Digital Citizenship: 3 Tips for a Great Professional Email

When sending a professional email, think primarily about how the message will be received, rather than thinking primarily about how the message will be sent. In other words, put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and send a thoughtful email. Remember, the only way the recipient will know what you meanis if you tell him/her. You should not assume the other person knows what you mean or even why you are sending the email. You should always give enough information so that you clearly answer these 3 important questions: Who? What? and Why? Failing to answer these questions can make your email seem at best confusing, and at worst dismissive and arrogant.

  1. Who

    1. Make it perfectly clear who the email is coming from.

      1. Use an email address that includes your real name. You probably have an email address that make use of a nickname. Such an email address should only be used for informal communications. For formal communications, you should use a more formal email address. If you don’t have one, you should make one. Both the email address itself and the name that shows up in the recipient’s inbox should use your real name.

    2. Make sure you are clear about who you are sending the email to.

      1. Be sure to address your email recipient in the body of the email.

    3. Sign the message in a clear, professional way.

      1. A default signature is a good way to make sure you always do this. Something simple such as “sincerely, your name” is perfectly appropriate.

  2. What

    1. Write a clear subject for the email in the subject line.

      1. In conjunction with your real name, a clear subject will help to clarify the purpose of the communication in the mind of the recipient. It is a basic sign of respect, and it will lead to more effective communication. On the other hand, emails that do not have a subject line can make a recipient feel dismissed or disrespected.

    2. Make your point or ask your question using correct grammar and punctuation.

      1. Write complete sentences and use paragraph breaks, especially if you have a lot to write. Your email is not an essay, so don’t worry about it being perfect; but you should make an effort to write complete sentences and spell words correctly. It will add to clarity, and it will show that you take your message seriously.

    3. Send an appropriate attachment.

      1. If you are sending an attachment, make sure it also is clearly introduced in your email. Also make sure the attachment itself is named so it can be downloaded and read later. An attachment named “untitled 3” can be very irritating, especially to someone who receives a lot of email attachments. Such an attachment will also be much more difficult for you as a sender to find on your computer later, should that become necessary.

  3. Why

    1. State the reason for the email.

      1. As part of your email, be sure to state the reason you are writing right at the beginning. If the email is a follow up to a conversation, a briefrecap of the conversation can be very helpful. Keep in mind that the recipient may have had dozens of conversations that day, and he/she may not remember your conversation right away, even if he/she is trying to.

Following these 3 simple steps will help you write a better professional email. Effective communication is a key component to healthy professional relationships, so use these steps to show your professional associates that you have a healthy professional respect for the important work they do!