How Do You Write a Business Email?
As more commerce takes place online, it’s become important to be able to communicate with business partners via email. Show me a business that still conducts business through the postal service or paper memos, and I’ll eat my hat.
While you may have experience writing a business letter, the rules for emails seem fuzzier. Since email is more informal and business correspondence is more formal, it seems difficult to blend the two. Learning proper business email writing techniques is easy.
General Tips for Writing Business Emails
1. Because email is informal, don’t try to write a business email with the formality of a written letter. Emails are not only informal, they’re best when they’re concise. If you’re writing an email to your best friend about your date the night before, a meandering email may be called for, but business emails are best when they’re shortest.
2. When writing a business email to a person you haven’t met, don’t feel like you have to use a fancy salutation like you would in a written letter. The best opening for a business email is simply: “Hello.” When a business email comes across my inbox that starts out “Dear Mr. Andrews” or “To Whom It May Concern”, it is a good sign that the email is spam or a form email.
3. If, on the other hand, you are writing to a business associate that you know well, you can speak comfortably to them via email. There’s nothing wrong with being as conversational in an email as you would at the water cooler.
4. Avoid stuffy language. The best example of this is the use of verbs. Business emails that say “he is” and “we are” instead of “he’s” or “we’re” are too formal and make you seem cold and detached.
5. When it comes to including contact information, the simpler the better. Don’ot include your email address. The recipient of your business email can hit “reply” to write back to you. Do include your business phone number in the signature of the email though. This will give the recipient of your business email the option of telephoning or emailing.
6. Eliminate unnecessary information from your business email. This is important when forwarding an email to another business associate — trim the email to include only those sections relevant to your business proposition. This is a point of courtesy and will make your communicate run more smoothly.
Writing a Business Email – Step by Step
It’s normal to be confused the first time you write a business email. You’ve written thousands of emails to friends, relatives, maybe even customer service at online retailers, but you may never have felt the unique strangeness of writing a formal business email.
Here’s a step by step guide to help you. Like falling off a bicycle, once you do it, you never forget how.
Be sure to write a detailed, accurate subject line. Your recipient may get thousands of emails a day, and sorting through vague, mislabeled email subject titles makes it unlikely that you’ll get the response you want in a timely fashion. Business executives often complain that email with vague or missing subject lines. Your vague subject line could get your email tossed in the spam folder. Make your subject line concise, but include enough details so the recipient can identify it. “Questions about the meeting on 9/20” is better than just “Questions.”
Now that you’ve got a great subject line, start your business email like an informal letter. Say a simple “Hello.” It can’t be said enough — business emails are informal, but a plain salutation like “Hello” is still your best bet. One other area of the salutation that retains some formality — use a colon rather than a comma after you say “Hello.” A proper opening should read “Hello:” as opposed to “Hello,”. Once you are more familiar with the business associate in question, you can start using commas. Seems old-fashioned, but for some reason this tradition has stuck.
Body of the Email
Now that you’re into the body of the email, learn to summarize. No need to write your autobiography in a business email — get to the point. A good business email uses only as many words as it takes to get the message across, no more and no less. If you’re in the process of emailing a report to a co-worker, you can save the friendly chit-chat for a face to face meeting later. Until you’ve established a rapport, it’s best to make the body of your email completely business-like.
Once the business aspect of a business email is completed, it’s time for a closing line. Closing lines tend to be dramatic in written letters, the most common being “Sincerely.” Business emails don’t call for flowery closing lines any more than they call for extravagant opening lines. For your first business email, close with a simple “Thank you,” and stick with that until you are emailing someone with whom you have a more casual relationship. In fact, end all business emails with “Thank you” until you’re comfortable doing otherwise.
But you’re not done yet. A good business email contains a good signature — not a literal signature of your name, but an online version that includes contact details. Make your signature as concise as the body of the email. But include a few specific pieces of information — your full name (not your initials), your business title, your company’s name, and any contact information that your business partner may not have, such as a private telephone number. Don’t go on too long, as using an over-long email signature is akin to blowing up your college degrees to wall-size and lighting them with a spotlight.
Writing business emails will become second nature. Most business communication is conducted this way, and that number’s not going to shrink any time soon. If you plan on working in the business world, knowing how to write a business email is critical to your future success.
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