How to Write Professional Emails, with Examples


Feb 15, 2022 - Sophie Thompson

Electronic mail is a free and versatile communications tool. Well-written marketing emails provide an incredible 4,200% ROI.

Nothing has come close to replacing their importance in business. Even the growing use of messaging apps and SMS texting. That's because you can adapt the look, length, and emphasis of your email, and provide attachments in a way that alternative communications options can't replicate.

However, the impressive record they have for achieving marketing, communications, and collaboration purposes depends on them being written with care and strategically timed. For effective marketing emails, you also need an attention-grabbing subject line, and content checks to make sure what you write doesn't increase your bounce rate.

Let's put this another way. In 2021 there were 319.6 billion emails sent. The widely accepted daily average per office worker is 40 emails sent and 121 received.

To make sure yours gets opened and read - and results in your desired action – you must know how to write professional emails.

Importance of personalisation

The power that emails provide comes largely from the fact they are a personal communication tool. You are talking directly to a customer, supplier, colleague, or prospective employer, for example.

Therefore, you must maximize that power, not lose it by sending out what is clearly a mass communication with no individualization at all.

If this is cold or even warm lead and you are attempting to secure a sale, appointment, or some other action, then personalizing your email will increase your email open rate by 26%.

A cheery Dear (named individual) goes a long way to making it feel like direct communication. However, sentiments like "how are you" and "hope this finds you well" have been overused, and can appear insincere unless you are communicating with a close friend or colleague.

Using Email distribution platforms

This point links to the above one.

When you need to send out the same email to multiple people there are some excellent online providers of email services to help you to achieve this. Paid for email distribution companies such as Mailchimp, HubSpot, and GetResponse.

One of the advantages they offer is that you can integrate your database of contacts, and automate large-scale and regular email communications. All with a named individual in the first field.

This will also improve the chances of your email campaign achieving good open rates, as doing a similar exercise from your own device often sends up red flags that you are spamming people.

CC and BCC etiquette

For smaller scale emails to a distinct group of contacts, you could send out a series of separate cut and paste versions, to personalize the opening. This is time-consuming and error-prone.

This is why the ‘Carbon Copy' (CC) and ‘Blind Carbon Copy' (BCC) fields on emails were invented! It's amazing how many people don't know the difference or think it's acceptable to CC lots of people on their email.

When you use CC for an email, everyone gets the same version and can clearly see who else got that message. That's fine if your intention was to show a project team or department that they all received information at the same time.

However, there are occasions when putting lots of people in your CC field makes the recipients feel this is both impersonal and infringes their privacy. They may not want other people to see their email address in your CC field.

That brings us to BCC. With this option, your email addresses all receive the same version of your message, but they can't see who else got it.

Timing is everything

A big part of being an effective communicator is being able to see things from the point of view of your target audience. What do they want to hear, and what will ‘push their buttons' to get you the response you need?

For successful emails, that starts with considering a good time to send it, from the recipient's point of view. The obvious example is sending an important or lengthy email late Friday afternoon. How many of those would get read properly? Or, will it sit in an inbox, getting surrounded by lots of other weekend and junk mail?

Automated email platform Sendinblue conducted research and found the best time to send out business emails is 10 am and between 3 pm and 4 pm.

Also, on the topic of timing, sending a strategic email out just prior to a meeting, or just after makes sense. Timing a cross-selling email soon after a purchase is a good move. Giving colleagues plenty of notice of important events, changes or actions is vital.

Bombarding someone with lots of emails – especially marketing ones – is always a massive turn-off.

Adding tone and other non-verbal cues

This is sometimes referred to as ‘digital body language'. It's the things you say within an email, without using words.

Even the wisdom of sending an email can be a non-verbal cue. For example, if you choose this communication instead of speaking directly to someone on a sensitive topic, it can appear to be rather cold and clinical. If you use it to back up that important in-person communication, you are providing additional information and support.

Also, is an email really necessary? Would a quick phone call, video call or app message get the information across in a quicker and more immediate way, and give the person a chance to respond better?

Emails can draw out decision-making and feedback, though this can be important if you need to give people enough detail to help them make an informed choice.

They are also an important way to clarify and to create a connection with people. Something short messages on SMS or apps, and phone calls, can fail to replicate.

Example: Which of these is most constructive and reassuring?

