How to Write a Professional Email (Examples)

how to write a professional email

When you enter the workforce as a young professional, it can be hard to understand what constitutes a professional email. And how to write them.

Writing a professional email has become an art form. And without years of experience writing these types of emails, you might spend unnecessary amounts of time trying to learn how to write the ideal message to another professional.

In this writeup, we’re going to cover how to write a professional email and common mistakes you can avoid helping ensure the next email you write is effective for the reader and gets you a response.

Professional Email Basics

When writing a professional email, there are a few key components as part of your message.

Your subject line. Your subject line should communicate your intent with the message. This is an important part of your email because a poorly written subject line might risk the recipient not opening your email to bread your message. Or could risk having your message be sent to their SPAM folder.

Your greeting or opening. This is where you have the opportunity to address the recipient and reader. Something like “Yo dude” as you start your email, isn’t going to sound professional. Formally addressing the reader will let them know your email is regarding a serious message.

Your email length. Lengthy emails don’t work. Studies have shown that the ideal length of an email is about 200 words.

Your salutation or closing sign off. This is how you end your message. If you say “XOXO” at the end of your email, is it going to sound professional? No. Learning how to formally close your email is going to make you sound professional.

Your email signature. Proper email signatures often communicate professionalism. Email signatures that show your job title, phone number, and other pertinent information can communicate to the recipient that you are a real person sending a professional email.

bad professional email example
An example of a bad professional email.

Those are the components of your email that should be considered. So how do you start writing your email? Let’s jump into that now.

Ideal Length of Emails

Before we jump into the components of your email, it’s imperative that we cover your email length. Email length is one of the strongest factors in communicating professionalism as well as ensuring that your recipient responds to your email message when prompted.

The ideal email length is 200 words. HubSpot studies have shown that emails that are 200 words often receive a 50% response rate. Emails that were even shorter, as indicated by a Boomerang study performed in 2016 shows that emails that are 75 words to 100 words received the highest response rate of 51%.

Most emails are sent with the intent to receive a response. Whether it’s an email to your boss asking them to have lunch. Or an email to your coworker discussing a project. Short emails work.

For you, the professional, this means you need to spend your time crafting a terse, clear message. And have clear prompts for your response.

The most common mistake is to write explanations in your email. Long explanations, at that. When you have a request, you often feel you need to support your reasoning. But as a professional, if you have a request, be forward about it. The recipient won’t think twice about it.

Good Subject Lines and Bad Subject Lines

Similar to email length, email subject line length is a big factor in ensuring that your message has been received. The most common mistake for young professionals is to write lengthy email subject lines.

Those are email subject lines that are more than 70 characters in length or more.

Studies have shown that the ideal subject line length is about 4 words.

This is because your reader might be reading their email on their mobile device, not just their desktop computer. When reading emails on a mobile device, long subject lines are often cut short.

When the email subject line is cut short, your reader might not be able to scan their emails and comprehend which message is important and which message isn’t.

Short subject lines work. Keep your subject line one word if you can. A subject line, “Lunch?” might not be a bad subject line. To you, the young professional, you might think this sounds abrasive. But it’s not.

It is clear, has intent, and is respectful of the readers time.

Other factors to consider regarding your subject line:

How to Start Your Professional Email

The way you start your email (your salutation) communicates to the recipient the formality of your message. Is it an informal message? Is it a formal message? This is where you open your intent to the reader.

A formal message would be discussing a legal case to a client. An informal message would be discussing lunch plans between colleagues.

When starting both messages, use a simple opening statement followed by an em dash. It should look like this:

Mr. Smith—

Here are some email openings you can use to start your professional email:

Related: 50 Ways to Start a Professional Email (By Scenario)

How to End Your Professional Email

Your ending, often called your “sign-off” is the phrase that you use to end the message. A bad sign-off is something like, “CYA”. This is going to look bad. It is not the type of ending to a professional message that you might expect.

Showing your sincerity, especially when your email contains an ask to the recipient, is going to ensure that they follow-through on what you’d like them to do.

For example, if your ask is for them to find a digital file. It might take them 15 minutes to do so. That’s 15 minutes out of their workday.

Showing sincerity is going to ensure that they follow through on providing you those 15 minutes.

Here are some sign-offs that you should use:

good professional email example

Related: How to End a Letter (Example Closings, Sign Off’s)

Your Professional Email Signature

Email signatures are a forgotten component to a professional email. A sloppy and unorganized email signature can communicate to your recipient that you’re an entry-level worker with little to no experience.

What does a professional email signature look like? A good one should contain your job title, the business you are part of or representing, your phone number, and any other contact information that might be pertinent to the reader.

Studies have shown that simple email signatures that are black and white often perform better than email signatures that have high amounts of graphics or decorations.

professional email signature example

Example Professional Email to Your Boss or Manager

Now that you know what a good professional email should look like and a bad professional email should look like, let's write an email to your boss together. Below is an example where you ask your boss or manager a question about a project you have been tasked with.

Subject line: Regarding research

Hi Dan—

I’m working on the Oasis Project and I was wondering if there was any research on the Synergy client? I looked through the shared folder you sent me but couldn’t find anything.

I appreciate your help.

Thanks so much Dan,
Patrick

In this example, we show appreciation to the recipient in advance, which indicates that we have a request which might take the recipient some of their workday in order to perform the task. In situations like these, it’s always best to be sincere and ensure that the recipient wants to help us.

This is an effective email message because:

Example Email Requesting a Meeting

This is a frequent email that you’ll send as a professional, a request for a meeting. This request could be to external parties (recipients outside of your business) or to internal parties (your colleagues and coworkers). In both instances, your email strategy is roughly the same.

Here is what that will look like.

Subject line: Meeting request

Hi all—

We’ve had some back and forth by email and I thought it would be helpful if we got together to discuss the Oasis Project. I have a few touchpoints that I think could make it worth our time.

Let me know if Thursday at 3 pm works for you.

Thanks so much,
Patrick

In this example, we propose a time for the meeting, which happens to be our ask. This is an effective email because it gives context to what might happen in the meeting and why it might be important to attend.

This an effective email message because:

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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