The ability to write a professional email is an essential skill. This skill will be required throughout your business career. It is required when applying for a job, throughout each day of your employment and up until your letter of resignation and good-bye emails are sent out. In other words, without the ability to write a professional email, you could enter a company at a disadvantage and leave at a disadvantage.
Being able to write emails which are effective and concise is a “must” for successful business career.
The way you write creates “Brand You”
In our day and age, the way you write emails comprises a large part of your communication with the outside world and contributes significantly to the way people see you. In other words, it is part of your personal style. Every time you send an email at the office, people form an image of you. The image is negative, positive or neutral.
A professional email is one of the ways you market yourself and your skills. It has been the case where previously ignored employees rise in their employers’ eyes based on the power of one well-timed and insightful email. While not all emails present the opportunity for such career shifts, every email you send should be building the image you want to project and should be creating the right corridor chatter about you.
Given the numerous priorities your colleagues face, a professional email should achieve its objective in the shortest possible time and with the least distraction to people. One way to do this is to be as explicit in the subject line as possible.
For example, if you want to see if a report is ready for the General Motor’s Efficiency project, some people will write “Project” or “General Motors Project” in the subject line. This is time consuming for a number of reasons.
Since the purpose of the email is unclear, your colleagues need to open it to read it. This takes time, especially if there are bandwidth problems at the office, they have older laptops, you have attachments in the email or if they are reading it on their Blackberry’s. It is much more effective to write the purpose of the email in the subject line.
Here are some examples:
1 – Will the General Motors Efficiency Report be ready by 5pm on Tuesday?
2 – Do you need any more help on the General Motors Report?
3 – Let me know if you can meet the GM Report Deadline? Not Urgent
Look at the examples above. They are specific. The recipient can quickly decide if he needs or wants to respond. The third example is even better. You are asking a question, but telling the recipient to respond when they have time. Colleagues appreciate this and see you as a person of action who values their time.
Let’s assume you need to send a professional email but need to write out a full email. Here is the format we strongly urge you to follow:
Feedback needed on GM Efficiency Project Extension, Deadline by 4pm today!
We are unable to include the financing numbers by the agreed deadline period. Given the importance of the numbers to the client, I am proposing I contact the client and move the deadline back by 48 hours. I have until 5pm today to do this. Is everyone in agreement?
These are reasons why the numbers are important and why we are unable to verify them in time for inclusion:
1 – The client cannot make a financing decision without the financing calculations.
2 – All other proposals will have the financing numbers.
3 – The client has stressed that we must include the financing numbers, even if we postpone the delivery of the proposal.
4 – We cannot finalize the financing numbers since marketing is unable to secure the market projection numbers from Reuters.
5 – Reuters can only get the numbers to us tomorrow due to a server problem on their side. We then need to check them before including them.
6 – There are no other available sources for the market projection numbers.
Given the above, I propose I will contact the client at 5pm to ask for a 48 hours extension. I will state the problem and request the extension only when Reuters can guarantee the new delivery time.
Did you notice the following?
This is a very powerful way of writing a professional email.
1 – The subject is clear. Your colleagues can decide if and when they need to respond. They can understand the email without opening and scrolling through the text.
2 – The very first sentence summarizes the email perfectly. You state the problem. You list the solution and timing. You state exactly who is accountable for each step. There is no confusion. Again, this is a perfect summary and your colleagues can then read the details should they wish to.
3 – Notice the details are listed as succinct points. It is very difficult to read dense long paragraphs. Write for your audience and write clearly.
4 – Notice point six clearly states where the problem lies. You need to be effective at stating why something is changing without laying any blame. State it as a matter-of-fact (if it is) and be tactful about it especially if the delay was caused by a co-worker. If you are not clear why the delay occurred, state so and outline the steps you will take to determine the cause of the problem.
5 – Place enough facts in the email for the recipients to make a decision. This way there are no to-and-from emails which create an annoying email trail. Write just enough details for the recipients to understand the reasons for the change but not so much that there are unnecessary details.
The style you use in writing a professional email can differ, but always write clearly, consider your colleagues time and ensure they know how to respond to the email. This will show you are a person of action.
- Are You A Slave to Your Email? (dumblittleman.com)
- Getting Started | Better Gmail. Turn Gmail into a productivity powerhouse with ActiveInbox (activeinboxhq.com)
- Read and Send Tweets From Your Email Account with Kabutr (bloggingtips.com)
- Email’s Alive, But You’re Doing It Wrong (outspokenmedia.com)
- Tips for Refreshing Your Email Writing Skills (mpdailyfix.com)