Introducing yourself face-to-face is straightforward since there’s an established convention to follow. Invariably, you’ll shake hands with your new acquaintance and tell her your name. Reaching out via email is more difficult. What’s the appropriate greeting? How formal should you be? As with any business communication, there are certain rules you should follow in order to keep your message professional.

Craft a Compelling Subject Line

Since your message may be competing with 500 others in the recipient’s inbox, you’ll need to craft a subject line that will encourage the recipient to open your email. Mention here is someone has referred you – “Jennifer Williams suggested that I contact you” – since familiarity might encourage your prospect to click through. Or, you might mention the purpose of your email. “Inquiring about your catering services” should entice the recipient to click. Keep the subject line under 30 characters so it’s legible on a smartphone.

Use a Formal Greeting

Email is recognized as a less formal method of communication than business letters, and you may be tempted to address your recipient informally, for example, “Hi David.” This is fine if you know the person or he works in an informal industry, but it’s not appropriate if you’re emailing someone in a conservative industry like finance or the government. If in doubt, “Dear Mr. Matterson,” or simply “Mr. Matterson” will work just fine.

Introduce Yourself

Give your name, job title and other details that will be relevant to the recipient. This is your opportunity to make a human connection with the recipient, for example, by mentioning a school, workplace or industry that you have in common. For example, you might write, “My name is Sonia Jindal. I’m a fellow UCLA alum working in graphic design.” Mentioning a mutual acquaintance is a plus since the recipient may be more receptive if you’ve been referred by someone she knows and trusts.

Explain What You Want

Explain why you’re writing. Keep your message clear and concise to avoid misunderstandings. “I work for ABC Company and I’d love to tell you about an event we’re launching” is better than “Exciting news about our new event!” Include a clear call to action by telling the recipient what you would like to happen next. To schedule a follow-up call, for example, you might write, “I’d like to schedule a call to discuss the matter further, since there’s great potential for us to collaborate. Would Monday afternoon work for you?”

End With Gratitude

Thank the recipient for her time and attention. Emails that end in gratitude receive a 36 percent increase on average response rates. Good options include “thanks in advance,” “thank you so much for your time,” or simply “thank you.” Sign off with your name and contact details.

Don't Forget to Edit

Be sure to proofread your email before sending it. You have only one chance to make a first impression, and spelling errors could make you look unprofessional. Make sure your grammar is spot on as well and that you use full sentences and formal writing, rather than using abbreviations and expressions you may use with friends but not with a boss.

It can help to print out the letter and read it out loud and if you have anyone around, ask a friend or relative to read over what you wrote as well.