Your emails are a virtual representation of you. Sometimes, they can be the first impression someone has of you. Here are seven steps to follow in order to write a professional email:
1) Make the subject line relevant.
The subject line is the first thing that the recipient will see in his/her inbox. Make sure it is clear, relevant, direct and simple, but also enticing. This can be a good way to grab someone’s attention.
2) Use a polite salutation.
A salutation is the greeting–how you address the person to whom you’re sending the email. Examples of this can be “Dear ____” or “Hello _____.” Your salutation should be appropriate for the intended recipient — it should be more formal if you do not know the person or need to show respect. “Hey” is not the right fit if you’re contacting a professor, potential employer, or investor. Try to be as personal as possible in your greeting — if you know the recipient’s name, use it. If you don’t, it’s polite to address the email “To whom it may concern.”
3) Keep it short and sweet.
The body of the email should be concise and direct. Don’t ramble. The fewer sentences the better in order to keep your audience’s attention. As entrepreneur-investor-author Guy Kawasaki recommends, “Proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness.” He advises on a 5 sentence length. Keep in mind that your audience is busy, so the quicker you can get to the point, the better.
4) What’s the call to action?
Why are you sending the email? What are you asking for…feedback, a meeting, a reply? Make sure you include a call to action in your email, or something that makes it crystal clear how you want the other person act. Don’t leave your audience hanging!
5) Spell check!
There’s no excuse to not spell check your email. Make sure your email uses the appropriate spelling and grammar. Take a few minutes to even re-read your email before you hit send. Put yourself in your recipient’s shoes and make sure the email makes sense and represents you in the best light.
6) Your footer is about you.
The footer of your email should include information about you. There is flexibility in what you choose to include, but it should start with a professional closing, such as “Sincerely” or “Regards.” Then, include your first and last name, especially if you are not on a familiar basis with the recipient. You can then include additional details, like your contact email, phone number or links to your company or personal website or even to your social media accounts. Keep in mind that the footer will help people learn more about you and have easy access to contact or connect with you.
7) Have a professional email account.
If you want people to take you seriously, make sure you are sending your email from a professional-sounding account. You can easily create a free email account at Gmail or Yahoo or use a school account. An email address that firstname.lastname@example.org is better than your fun personal account email@example.com! Start off on the right foot by looking and sounding professional.
At the end of the day, your email should reflect who you are in a respectful and professional tone. If you wouldn’t say your email out loud to that person, then don’t type it in an email. Save the emojis and LOLs for your friends and leave them out of your professional emails.
Katie Sowa is Senior Director, Startups for Future Founders. In this role, she leads Future Founders Startup (formerly College Founders), a dynamic program that engages, equips and empowers collegiate-level entrepreneurs. Get in touch with Katie via Twitter or LinkedIn.
Future Founders is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that believes every youth can become an entrepreneur. Through entrepreneurship-focused programs like Discover and Startup, Future Founders immerses youth in experiences that inspire and empower them to realize that they do, in fact, have control of their own future. Learn more or get involved with the Future Founders mission here.
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