someone uses an abbreviation in an email, I start to wonder if they’re serious about discussing their future in the profession. It again crosses the line into friend zone instead of professionalism.
3. Format Properly
I once received an email with no spaces between the opening, paragraphs, or ending. Make sure your email looks as professional as it reads. While your email doesn’t have to be formatted like a cover letter with your address and information up top, the body of a cover letter is a good format to follow when sending a professional email. Imagine you’re writing a letter and format your email in the same way.
4. Proofread More Than Once
It’s easy to get caught rereading an email thousands of times because you’re nervous to hit the send button. While you want to avoid being caught in that loop, it does help to reread your email more than once. After one read through, step away from the email for a little while and do something else. Then go back to it to reread again just in case you missed something the first time. Two or three rereads is probably enough. You just want to make sure you’ve caught any spelling or formatting errors. If I receive an email full of mistakes, I wonder how serious you are about a career in communications since your email won’t communicate very well!
When emailing a professional, for the first or twenty-first time, you want to approach it like you would a letter from start to finish. You want to make the best impression so that the individual will respond to your email knowing you’re serious about discussing business.