Whether you’re looking for work, making new networking connections, or simply trying to excel at your current job, it’s essential to know how to write and send professional email messages.
This can be harder than it sounds. Many professionals have grown used to a very casual approach to email in their personal lives. While slang, emoticons, and textspeak are usually acceptable when you’re emailing close friends, they won’t fly in work correspondence. It’s important to know how clean up your communications when you need to.
When might you need to send a professional email? There are a number of possibilities. You might need to send your cover letter to a potential employer, a thank-you letter to a colleague who agreed to be a reference, a resignation letter to your current boss, or a request for a letter of recommendation.
You may have other reasons for sending non-personal emails, and in fact, it’s a good idea to make sure all your email is organized and professional.
Whenever you send professional email messages, it's really important to make sure the message is perfect. You don't want to blow an opportunity by making any mistakes—either in how you send emails or how you keep track of them.
Learn what to include in your messages, what not to include, and how to close, sign and send your email messages.
Professional Email Guidelines
Review these steps to write a high-quality professional email, and you’ll always make a great impression on the recipient.
What to Include in Your Email Message
- Subject Line: The subject line should concisely convey your purpose for writing. Your subject line can be as simple as "Thank You" or "Request for Recommendation."
- Greeting: Even if you are writing a very short email, include a greeting. If you know the name of the person, include it. Unless you are on a first-name basis with the person, call them by their title.
- Length: Keep your email as concise as possible. People tend to skim long emails, so only include essential information.
- Closing: Sign off with a brief "Thank you," "Best," or another simple send-off, and then your name. Most email accounts let you embed a signature with your name, title, and contact information into every email. It is a terrific way to make each correspondence more professional.
What Not to Include in Your Email Message
- Font Style: Avoid ornate, playful, or colored fonts; these simply distract the recipient from your actual message. Avoid overusing bold and italics as well, which make an email look cluttered.
- Uppercase: Do not write in all capital letters either; this comes across as angry or overexcited in an email.
- Emoticons: Do not include emoticons in a professional email; save these for personal correspondence.
Tips to Ensure Perfect Professional Email Messages
Once you’ve written your email, go through all these steps before you click the “send” button:
- Make Sure Your Message is Complete: Double-check to make sure the subject line of your email is filled in, you have included a signature, you are sending the message to the right contact person, and you have filled in the Bcc field to send a copy to yourself, so you have a record of the email message.
- Proof Your Email Message: Before you hit send, also make sure you spell-check and check your grammar and capitalization. They are just as important in email correspondence as they are in a paper letter.
- Send a Test Email Message: Before you actually send your email, send the message to yourself first to check that the formatting works and that nothing looks out of place. If everything looks good, go ahead and send the email to the company or individual you’re contacting.
- Send a Copy of the Email Message to Yourself: Use the Bcc field to send a copy of the email message to yourself, so you have a record of when you sent the message and who you sent it to. You can also find this information in your sent folder.
- File Your Copies: With many email programs you can set up folders to make it easier to find any important past emails. Set up folders for all your job search emails and other professional emails and file your copies after you send your messages.
Review Professional Email Examples
Sample Email Message #1: Resignation Letter
Subject Line: Resignation—Bob Smith
Dear Ms. Jones,
I’m writing to submit my resignation from my position as unit coordinator at Town Hospital, effective June 10.
I’m more grateful than I can say for all your support and assistance over the past five years. Working here has been a first-class education in teamwork, healthcare administration, and getting the job done. I’ll miss working with you all, and hope you’ll stay in touch.
Please let me know if I can be of any assistance during the transition.
Sample Email Message #2: Referral Request
Subject: Cynthia Dailey—Referral Request
Dear Barbara Cho,
Recently on LinkedIn, I spotted a job ad for the position of marketing assistant at XYZ Corp. As I know you’ve been there for several years now, I wondered if you might be willing to give me a referral for the job.
I was especially excited to see that the job involves working heavily with your team on email marketing and social media campaigns. Since we last worked together at ABC LLC, I’ve gained extensive experience with HubSpot, Google Analytics, and SurveyMonkey. I’d love to put these skills to work for XYZ.
I’ve attached a copy of my resume and a link to my portfolio, so you can see my recent experience. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to see further samples of my work.
Keep It Professional: Business correspondence should be polished, even when you’re sending it via email.
Be Concise: Get to your point and be as clear as possible about what you need or have to offer.
Edit, Proofread, Test: Make sure your message is free from errors and typos. Send a test message to yourself before you hit “send.”
Keep a Record: Bcc yourself on important correspondence and file each message in the appropriate email folder for future reference.