How to write a professional email

A number of students will be doing Easter internships or vacation schemes. If that’s you, you’ll probably find that you’ll be given a temporary login and expected to send emails. Simple? Well, maybe not. Are you sure that you know how to appropriately word a professional email? It is different from emailing a mate!

Salutation

email recipients300Now, this is the first thing you have to think about. It’s normal to have a salutation when you’re sending a formal email. Should you start with “Hello”, “Dear”, “Sir or Madam”? If you’re not sure, it’s always best to err on the side of polite formality. I suggest you go with “Dear” and the name of the person. You then have to decide whether to go with the person’s first name or with a formal title. There’s no need to agonise too much about this, if the “house style” isn’t clear then don’t risk offence, go formal. I don’t know our Vice Chancellor, I’ve never spoken to him. If I decided to email him I would email Dear Professor Croft.

The body of the text

I think there are a few simple rules to be observed here.

1. Do not use text speak.

Type words out in full. Similarly emojis have no real place in office emails when you are trying to be formal. Keep them for your friends.

2. Go for simple expression and brevity.

keep it simple300Don’t use a long word where a short word will do. Over complex vocabulary doesn’t make you look erudite, it’s simply a bit odd! Try to avoid using fillers. Ban words like “moreover, furthermore, additionally, finally, notwithstanding, nevertheless” from your writing. These words were helpful, (even necessary) to secure you good marks at GCSE English, they are no part of formal professional language. Keep your sentences short and start with an active verb rather than a gerund.

“I have now done the research you requested and my conclusions are…”

Is a lot clearer than:

“Having had the opportunity to undertake the research task you allotted to me I am able to give you my opinion on the matters in hand…”

The first example is a much better demonstration of professional writing.

3. Proof read what you write.

Without doubt a higher level of inaccuracy is tolerated in internal email messages than in other documents, but if you’re on an internship, you should be hoping to demonstrate good attention to detail. You’ll undermine your other efforts if you send your supervisor a message riddled with basic errors.

4. Know when to end the conversation.

hello goodbye300It’s important not to get into the business of trying to be the last person saying thank you! Remember that even if an email only takes a few seconds to read and write, the time spent on emails can quickly mushroom out of all control if you send unnecessary messages. Normally “thank you” might mark the end of a correspondence. I would only continue after that if I wanted to recognise a particularly fulsome expression of gratitude.

 

5. Recognise when there are better means of communication than email.

Sometimes it makes sense to pick up one of the old fashioned telephones which tend still to be on office desks and make a call.

6.Close the message in an appropriate way.

There are a number of perfectly acceptable ways to end an email. I usually go with “Best wishes”, I think that’s clear and professional. There’s no problem with “Kind regards”, “Best regards” or even “Regards”. If you started with “Dear” then “Yours sincerely” could be fine too and if you want to acknowledge something “Thank you” might be a neat way to end. I’d probably keep “Cheers” for friends rather than office colleagues.

thank you300And finally, if you’re doing an internship it’s a good idea to end up by thanking everyone who has helped you, or with whom you have worked before you go. A round robin email should do the trick!


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