Email is an essential part of many jobs and businesses. Business email communications make an impression almost as important as face-to-face communications, and can last longer. Business email should always reflect professionalism and have a business purpose. It’s easy to fall into bad email habits, so constant awareness and vigilance regarding email verbiage are necessary and vital to a professional business image.
The subject field is as important as the body of the email. It’s a professional heading to your email message and needs words that reflect that. Use proper grammar in the subject field with no misspelling, and use appropriate upper and lower case letters. Convey the purpose of your email in a short, concise phrase. “About the Winfield Project,” “Getting Back to You About Your Account,” “Time and Attendance Software Questions” are examples of business-like subject lines for email messages. Never use slang, foul language or even casual phrases like “Hi,” “How’s it Going?” or “Question.”
Greetings and Sign-offs
Use professional greetings and sign-offs to keep your electronic communications consistent with the professional business image you want to convey through email. Even if you are emailing a long-time, familiar business contact with whom you have frequent correspondence, keep your greetings and sign-offs professional and courteous. For new and unfamiliar contacts, use “Dear Mr. Smith” and “Regards” for greeting and sign-off. For more familiar contacts, “Dear Amy” and “I appreciate it!” are more informal yet still professional.
Formatting, Attachments and Signature Files
Formatting in business email is unnecessary and may cause the email to get caught in spam filters. Use attachments with care and only with the recipient’s prior knowledge and approval, especially large attachments. Signature files should be as brief as possible.
Language and Tone
The language and tone of email communications should be as professional as other written communications. Use courtesy, good grammar, spelling, vocabulary and punctuation. Use common business language, no slang, profanity or casual phrases. It’s important to use a thoughtful, friendly tone in email. Don’t write email when angry, upset or frustrated. It comes across in the tone even if unintended. Take as much care with email wording as with phone and face-to-face conversations with business associates.
Don't write three paragraphs when a couple of sentences are enough. Don't use email to rant in anger or annoyance or to discipline anyone. Don't send emails in a hurry--take the time to reread, spell-check and verify the recipient's address before sending. Don't abuse the carbon copy and blind carbon copy on emails. Don't use email at work for nonwork purposes.
Heidi Cardenas specializes in human resources, business and personal finance, small-business advice, home and garden and home improvement. Her professional background includes human resources and business administration, technical writing and corporate communications. She has studied horticulture and business administration, and enjoys guest blogging for publications including Herb Companion Magazine, Natural Home Living Magazine, and Mother Earth Living.