Web 2.0 for Professional Use/E-Mail/Basic Parts of Professional E-mails

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Basic Parts of Professional E-mails[edit | edit source]

When writing professional e-mails, there are five basic parts- Subject, Salutation, Body, Closing and Signature. The following provides a general description of what is required in each part to effectively communicate via e-mail. Attachments are also addressed at the end of this section.

Subject- It is important to include a clear, accurate, descriptive subject line. Be sure not to make an e-mail seem urgent unless it actually is.

Salutation- In the salutation, you address the person to whom you are writing. There are various ways of addressing a person:

  • Dear Mr. Smith-- For this, you must be 100 percent positive that you have the gender of the recipient correct. If you’ve never seen the recipient in-person, this could be risky.
  • Dear Dr. Smith-- This salutation is correct only if the recipient has earned a doctorate or a medical or dental degree.
  • Dear Professor Smith-- This salutation is only correct if the recipient has earned a doctorate.
  • Dear John-- This salutation is only correct if you know the recipient personally.
  • Dear Customer, Client or Colleague-- These salutations are less personal but also less offensive.1

Body- The body should be kept as concise as possible. E-mail is used for quick communication; therefore, if it is over two or three screens, then the information should be communicated with a telephone call.

Tone: In general, e-mails should be written with the same tone as a formal, hand-written letter, especially in the professional world. However, the tone depends on the writer’s relationship to the recipient of the message. There are a few guiding rules:

  • If the writer has a personal relationship with the recipient, then the salutation, tone and closing of the letter can be more casual and conversational.
  • If the letter is being sent to a person higher on the food chain in the organization or is a stranger, then the letter needs to be formal. The most casual tone is used when writing on the peer level.1

Format: Lists are often helpful when writing e-mails, as they make information easier to read.

Closing- All e-mails should include a complimentary statement that appears above the signature. The greater the personal relationship, the less formal the complimentary statement.

  • More formal closing statements: Sincerely, Respectfully Yours, Respectfully
  • Less formal closing statements: Best Regards, Cordially Yours

The closing of an e-mail can also include an urge to action or an offer of further help, depending on the purpose of the e-mail.1

Signature- Can include the sender’s formal name, title, company and additional contact information (address, telephone, cell phone, fax, Web site, etc.). All of these parts are not required, but depending on the situation, many or all of them are helpful.

Attachments- Avoid attachments if at all possible. When they must be used, make sure the file is sent in the most general format available, ensuring the maximum number of recipients will be able to open the document.

References[edit | edit source]

1. Dr. Barry Jones, Memos, Letters, Reports, Proposals, (Lecture, The University of Georgia, September 22, 2008).