These days, much—if not most—business correspondence is conducted via email. Many of the best practices for writing an effective business letter or memo also apply to writing a business email. For instance, when sending email, it’s just as important as ever to tailor your message specifically to your recipient and keep it brief, direct, and engaging. There are, however, some special considerations for conducting business via email.
Style & Format
- Make the subject line of your email clear and specific. If not, your message might never get read.
- Be professional. Email is considered less formal than many other forms of communication, so it’s fine to use contractions (Ex. “It’s” instead of “It is”). You can also skip “Dear” in your salutation and begin instead with the person’s name and courtesy title. But your writing should still be businesslike; don’t use all caps or slip in to texting shorthand. (Ex. “If you’re currently hiring sales associates, I’d like to meet with you to discuss a position” instead of “R U HIRING?”)
- Break long paragraphs into several shorter ones, since reading on screen is more taxing than reading from a printed page.
- Skip the emoticons. They’re fine for messages to family and friends, but not professional email. You wouldn’t draw a smiley face on a business letter, would you?
- Include your physical address and phone number at the end of your message, if you want the recipient to have multiple ways of reaching you.
- Think about your email address: if you created it for personal use and it conveys anything other than professionalism—“goofygirl@” or “mamasboy@”—you may want to create a new account specifically for business use.
- Proofread your email as you would any other professional communication. Just because email is fast and informal doesn’t mean your message should be sloppy or confusing!
- Indicate if you’re attaching any files. That way the recipient will know to ask you about them if they don’t come through or can’t be opened.
- Review the message one last time before pressing “Send.” Always. In particular, make sure you have the correct recipient(s) listed.
- Think twice before sending a message to an entire group or listserv and be especially leery of using the “Reply All” function, which sends your message to everyone included in the original email. Is what you’ve written really appropriate for the entire list of recipients?
- Use the “cc” line, short for “carbon copy,” to send the message to anyone who simply needs to be aware of the information but doesn’t need to take any specific action.
- Use the “bcc” line, short for “blind carbon copy” carefully. Recipients listed on the bcc line will be sent the message but no other recipients will be able to see that they’ve received it. If you need to keep your recipients’ email addresses private in a group email, use BCC for all recipients, but include their names, sans addresses, elsewhere in the message. That way, everyone will know who’s being sent the information. You don’t want anyone to think you’re being deceitful.
Finally, if you want to retain a copy of the message for your files, check to be sure that your outgoing messages are being saved to your “Sent” folder. You can also list your own address on the BCC list so you receive a copy in your own inbox.