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Tips for Writing Professional Email

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A stylish woman working on her laptop at a cafe
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While email may not be used as much as it was just a few years ago, many people still use it for business communications. When communicating with someone about a work-related matter, whether it's to discuss a project, network or apply for a job, you should always be professional. While a lot of people understand the importance of following certain rules when writing a business letter, they often forget these rules when composing an email message. Here's a refresher.

  • Mind Your Manners: Think of the basic rules you learned while you were growing up, like saying please and thank you. Those are important words to use when communicating with anyone via email. You should also address people you don't know as Mr., Mrs., or Dr. Use someone's  first name only if he or she tells you to or implies it's okay to do so.
  • Watch Your Tone: Tone expresses a person's mood or emotion. This is not an easy thing to get across in writing, whether it's in an old fashioned letter or in an email. You want to sound respectful, friendly, and approachable, not curt or demanding. Practice reading your message out loud and listen carefully while you do in order to understand how it might sound to the recipient.
  • Be Concise: Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible while still being mindful of your tone (remember, you don't want to sound curt). People are usually busy and want to get to the facts as quickly as possible. Be careful not to leave out important details though. They will help your recipient respond to your query.
  • Be Professional: Don't use shorthand like TTYL, LOL or BTW or anything else you would typically use when sending a text to a friend. You want to sound friendly but not too familiar. For the same reason, you should also avoid using emoticons (those little smiley faces). Finally, never use a cute or suggestive email address for professional correspondence. Ideally your address should include your name so the recipient will immediately know who the email is from when it drops into his or her inbox.
  • Use Correct Spelling and Proper Grammar: A dictionary is your best friend when it comes to writing professional email. A spell checker can also be very helpful but be careful since it won't know which spelling of a particular word is appropriate for a situation. You can use a conversational tone, for example contractions, but definitely don't use slang ... ever. Always pay attention to the basic rules of grammar.
  • Always Ask for Permission Before You Send an Attachment: Because of computer viruses, many people won't open attachments unless they know the sender. Even that can be a mistake because many viruses come disguised in email messages from someone you know. Before you send an attachment, ask the recipient if you may do so.

Finally, a tip from a reader ...

  • Wait to Fill in the "TO" Email Address: Career Planning Site visitor Larry Batchelor says, "I never fill in the 'TO' email address until I am completely through proofing my email and I am sure that it is exactly the way that I want it. This will keep you from accidentally sending an email prematurely. In the past, I have accidentally clicked on the send icon, when I really meant to click on the attachment icon."

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