The advent of the Internet has made business communications easier, faster and more efficient. But the opportunity for e-mail misuse and abuse is abundant. A business electronic communication needs to contain the standard components of a print business letter: a greeting, body, and closing.
Consider the following email etiquette rules before writing a professional email.
- Be Professional. Just because you are writing an electronic message rather than a typewritten letter doesn't mean that your communication shouldn't be just as professional. Resist the urge to be overly casual. If you don't know your correspondent, address them as Mr. or Ms. (or Dr.). Use the same language that you would use in a standard business letter. Use a proper business email format. It can be similar to those used in business letters. Avoid slang or casually constructed sentences.
- Be Concise. Remember that your reader likely has dozens of other messages to read and other tasks competing for his attention. Don't go on and on. Most points can be covered in three to five paragraphs. If your reader groans at the length of your message when he opens it, he's more likely to delete it unread.
- Always Use the Subject Line. The proliferation of spam and computer viruses sent via email has made businesses cautious about opening emails from people they don't know. Tell your reader why you are writing in the subject line of the email. That way he's less likely to mistake your message for spam. This is part of professional email etiquette. A suitable subject line need only be a few words; too many words will get truncated when the line appears in your recipient's email box. Examples of good subject lines include:
- Subject: Interview Request
- Subject: Query: "Name of Prospective Article"
- Subject: Response to ad in "Writers World"
- Don't Send Attachments unless they are Requested. Attachments may be carriers of computer-disabling viruses. Some companies even block employees from opening attachments on company computers. In addition, uploading attachments -- especially image files -- from an older computer or using a dial-up connection can take a long time. If you'd like to send a text document (such as one created using Microsoft Word), paste it at the bottom of your email instead of attaching it.
- Proofread your Message. This should go without saying, but it's very easy to hit the "send" button before you're truly ready to send your message. Again, treat your correspondence the same as you would a typed letter. Make sure that it's free of spelling, typing and grammatical errors before launching it into cyberspace. Remember: In many cases, your email is the first impression a business associate has of you. Make it a positive one.
Now you know how to write a professional email. Sending an email instead of a written letter has the advantage of speed, ease and flexibility. Make sure you use this technology to your best advantage by being professional, concise and considerate; if you need to know more about how proper use of emails can help your business, consider signing up for a few online business classes.