10 Rules for Formal E-Mails

At some point everyone will need to write an official e-mail. Sending over a CV to a potential employer, approaching a new client with an offer or inviting a guest to one of the events you’re organizing might require some formal writing. When I worked in a traditional, respectable law company I learnt some useful e-mail writing rules that keep helping me to make a good first impression. Yes! First impression! Often (not always) a formal style is maintained at the beginning of a relationship and over time it transforms into an informal one.

What do you need to keep in mind when writing a formal e-mail?

1. Names & titles

It is pretty much culture depended whether you should address your e-mail with Mr. or Mrs. or person’s first name. It will be different when you write to a 60 years old CEO in Japan or a 20 years old young girl working in a creative agency in Chicago. However, one rule always applies: Double check the name of the person you are writing to. It might be obvious but many people tend to forget to check the spelling as they are focused on the message they want to convey. Misspelling the name might give an impression you are unprofessional or didn’t put too much effort in e-mail preparation. In some cultures it might be a sign of disrespect. So be on a safe side and check the name of your receiver.

2. Introduce yourself

Writing to someone for the first time? Introduce yourself shortly so they understand the context. Whether your e-mail receiver will read your e-mail further or not often depends on a strong start. So do it right! You might want to mention how you met, where you found the e-mail address of the person or why you contacting her/him.

3. Keep it simple

Try to keep a clear structure. Think about maximal three main points you want to make and start each of them from a new paragraph. The most important message should be placed on the top of your e-mail. Avoid too complicated, long sentences that make it difficult to read.


4. Spelling and punctuation

Use spelling and punctuation option in your Outlook. You can also write your e-mail in a Word document to be sure there are no spelling mistakes and copy it to your e-mail inbox eventually. If you are writing in a foreign language, make sure that idioms in your e-mail are used in the right context.

5. Call to action

While you are writing an e-mail you often expect the other person to make next steps. You might want them to invite you for a job interview, or you want to meet them in person to talk about business possibilities and showcase your offer. You can express your needs in a final paragraph clearly stating what could be next possible move.

6. Keep a professional look

Don’t mix many colours and fonts in your e-mail. One font and one size is enough. If you want to emphasize something, make it either bold or underline it. Never use caps lock – it might be interpreted pejoratively as shouting.
Also, emotikones might look sweet in your private messages on Facebook but when you communicate professionally don’t use them at all. There is no place for sad or smiley faces in formal context.

7. Say good bye

Make sure your good bye phrase matches the tone of your greeting. Sign with your name and title.

8. Use a professional e-mail address

When you are writing in a professional context use your professional e-mail address. E-mail address such as Kitty90, Joa88e, NattyL are not a good idea. The best option is to use your first name and last name as your login, for example:

10. Don’t leave the subject line empty

Think about a short headline for your e-mail that you can place in the subject line. For example: “Meeting summary – 7th July 2017“.

If some of these rules are helpful for you, we would be happy if you leave us a comment or like. More information about professional e-mail writing can be found at VitoSelling.

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