Do you have to write emails for work?
If you’re working or doing business in the UK, it’s essential that you are able to communicate professionally by email.
A clear structure is essential to make sure you communicate your message clearly and concisely. Keeping to this structure will ensure your communications are clear, friendly and professional.
Here are some essential features you should include in any professional email:
English emails tend to use a noun or noun phrase as the subject line as more information can be communicated in fewer words. It needs to be concise, and clearly describe what is in the email so the recipient can decide whether to read it or not.
For example, ‘Training Course” is too general, whereas “Dates for training course” is much more specific.
However, if you include information other than the dates in the body of the email, make sure this is reflected in the subject line e.g. “Instructions and dates for training course.”
Always start with a greeting. The greeting you use will depend on the formality or seriousness of the email and/or how well you know the recipient.
For very formal emails use “Dear..” and the name of the recipient. First names are usually appropriate in emails unless it is a serious matter, or you have never met he recipient.
“Hello” or “Hi” and the recipient’s name is usually appropriate for most professional emails.
3. Friendly Introductory Line
This first line is like the small talk of emails. This is important in British emails as it helps to build rapport with the recipient. Without this, the communication can seem too direct and not friendly.
If you don’t know the recipient, you could open with, “I hope you are well” or more formally “I hope this email finds you well”.
If you know the recipient quite well, you could:
- comment about the weather, if it is particularly nice or bad e.g. I hope you are enjoying the sunny weather.
- comment on something you talked about at the last meeting e.g. I hope you enjoyed your trip to London
- comment on the weekend (if it is Monday) e.g. I hope you had a relaxing weekend.
But, don’t get too personal – only comment on topics you would talk about when making small talk face-to-face
4. Reason for Writing
In the next paragraph, start with a sentence explaining your reason for writing. This will make the point of the email clear and the recipient can decide whether to read in detail or skim read.
e.g. “I’m writing to let you know the date of the training” or “With regards to the dates of the training,…”
Including this in your email communications will ensure that the recipient processes the relevant information.
5. Main Point and Action Point
Then concisely and clearly explain in detail. If you have several points to explain, consider breaking it into two emails with different subject lines. Many people skim read long emails and therefore won’t always take in the main points.
Most emails require some kind of action, whether that be an action the recipient should take, or an action you will take. Make sure this is very clear – write it in a separate paragraph to ensure it is not missed.
e.g. “Please confirm the dates as soon as possible” or “Once the dates are confirmed, we will send you a confirmation email”
6. Friendly Closing Sentence
Just like the sentence at the beginning, a friendly sentence at the end can help to build rapport with the recipient. It should be friendly, helpful and/or show that you care.
e.g. “I’m looking forward to hearing from you..” / “I’m looking forward to meeting you on Friday” / “If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me” / “Once again, please accept my apologies.”
7. Sign off
Always make sure your sign off is polite. There are no rules in email writing, as there are in formal letter writing, but I’d always recommend keeping it friendly.
Just saying ‘Regards’ or ‘Thanks’ can seem quite abrupt.
A better choice is ‘Kind regards” or “Many thanks”
See what your colleagues tend to use and decide what you would like to use.
So these are the 7 features of a polite and professional email. Once you have opened a line of communication and the emails are coming back and forth, it is then acceptable to drop some of these features. But keep these in mind for your initial communications because a great first impression can last a life time!