10 Tips for Writing Effective Business Emails

Published: Oct 12, 2016

 Career Readiness       Networking       
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Have you ever emailed a recruiter about a job and never heard back? While you may have attributed the radio silence to your lack of experience or to bad timing, your email itself might have been the issue. Although most of us regard writing an email as a basic task with no real guidelines, email protocol exists. Your ability to follow it can make or break the impression you give to a recruiter. Of course, email etiquette is not reserved to correspondence with recruiters; it also exists when you’re emailing with clients and co-workers. What follows are 10 easy tips to help you craft a successful business email, no matter whom you’re emailing.

1. Include a Subject Line With Key Words

When writing an email, always include a subject line. This is especially important if you are reaching out to a new contact, who may assume an email marked “no subject” is spam and delete it without opening. Make sure that your subject line references the main point of your email in a succinct way, such as “Inquiry about Internship Openings” or “Marketing Meeting Follow-Up.” Use key words in the subject line, in case the recipient needs to search for the email later to follow up.

2. Have an Appropriate Greeting

At the beginning of your email, use a formal salutation such as “Dear Ms. X.” Be absolutely positive that you get the person’s gender correct and spell his or her name right. Failing to do so shows carelessness on your part and can even offend the recipient, which is a major problem if you are emailing a client or a recruiter. If you cannot find the name of a recruiter online and must use a generic greeting, using “Dear Hiring Manager” is a safe bet.

3. Write Concisely

No one wants to read a page-long email, so keep the body of your message as concise as possible. Use paragraphs often to break up your writing and make it easier to digest. Just because this isn’t a formal publication or research paper does not give you license to forget about proper writing style.

4. Keep It Professional

In that vein, keep your emails professional in style, and make sure you’re not using exclamation points or capitalization excessively. This isn’t texting. Refrain from using smiley faces and other emoticons, unless you have established this type of rapport with the person on the other end.

5. Be Personable

Open your email with a short, considerate statement unrelated to the main purpose of your email. Saying “I hope you had a great weekend” or “I hope this email finds you well” starts your message off on a positive, personable note. Establishing a congenial rapport with the person is important, in case you ever need to ask for a favor down the line.

6. Clarify the Purpose

Be clear about the reason for your email, and propose direct, specific questions that you would like the person to answer. If you have multiple issues you want the person to address, you can always use bullet points or paragraph breaks to ensure nothing gets missed.

7. Say Thank You

Toward the end of your email, make sure to thank the person. Whether you are responding to a colleague who has just given you data you requested, or thanking a recruiter for her time and consideration, this is a critical step and an expectation in email correspondence.

8. End With a Call to Action

Finally, remind the person about the central issue of your email by concluding with a call to action. A simple “Looking forward to hearing from you soon” sets up the expectation that the person must respond to you, and it should help elicit a prompt reply. If you have a matter that needs immediate attention, you can be even more specific in your call to action: “I look forward to hearing from you about a time we can meet next week.”

9. Sign off With Your Contact Information

Once your email is finished, sign off with an appropriate email close, such as “Best” or “Regards.” Make sure to include your contact information—your first and last name, email address, and phone number—so that the person can easily follow up with you.

10. Proofread Your Work

The last and perhaps most significant step is to proofread your entire email. If you skip the editing, you can instantaneously undo all of your hard work. Spelling errors can undermine your intelligence and make you seem careless, which may cause recruiters to discount your email. Everyone makes spelling and grammar mistakes, so take the extra 30 seconds to double check your work and correct any errors, because it can make a big difference. If it’s an important email, copy edit it.