Tips for Writing a Professional Email

BreakingModern — So you met someone. Your heart’s aflutter, your mind’s all dreamy and you’re repeating to yourself, “I have a new business contact!

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But then reality sets in. You need to write them an email — stat, before they forget you — and it needs to convey easy professionalism and competency while simultaneously asking him or her for help/advice/work/a job/etc.

How do you craft an email that will make your new connection really sit up and say, “Wow, this person seems to kind of know what they’re doing?” We’ve got you covered.

Create a Meaningful Subject Line

Just like you, your business contact probably receives a lot of emails. What makes yours so special? If your subject line can jog his or her memory (try reminding them who you are, or what you might do for them) you’re either a) making his or her life easier, b) going to get a quicker response, c) giving him or her a head-start on thinking up ways to assist you or d) all of the above. And, in case you were wondering, all of these are good scenarios.

Say “Hi”

Emails are more informal than letters, so “Dear So-and-so” can sound a bit stilted. Save the dears for extra-formal emails and messages to your dear old Aunt Alice. Instead, it’s usually acceptable to use the simple and approachable “Hi So-and-so” to start your email. Classic.

And unless he or she outranks you to a gigantic degree (i.e. you’re an intern, she’s the CEO), it’s usually acceptable to call your contact by his or her first name.

Flattery Will Get You Anywhere

Go on, say something nice. Start with, “It was great to meet you yesterday,” or “I loved your latest blog post on the history of pasta sauce.” Show that you value your contact’s work and time. But don’t go overboard — avoid gushing or sounding insincere. If you feel inclined to write, “You’re so awesome and pretty and smart and I love how your hair smells,” don’t.

Be Brief

Get to the point! Nobody has time to read your lengthy message, no matter how much time and effort you put into writing it. Say what you want in as few words as possible, if only to keep your connection’s eyes from glazing over when they see your 1,000-word essay on why he or she should support your new Kickstarter campaign.

Of course, this only applies to your initial email. If your contact writes back asking for more information, you can assume he or she does indeed want a longer, more detailed explanation of your request. Still, don’t forget all those skills you learned while writing papers in college — stick to a focused thesis, cut out unnecessary words and check your grammar and spelling.

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Be Straight-forward

What are you asking this individual for exactly? Do you want to meet up for lunch, or apply for a job within his or her company or borrow their helicopter for your next business trip? It can be uncomfortable asking for assistance, especially when you don’t want to inconvenience the person you’re contacting, but it’s best to come right out and ask for what you want as clearly as possible. Never toss your real motive in as a side note, or downplay how much you want his or her help. Most likely, he or she will be happy to lend you a hand.

Break It Up

Want to keep your reader’s attention? Use short paragraphs. You know how you groan when you see a formidable wall of unbroken text? Don’t put your contact through that misery.

If a paragraph grows to over three sentences in length, cut it in half. This allows the reader to skim, if necessary, and stops his or her mind from drifting.

Say Thank You

Always, always, always thank your contact for his or her help. This makes you appear gracious and humble, not overbearing and demanding.

Include an Informative Email Signature

Is there a way for your contact to find out more information about you, perhaps through your LinkedIn page, Twitter account or personal website? And how can he or she get in touch with you immediately? Do you have a phone number you feel comfortable giving out?

All these items can be placed in your email signature, a helpful tool that allows you to include further information about yourself without cluttering up the body of your email. Plus, since it automatically attaches to every email you send, you’ll never forget to include it. Helpful!

Read It Over. Out Loud

Double and triple check your grammar and spelling. If you’re not sure whether a sentence is grammatically correct, look it up. It might take a few extra minutes, but it’ll be worth it. You need to sound like you actually know what you’re doing.

And Finally, a Few DON’Ts

DON’T demand his or her assistance. He or she isn’t obligated to help you.

DON’T LOL, ROTFL, TL;DR, or use emoticons. You’re emailing, not texting.

DON’T USE ALL CAPS. NOBODY LIKES THAT.

DON’T apologize for asking. It’s totally okay — even encouraged — to ask professional contacts for help. Just be prepared to assist him or her when he or she asks you for a favor.

Good luck, and happy emailing!

For BMod, I’m .

Featured Image Credit: Three Emails Your Business Should be Sending to Your Subscribers by Joe the Goat Farmer via Flickr

Image Credit: E-Commerce by Garfield Anderssen via Flickr

Alison Maney

Author: Alison Maney

Based in NYC, Alison Maney covers lifestyle, trends and movies for BreakingModern. Follow her @sheepandcake on Twitter.

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