  1. SMS message: "Urgent team Zoom call 9 am tomorrow. Mandatory attendance."
  2. Email: "Hi. I need everyone to free up time for a Zoom call at 9 am tomorrow. Nothing dramatic, but we do have some urgent decisions we need to make about the project. As prep for the meeting, please consider the following, etc"

Setting the right tone

There are rarely – if ever – good times to slip into over-familiar language, colloquialism, or slang in emails. Nor is this the place for text-speak or even a bit of office banter.

Electronic communications containing things you don't want other people to see have a nasty habit of resurfacing at some point. So, including sensitive information or personal commentary is not recommended.

However, you can vary the tone of your email and use advanced content techniques to increase attention, response, and how memorable your words are. As well as to convey warmth or empathy.

This could include using common connectors, such as thank you, sorry to hear, I would love your feedback, help me to understand, your views matter, etc. The use of the word ‘you' and ‘we' can be important.

Also, use positive, clear, and calm language.

Which one is best?

  1. "What you did was wrong and it needs to never happen again.
  2. "Let's work together to find a constructive way forward that helps us both."

And

  1. "We need to talk" which sounds dramatic and accusatory.
  2. "We need to meet for a chat" which sounds softer and more nurturing.

If you are using abbreviations in emails, make sure they are likely to be understood by all recipients. Some project teams even develop their own shorthand, to keep emails succinct and impactful.

Never use all caps, as it looks like SHOUTING.

Finally, ‘digital body language' can involve the strategic use of punctuation. Exclamation marks and questions (with question marks) can convey emotion, like excitement and interest!

It's now common to use multiple punctuation symbols to communicate. For example, one question mark is a friendly query, two together suggests confusion and more than two can imply an angry question. Really?????

The same with full stops. One finishes a sentence, while multiple can imply an open-ended point…….

Also, there are times when appropriate emojis work well in emails to lighten the mood. Bold and underlined text can convey importance, and also break up your message well.

Creating effective email headings

A concise, well-written subject line can play a big role in your open rates, and email responses.

Things to consider when writing an email subject line (and examples) are:

  • Keep it short and positive "Reasons you would benefit from my expertise."
  • Avoid words and phrases that trigger spam filters "Your free offer for today."
  • Avoid numbers, as they trigger spam filters "The £1m question and 7 ways forward."
  • Personalise it "Important information for busy FDs like you."
  • Use business intel "More good news following your award-win."
  • Use a topical hook or content indicator "Products to manage this heatwave."
  • Ask intriguing questions. "Are you ready for the sales peak that's coming?"
  • Show the value of the email. "Help to get ready for Christmas."

The key is always concise, positive, and meaningful words.

Easy to read and inviting email content

That is a lot of things to consider when creating a strong business email before you even get to the main body of your message.

Some of the best tips for effective email content include:

  • Check for words that increase bounce rates. Spam filters are sensitive to things like Sale, Clearance, Act now, Cash bonus, Free offer, Make money and No catch, for example.
  • Get straight to the point – no long-winded introductions or flowery lead-ins.
  • Tell them why they should read on – try to answer the unspoken but universal question ‘What's in it for me?' What value is there in responding to your email?
  • Show interest in their business or personal pains/gains and needs.
  • Provide succinct points, based on need-to-know information.
  • Indicate where additional information can be found, such as your website address.
  • Finish with a compelling call to action.
  • Proofread carefully and don't rely on spell checks to pick up errors.

Also, tell them what's in the attachments, so reassure them they are safe and valuable to open. Keep attachments to a minimum too.

Compare these two email openings, to see which one is likely to be read.

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to you to introduce the services of J Smith & Son Tailors, a company that has been established in York since 1914.

We have come a long way since then and by sharing our history with you, I hope to show you ways we can be of service to your company. For a long time we……

Dear Mr. Fred McGiver

Your company sets a very high standard for its staff uniforms, and this is something we can help with.

Our gentlemen's apparel and more recently women's couture departments have become a highly recommended supplier of bespoke workwear. Particularly when quality staff clothing matters to your brand.

For the full history of J Smith & Son Tailors, please follow this link to our website.

Strong endings and CTAs

How you finish the email is almost as important as the opening paragraph, including providing an unmissable Call to Action.

Which of these works best?

  1. With that said, I will leave you to get on with your day. Thank you for your attention and I hope to hear from you soon by telephone or via our website.
  2. If I don't hear from you in the next couple of days, I will ring to provide more details. Meanwhile, my number is 54321 or visit the quick enquiry form on our website.

Ending an email on a positive and warm note is the digital equivalent of a handshake. For many situations, Kind regards (then your name) is better than the more formal yours sincerely or yours faithfully.

Do you need to know more about effective communications? Browse our site or give us a call.

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