Professional emails: How to write an effective business email

Email is a basic tool that we all use in our day-to day business communications. So, writing a polished professional email to a coworker, manager, or client is an important skill – but it can take some practice to master. Never fear: By following these steps and examples, you’ll soon be writing effective emails in every situation.
by Alyssa Schmitt
Two young businesswomen working together in the office at a computer
With these pointers, your email communication will be perfect every time

How to write a professional email

No matter if you are requesting feedback from your supervisor, sending a report to a client, or requesting information form a business, a professional email will always follow the same basic pattern.

Here are six elements every business email should include:
  1. A clear subject line
  2. An appropriate greeting
  3. A concise message
  4. A closing that states what action is expected
  5. A sign-off
  6. A signature that includes your contact information
Let’s look at some examples of how to write each part of your perfect professional email:

1. Clear subject line

Think of how many emails land in a work inbox every day. Writing a subject line that is clear and to the point lets the recipient knows why your message is important – and increases the likelihood that they will actually open and read it.

Let’s say you want to schedule a meeting to discuss next steps in a project you and your recipient are both working on. Which subject line is more likely to catch their eye: “Follow-up meeting” or “Meeting request: Miller Project next steps”?

Your subject line should clearly state the email’s goal in a single phrase. Keep it short – 50 characters or less – to ensure it won’t be cut off in the email list.

The key to writing an effective work email subject line is to be clear and specific, for example:
  • Follow-up on [task/meeting]
  • Invitation: [event/meeting]
  • Request for feedback on [project/proposal/presentation]
  • Agenda for [event] on [date]
  • Confirmation of [event/arrangement]

2. Appropriate greeting

It is good business etiquette to start by greeting your recipient by name. In a formal business email, start with Dear + Honorific + Last name + comma e.g., “Dear Ms. Smith,” or “Dear Dr. Jones,”. If you know the person well enough to use their first name, you can start your email with Hello or Hi, e.g., “Hello Annica,” or “Hi Travis,”.

Other appropriate professional starters include Greetings and Good morning/afternoon/evening. These are especially useful when writing to a group or to a recipient whose name you do not know.
Bonus explainer: For a deep dive into the etiquette of email greetings, including the best ways to address a person you don’t know, see our explainer: Email greetings: Best ways to address an email formally and casually

3. Concise message

A polite professional mail should start with good wishes or appreciation, like “I hope this email finds you well,” “I hope you are having a good week!” or “It was nice to see you at the presentation last week.”  

Continue to show politeness and respect the recipient’s time by following this greeting with a clear and concise message. Focus on one topic – a request, a question, an explanation – and present the information in an organized fashion. Short paragraphs and bullet lists can be used to structure your key points, so your recipient does not skim past them.

Here are some examples of how to introduce the topic of a professional email:
  • I am writing to follow up on our discussion during [meeting/date].
  • I wanted to reach out to you regarding [specific issue/project].
  • I would like to share some updates on [project/task].
  • I’m writing with a question about [issue].

4. Closing stating what action is needed

Once you have asked your question, shared the necessary information, or extended your invitation, it’s important to let your recipient know what sort of response you expect, and by when – rather like a call to action. If no further action is needed by the recipient, e.g., if you were simply providing them with information or thanking them for an opportunity, close your email with a statement of support or appreciation.

Here are some examples of closing remarks in a professional email:
  • I hope to see you at [event]. Please let us know by [date] if you will be able to attend.
  • Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
  • Thank you for your time and attention to [issue].
  • If you have any feedback, please let me know by [day].
  • I look forward to receiving your response by [day].

5. Professional sign-off

Whew, you’ve almost made it to the end of your business email! Now it is time to stick the landing by wishing your recipient a polite farewell. If you like, you can add a personal note with a closing sentence:
  • Regards to the team in New York.
  • Hope you have a great weekend!
  • Thanks again for your help!
  • Best wishes from Seattle.
And finally, sign off with a closing salutation and your name. If you addressed the recipient with their first name, sign the email with your first name only. If you used their last name, e.g., "Dear Ms. McDonald," sign off with your first and last name.

The following sign-offs strike the right tone for professional emails:
  • Kind regards,
  • Best regards,
  • Best wishes,
Bonus explainer: If you are looking for more examples of professional email sign-offs, why not check out our explainer: Professional email sign-offs: Best closing lines

6. Signature with contact information

At the very end of your message, it’s important to provide your recipient with your correct name, title, and contact information so they know how to reach you and the correct way to address you.

Most companies have an automated signature for the business emails you write from work. However, if you are a freelancer or are writing to a business from your private email address, you should make sure to create a signature to give your emails a professional closing.
Bonus explainer: For ideas about what to include in your professional email signature and instructions on how to set up automatic signatures in your email program, see our deep dive: Create an email signature: Examples and templates

7. Proofread your message before sending

I know, I only listed six steps at the beginning of this post, but number seven may be the most important! Before you send your email, you should read it again from start to finish to avoid embarrassing mistakes.

Here are five points to watch out for:
  1. Make sure your recipient’s name is spelled correctly and you have used their correct title.
  2. Check for typos and spelling mistakes.
  3. Consider your tone – a professional email should be neutral or friendly.
  4. Be certain that your message is clearly structured and easy to understand.
  5. If you mention sending an attachment, make sure it is really there before you hit send!

Professional email example

Now let’s put our seven steps together and write a professional email! In this example, we are writing to postpone a meeting:
Subject line: Thursday project meeting cancelled

Hello Lisa,

I hope your week is getting off to a good start!

I wanted to let you know that the project meeting scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. has been cancelled as several team members are out sick. We’ll reconvene next week when everyone is back at work.

For a new meeting time, I suggest Wednesday, February 21, at 10 a.m. Please let me know by the end of this week if you will be able to attend.

We appreciate your flexibility and are looking forward to seeing you next week!
Best regards,

Signature: Clara Miller
Junior Marketing Manager
Apex Foods
(123) 456-7890 is the right email address for everyone! If you don’t have one yet, why not create a professional email address with today?

Images: 1&1/GettyImages

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