For most of us, email is the most common form of business communication so it’s important to get it right. Although emails often aren’t as formal as letters, they still should be professional to present a positive image of you and your company. A large piece of any communications is email.

As a large piece of our everyday communication involves email there are a few things to keep in mind when writing them so they are still personable without being inappropriately casual.

There is research showing that hearing one’s own name activates part of the brain that increases attention.  I would assume that people pay more attention when addressed by their name whether it be in writing or verbally.  This alone is convincing me to use the recipient’s name in the email.

Always open with a greeting

One thing to check off your list is to always open your email with a greeting, such as “Dear Peter”. If your relationship with the reader is formal, use their surname e.g. “Dear Mrs. Smith”. If the relationship is more casual, you can simply say, “Hi Peter”. If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, use: “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.

Keep it clear

Make your purpose clear early on in the email, and then move into the main text of your email. Remember, people want to read emails quickly so keep your sentences brief and clear. You’ll also need to pay careful attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation so that you present a professional image of yourself and the company you represent.

Common overuses

Don’t overuse exclamation points.  I am guilty of this myself as an overuse often makes things seem less important when we’re trying to emphasise their importance. Try to limit your exclamation marks to one per email.

Don’t overuse the word “please” – the word please can often be overused in an email in situations such as e.g. “Please find the document attached” rather than “I’ve attached the document here”. A more natural way to use the word please may be structured such as e.g. “Please let me know if you have any questions”.  As with exclamation marks, it is advisable to apply the one per email rule with the word “please”.

The call on emoticons

Emoticons are becoming more accepted in professional communications and can assist with interpreting the tone in which an email is read.  Emoticons can make a message seem friendlier so if that’s the impression you are aiming for, use them! I would recommend adopting your standard happy and sad faces rather than any angry or love/kisses  etc. It is advisable not to use them unless your organisation gives the ok.  Knowing your audience will assist you as there are plenty of exceptions to the rule.  It may also depend on the nature of your industry.  You may want to refrain from using them in organisations such as law firms whereas media and marketing industries may use them more frequently.  Waiting until you have established a rapport with your recipient before including them in emails is a safer option.

The sign off

Before you complete your email, it’s polite to thank your recipient and add some appreciative closing remarks. You might start with “Thank you for your patience and cooperation” or “Thank you for your consideration” and then follow up with, “If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me” and “I look forward to hearing from you”.

In completing include an appropriate closing with your signature e.g. “Kind regards” or “Yours sincerely” are both professional.  It is advisable to avoid closings such as “Best wishes” or “Cheers” unless it is a close friend scenario.

Check it over

To catch any typos or grammar errors the safest option is to reread, reread and reread.  In some circumstances, it may be helpful to have a colleague proof your email even for those who know and use the best practices.

Last but not least – check your work at least 3 times before you send.  Your recipient and management team will be glad you did!