Emails will constitute much of your professional life. Whether you’re sending in your cover letter and resume in search of a new job or catching up with your boss about meeting notes, good email etiquette will make you stand out.

It may seem small, but a well-crafted email could make your application more competitive. My current internship supervisor remarked that he was highly impressed with my email communications before we met in person. Job-seekers who don’t quite understand the importance of proper grammar and formatting most likely fall behind those of us that put in the extra effort.

What follows is a comprehensive guide full of simple tips that will help you make a strong first impression and go on to wow employers and coworkers with your emails.

Subject Lines

It’s easy to overlook the importance of a subject line, but you should always include a short sentence or phrase that will capture the content of the email. Upon viewing the subject line, the recipient should be able to easily identify the subject of your message.

For example, if you are writing to your boss in an attempt to schedule a meeting, your subject line should say “Meeting Request,” or something similar.

A good tip if you’re sending in an email to an organization for the first time is to include your name in the subject line. I do this when applying for jobs and internships because I feel that the addition of your name will help the employer remember you. For instance, you could write “Marketing Internship Application – Jane Smith.”

It may seem a bit redundant, but the repetition of your name helps it resonate in your recipient’s head. Including your name in the subject line will also make it easier for someone to find your email if they are looking for it later.

Salutations

Salutations are important because they are the first thing people will see when opening your message. They should respectfully address your email’s recipient. A good rule of thumb is to skew a bit more on the formal side in your initial message, referring to your recipient as either Mr., Ms., or Mrs.

Some foolproof salutations are as follows:

  • Dear Ms. Smith,
  • Good Afternoon Ms. Smith,
  • Hello Ms. Smith,

Try not to use something as lax as “Hi,” because formal workplaces such as law firms and medical offices will not appreciate such informality. Creative firms such as advertising agencies or graphic design firms will likely be more accepting of laid-back terminology, but it still helps to stick with formal salutations.

Introductions

An introduction is a short sentence or two that summarizes the important details of your email. Think who, what, where, when, why. Your introduction should be short and to-the-point, letting your recipient know exactly what the email will contain.

For example, consider you’re sending an email to your boss requesting to set up a meeting in order to discuss a raise. The introduction may look something like this:

Good Afternoon John, 

I am writing to request a time to meet with you and discuss my pay rate. 

This offers your boss a quick summary of what he can expect to see in the remainder of the email. It should be simple enough that your recipient will understand the main takeaway of your email quickly.

If you are looking to apply for a position or inquire with someone for the first time, you may need to introduce yourself before beginning the body of the message:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

My name is Jane Smith and I am a student at XYZ University. I am looking for a full-time summer internship to fulfill a college credit requirement. 

In this instance, the body of the email would likely contain a resume and cover letter with more information about you and your professional background. The introduction is just a succinct way to let the recipient know who you are and where you’re coming from.

Body Text

All formalities aside, the body text is the most important piece of your email. It should expand upon the introduction and delve into details about your inquiry or situation. Body paragraphs should still be kept short and to-the-point, but they allow you to include a bit more detail.

Keep in mind that the person you are attempting to contact is likely very busy and may only have time to skim your email. For this reason, you should try to write in an inverted pyramid style. If you’re unfamiliar with the inverted pyramid, here is a diagram that sums it up fairly well:

inverted pyramid guide

The inverted pyramid is used by journalists, and it stresses that the most important details should be presented first. These should already be included in your introduction sentence. Next, you can include other crucial details such as your schedule of availability if requesting a meeting or your resume if applying for a job or internship.

After you’ve established the important details of your message, you can include slightly less crucial information such as general background information.  This information is not as important as your introduction, (or resume, if you’ve attached it) but it is still helpful for you to include it in the email.

If there’s more information that you don’t feel fits inside the inverted pyramid, save it for future email communications. If your email is too long, it may start to sound like you are rambling. It’s also possible that your recipient will simply not want to sit down long enough to read anything that is too long. When in doubt, just keep it short and sweet.

Sign-Offs

Now that you’ve crafted a professional email, it’s important to carry a professional tone into your sign-off. You may be excited to get this message sent, but trust me when I say this: small details matter. Ensuring that you incorporate a professional tone of voice throughout your communication will make a great impression.

Here are a few foolproof sign-offs:

  • I look forward to hearing from you.
  • Best, 
  • Thank you, 
  • Sincerely,

The structure for your sign-off is similar to that of a letter. Here is a general example email from start to finish, including a standard sign-off.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

My name is Jane Smith and I am a student at XYZ University. I am looking for a full-time summer internship to fulfill a college credit requirement. I am intrigued by the internship opportunities in your marketing department. Your work with digital and social media has caught my attention, and I would love to be involved. I have attached my resume below for your review, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Jane Smith


And there you have it. Crafting effective emails is not as daunting as it may seem at first. Once you establish the basic skills you need to make a great impression, you will find that your mind will naturally fall into a routine. Drop me a comment below to let me know whether you thought this guide was helpful. If you enjoyed it, share it with one of the links below.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Professional Emails

4 Comments

  1. Amazing how so many people need to learn to do this! Thx for this post!

  2. Taylor, this is FANTASTIC! Thanks for being so detailed and thoughtful. There are many people who will benefit from it. Think it would be rude to pass it around my office?!?! 😉

    Pinned and followed as well. Thanks again, Taylor!

  3. I might have to share this with the high school students I teach! They need some help with this.

    • Taylor Reply

      Thanks, Megan! It’s definitely an important skill for high school students to learn. Once you get to college, email becomes the main form of communication between you and your professors and advisors.

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