With social media on the rise and typed letters nearly extinct, many people may not be fully aware of the correct etiquette, regarding the composition of professional emails.
Although not as formal as letters, emails should, however, be treated as professional documents. Even if you know the person you are addressing quite well, your email should not contain jargon language or abbreviations, such as lol, IMHO, etc. You should avoid being too informal, with greetings such as ‘Hi there!’ and ‘How is it going?’ Always keep in mind that, the emails you send today might be viewed and discussed, at some later stage, with your peers or superiors, and should, therefore be kept professional in tone.
The salutation and greeting at the top of the email should reflect the relationship you have with the person you are addressing, as well as the addressee’s status. This depends a lot on local culture and prevailing customs, and can vary widely. In certain countries, such as in the United States, it is common to address peers or business partners with their first name, and to use a less formal greeting, like
‘Hi John’ or ‘Hello John’; this, however, may be considered inappropriate in other countries, unless you have been specifically asked, by the person you are contacting, to address them in this manner. If unsure, it is wise to start off more formally, in order to avoid unpleasant situations. As a general rule ‘Dear John’ or ‘Dear Mr/Dr/Professor Miller’ is the safest choice to start an email, unless the person you are addressing has an official title, (e.g. ‘Your Royal Highness’ for royalty), in which case the salutation and greeting needs to be the appropriate one. You can view guidelines for addressing people of title by visiting http://www.libraryonline.com/?pID=63
Following the greeting, you normally open the email with, either ‘Thank you for your message’, or ‘Following up to our conversation…..’. If this is the first email in a long time, or the initial contact, you can use ‘I trust my email finds you well’, as an opening line, to create a smooth transition from the greeting to the main body of the text.
After the main text, you conclude your email with a closing sentence. This could either be ‘Please feel free to contact me for any questions.’, ‘Looking forward to your reply’ or ‘Wishing you a good day’.
At the end, before your name, you can choose to either sign off in a formal manner with ‘Sincerely’, or with the more commonly used ‘Best/Kind regards’ (please note that regards is spelled in lower case), or even with a simple ‘Thank you’.
As mentioned above, you should avoid using casual abbreviations (e.g. BTW for ‘by the way’) in your emails, and, of course, you should make sure there are no typing or other mistakes in grammar and syntax. Always try to keep your emails clear, short and to the point.
You can find numerous templates online, on which you can base your email structure; however, it is important that emails reflect your personal style of communication and, therefore, should not look like they were composed using a standard template.