How to write an email
~sigh~ It is shocking how few people know how to write a professional business email. Not even self described “seasoned executives” know, judging from today’s mail. Here are minimal guidelines to use in approaching another professional. This assumes you haven’t corresponded with them before. If you have already established a cordial relationship, you can omit certain things like a full salutation and the like. This is not to say that following the proper format will guarantee a response but you’ll stand out from most people (and many students) who don’t extend basic social courtesy and your messages will be less likely to be deleted at first glance.
There should be six parts to your email.
- A good subject line
- Contact Information
Subject line: Drill your topic down to one short sentence.
(Greeting) Hi/Hello/Greetings/Dear _________ ,
>space, a solid block of text is hard to read<
(Introduction) My name is __________ . I’m writing you after finding your site/blog/speaking with ________ (person who referred you). My product (or reason for writing) is _________ (provide sufficient context by describing your product type, market and prices points if applicable).
(Topic) I am writing to ask _____________________ (elaborate as needed but be as brief as possible).
(Closure) Thank you/best regards/regards/cheers/sincerely
_______ (your first name, last if you like)
Company name (if applicable)
your first & last name
your mailing address if appropriate, city/state otherwise
website if not obvious
- Samples of lousy subject lines: “Help!!!”, “Desperate”, “Searching”, “Pattern maker”, “Question” and “Manufacturer”. State the specific topic of your email. The goal is for someone to be able to scroll through previous messages to find an earlier one if the conversation grows (assuming it wasn’t deleted as spam). The subject line should be skewed to pique the recipient’s interest. If it’s just about you and your problems, your chances are diminished.
- It is rude to ask someone for help and fail to address them by name unless you cannot know (check their about page). If you found them under their pseudonym, mention that. Above all, don’t leave an impression of entitlement. The customer is always right but you’ll never become a customer if you’re not courteous.
- Emails written in text-messagese are inappropriate for business. As Zoe says, buy a vowel -and a clue. Similarly as Zoe mentions, if the response amounts to a link, don’t be offended. Read it as your question has been dealt with before. Then respond explaining why your situation is different.
- Every business is different. In my business, I prefer phone calls for basic questions, it takes less of my time than writing. If you think you’ll need links, email is better.
- Leave white space. We need a place to rest our eyes. It is difficult to read solid blocks of text.
- If you leave a phone number from your day job and discretion is required, please say so! No professional will deliberately cause you ill.
- Unless otherwise stated or implied in your message, I will assume your email is confidential, even if we don’t have a previous relationship. If it is not obvious, please mention whether I can forward your email to another professional, who in my estimation, will extend the same courtesies but is more apt to help you.
- Referrals are often location dependent. If you can’t leave your name, location and phone number because you don’t trust the person you’re writing, why would you waste your time and theirs by asking for their advice?
Did I miss anything? Probably. In that case, read this more comprehensive nice-nice entry on how to write emails.