For many of us, work-related emails are part of everyday life. We use them to delegate tasks, deliver important news, and even introduce ourselves to prospective customers.
But whether you’re writing to your colleague or your most valued client, there are some standards you should always adhere to for proper business email format. Knowing these key elements will help you write clear, professional emails that get your message through effectively.
Proper Business Email Format
Below is an explanation of the most important components you should include in any business email.
1. Make sure your email is properly addressed.
This step should seem like a no-brainer, but the first thing you should do before you start composing your business email is check that you’re actually contacting the appropriate person, especially if they’re from outside your organization.
You can double check company directories, which are often found online, to make sure you’re reaching out to the right person.
Verify that you’ve entered the correct email address. Copying and pasting is often your best bet—you’re more likely to make mistakes if you type it out manually.
Then, pay attention to who you CC or BC, doing so only when it makes sense. And whatever you do, DO NOT hit “Reply All” unless you really want to reply to every single person copied on the email.
When a message has been sent to an entire department or organization, chances are that very few of those people need or want notifications of your super-specific response that’s completely irrelevant to them.
2. Don’t underestimate your subject line.
Email subject lines are basically like previews for the rest of your message, and your recipients will use them to decide whether they should open your email immediately, later, or never.
For business emails, your subject line should be specific enough that it give your recipients an idea of what your message is about. You don’t want to waste their time by making them guess what “Hi” or “Just checking in” means.
If you need a response ASAP, you can create a sense of urgency in your subject line with phrases like “deadline approaching” or “Please respond by EOD Wednesday” to help your recipients prioritize their inboxes, and hopefully get you the response you need in time.
However, refrain from using ALL CAPS or excessive punctuation in your subject lines, especially in emails. Unnecessary emphasis looks unprofessional, and it can also be downright annoying.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have a professional-looking profile photo for your email account, as this is one of the first things your recipients will see after your your subject line.
3. Choose an appropriate salutation.
Finding the right balance for your salutation can be tricky, especially since many of us have grown accustomed to tweeting, DM-ing, or Slacking our thoughts to others. You don’t want to sound stuffy, but you also don’t want to be overly familiar with someone you don’t really know.
Your best bet is to keep it simple and opt for greetings like:
- Hi/Hello [Name],
- Dear [Name] (primarily for formal emails, when it’s your first time contacting them)
- Good morning/Good day
- Good afternoon/evening
Even if you’re best buddies with your colleague in the next cubicle, it’s still important to maintain a professional tone in all work-related emails. You never know who your email will get forwarded to, and if other people are CC’ed on the email, your message starting off with “Yo Matt!!! Wassup?” may not make the best impression.
Learn more about the best and worst ways to start an email so you can be sure to start your message on the right note.
4. Keep your message focused and concise.
The body of your email should be focused and concise, with a logical flow from one point to the next. Break your message up into clear and short paragraphs, as this makes it easier for the reader to find and identify key information.
Resist the urge to over-explain things, as this can often cause more confusion for your reader. Instead, opt for attached documents or images if you feel it’s necessary to better explain your point.
5. Close with a professional sign-off.
Your email sign-off is just as important as your greeting. Consider your relationship with the recipient, and use that to judge how formal of a sign-off is required.
The most common business email sign-offs include:
- Thank you
In some situations, particularly when you expect a response or action, you may want to consider:
Again, even if you are friends with the recipient, you may want to avoid overly casual sign-offs like “catch ya later” in your business emails.
6. Use professional fonts.
Use easy-to-read fonts, like Arial, Helvetica, or Times. Just because this is a formal email doesn’t mean you should use some squiggly cursive font that looks like it was meant for a wedding invitation!
Also choose a medium font size that’s easily legible. You don’t want your reader to squint or readjust their screen’s zoom just to read your message.
For the same reason, you also don’t want to get too creative with your font color. Not only are many colors hard to read, but many look unprofessional, so stick with the standard black or dark blue.
7. Proofread your message!
Finally, always proofread your email before clicking “Send”! Even small typos can result in embarrassing blunders, and not only does this look unprofessional, but it can also cause unnecessary confusion and ambiguity.
Check your writing for proper punctuation and spelling, but also for clarity. Make sure there are no missing words (a common mistake made when we’re thinking faster than our hands are typing!) and that the point of your message is clear.
Business Email Example
Below is a business email example, from a boss or supervisor to their employee, discussing their performance review. Note the descriptive subject line, appropriate salutation, and friendly but professional sign-off.
Subject: Copy of your mid-year performance review attached
Thank you for meeting with me this morning to discuss your progress in your new department over the last six months.
For your reference, I’ve attached a copy of your performance review, and I’ve CC’ed Kelly so she can add a copy to your personnel file.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Keep up the great work!
Business Email Etiquette
You may send work emails so frequently that you hardly give thought anymore to what you’re actually writing. But it’s important to remember your audience and always work to improve your communication skills, whether you’re composing a quick email or sending a text message.
To improve your business etiquette even more, check out our list of the best business writing courses.
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- Email Subject Lines: Tips and Tricks to Get Your Messages Opened
- How to Start an Email: 6 Professional Greetings to Use (Plus 5 to Avoid)
- Looking Forward to Hearing From You: 6 Alternatives to this Common Sign-Off
- How to Write a Follow-Up Email: 5 Steps for Higher Response Rates
- 10 Best Ernest Hemingway Books: The Champ’s Greatest Works - September 18, 2020
- The Great HEA Debate: Can Romance Be Romance Without a Happily Ever After? - September 18, 2020
- 12 Best Adult Coloring Books: Express Your Creativity While Relieving Stress - September 17, 2020