Writing a Professional Email

You’ve probably sent hundreds of emails before, but now you need to send one that sounds more professional, maybe to your professor or a future employer. This guide will walk you through the common construction of an email and provide tips for making your email look and sound professional. 

There are three main components to an email: the address, the message, and the salutation. For each component, you must remember the tone you want to project to the reader. Tone helps establish how the reader will interact with your message.  On the one hand, if your goal is to persuade the reader, a professional address most likely will need to be included. On the other hand, if you are emailing a friend, you may opt for a causal salutation. In the end, emails should be tailored to the reader. 


1. The Address  

Commonly used email addresses:  

  • Hello [Recipient’s Name],  

  • Hi [Recipient’s Name],  

  • Hey [Recipient’s Name],  

  • Dear [Recipient’s Name]:  

  • [Recipient’s Name]: 

Addresses, or greetings, like “hello” and “dear” are more formal than “hi” or “hey.” Punctuation can change the tone as well. In most emails, a comma can be placed at the end of the recipient’s name. For formal emails, you can use a colon after the recipient’s name instead.  


2. The Message 

The Opening: 

Once you decide how to address the recipient, the message will follow. Most emails greet the recipient with a simple and positive sentence.  For example, you might write, “I hope this message finds you well” or “I hope you are having a good summer.” If this is the first time you are emailing this person, it can also be useful to introduce yourself: “I’m Jonas, the new assistant for the Biology department.” These greetings are typically reserved for an introductory email. When responding to a second email, you can disregard the greeting and directly respond to the content from the recipient. 

The Content: 

When determining what and how much to write in the body of the email, consider the audience. How well do you know the reader? What information do they already have on the email’s topic? What have your previous interactions with them included? Depending on these interactions, you may need to include more background information for some readers or use a different tone depending on your relationship with the reader.  

Most emails include: 

  1. Context: why are you emailing? What is the issue that needs to be addressed? Who is involved? For example: “Our department recently received your request for additional time to submit the ‘Academics Plus’ manuscript. However, one section of the request form had not been completed.” 

  1. Request: what do you need from the recipient? How can they fulfill the request? Is there a time limit or deadline? For example: “In order for the request to be reviewed, please send me the information for Section 2 on the form. You do not have to resubmit the form but can respond to this email with the information by the end of the week.” 

Keep in mind that the audience could be just one recipient or multiple people—such as someone who is copied on the email. The email may also be forwarded on to additional people. Adjust your tone to any possible audiences you might have. 

Lastly, think about how long the email should be to effectively communicate the message. This is often the most difficult step. Emails are not essays, and usually shorter is better. You want to get the point across quickly and make sure it is easy to understand. However, you also need to make sure there is enough information for the reader to understand the situation and what is being asked of them. 

The Conclusion:

Conclusions to emails are often very short. They might remind the reader what the author’s email is about, thank them for their time, or provide an opportunity for questions. For example: “We look forward to receiving the updated request. Thank you for taking the time to send me the information, and let me know if you have any questions about the process.” 


3. The Salutation 

For most emails, you also want to include a signature line, or salutation. Perhaps you might not include a salutation when writing to a friend or a colleague in an email thread where several emails have been exchanged between the colleagues. Otherwise, a salutation is preferred. Which option you choose again depends on your audience and the formality. 

Here are some examples of potential salutations: 

  • Sincerely, 

  • Best, 

  • Warmest regards, 

  • Very truly yours, 

  • Thank you, 

  • Thanks, 

  • Cheers, 

Then after the salutation, sign your name. Whether you use your first name and last name or just your first name depends on how well you know the recipient and whether this is a formal engagement.  If you know the recipient well, then a first name signature is likely alright. Similarly, if you know this is a formal engagement with the primary recipient, then you should sign both your first name and last name. 


Email Threads

The guidelines covered here apply to the first email you send to someone. Once they have responded, if you continue to interact in the same email thread, you can usually be less formal. For example, you will no longer need an introduction. At this point, people might leave off the address and salutation as well, though this can depend on the recipient. You can follow the pattern of the person you are interacting with. If they no longer include an address, then you can usually leave that off as well.  

Each new email thread should start with a formal email though, so if you email the same person about a new topic the next day, start with the formal email following the guidelines above. 


Additional Resources 

Here are some other resources on writing emails with examples that you might find useful: