How To Write a Professional Email

January 13, 2017 by Jasmin Hukić

How To Write a Professional Email
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Regardless of the size and type, businesses mostly communicate through emails.

Among marketing channels, email marketing is usually a top priority because of its outreach potential, low costs, high ROI and many other reasons.

A good email can lead you to success, a bad one will do the damage. It’s simple as that.

So let’s see how to write good business emails.

Make Effective Subject Lines

Before your recipients get to read your email they have to open it first. This is harder than you might be thinking. According to emfluence, an overall average open rate is 22.17%.

Find Your Benchmarks

You’ll want to know how you are doing comparing to your competition. For example, if you are in Agriculture industry and only three out of ten recipients open the email you send, then you’re doing a pretty good job.

Here are some benchmarks for different industries:

Email benchmarks by industry

Remember this is just an average stats and it variates depending on the industry.

Do the A/B Tests

No matter what your industry is, email open rate is directly related to your subject line, meaning that you can improve it by doing A/B tests. This way you can see what brings you the highest open rate.

You can measure everything but I would recommend starting with short and long subject lines.

In February 2015, Return Path did the research where they analyzed 9,313,885 emails from more than 3,000 retail senders. They wanted to see how subject line length affected average read rate. Here is what they conclude:

“Our research indicates that there is actually no correlation between the length of a subject line and its read rate. When comparing the number of characters in a subject line to the read rate, the Pearson’s correlation value was -.03, which shows us that there’s no relationship between the number of characters in a subject line and whether or not the email is opened.”

What does this mean for you?

Don’t just assume that shorter subject lines will perform better. Try both short lines and long, and measure the open rates.

Proven Tips for Subject lines

There is so much we can tell about subject lines and we will do that in our next post. Until then here are few useful tips to consider when writing email subject lines:

  • Make it urgent (today’s offer, expires in 48 hours)
  • Use the numbers (4 rooms left)
  • Use mainly lowercase and never use all CAPS
  • Include recipient’s first name (Happy Birthday John, we have a present for you)
  • Engage with question (are you making these mistakes?)
  • How Should Your Email Message Look Like

When writing business emails you should follow the basic email structure:

  • Begin with a greeting
  • Thank the recipient
  • State your purpose
  • Add your closing remarks
  • End with a closing

The actual email format depend on its purpose. You can see some samples here.

Besides that, there are many other things to think about such as writing style, the number of sentences and what to include in your emails. Let’s see.

Write Brief Intro

How would you start a conversation when you face to face with someone? Surely not with boring monolog. No, you would rather start with something like:

  • Hey (name), I watched your webinar about (something) and I think it was great.
  • Hello (name), your last blog post was amazing.
  • Hi (name), listening your talk at the conference really impressed me.

Do the same when writing emails. Keep it clear, short and informal.

Blaise Pascal Quote

It would be weird to repeat introducing yourself if you have already contacted your recipients. Instead of that always leave your credentials in your email signature including your name, contact, and link to your website.

Include a call to action

The most important thing in your emails is letting the recipients know exactly what you want them to do. You need to leed them to desired action and make it possible in one click. That’s why ‘call to action’ is a must have in every email.

Here’s the example:

CTA Example

Closing Line, Sign Off and Online Signature

You are finishing your emails with a closing line and Sign off. In closing line you should repeat your purpose and thank your recipients for reading your email. For example: ‘

  • ‘We’re waiting to see what you think about it.’
  • ‘Thank you for participating in the survey.’

Typical sign off’s are:

  • Kind regards
  • Best wishes
  • All the best

Finally, as I already said, an online signature should include your name, job title, company, contacts, and link to your website.

Don’t Make Your Email Look Childish

Writing informal emails doesn’t mean losing professional context. Therefore, you shouldn’t use chat abbreviations or emoticons. Also coloring text and background would be a total failure.

One more thing, use attachments only if it’s necessary. They are opposite to basic principles of effective emails and they reduce click rates and open rates. It’s much better to include the most important parts of the body.

What Writing Style To Use In Emails

Orwell’s 6 Rules

In Politics and the English Language from 1946, George Orwell wrote six rules for effective writing:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

George Orwell

It’s obvious that the great writer advised simplicity and clarity. These principles are very much relevant in the business world today. Personally, I believe that following these rules can make your text effective, in a commercial sense.

Use Active Voice

It’s Orwell’s rule number 4 – Never use the passive where you can use the active. Here is an example how to apply it:

  • Active voice: Content marketers suggest simple writing.
    Passive voice: Simple writing is suggested by content marketers.
  • Besides, it’s easier to read, active voice encourage the reader to action which is very important. In fact, the whole point of writing commercial emails is to provoke recipients to take some actions.

Use The “One Thing” Rule

The fact that you’re trying to drive business through emails doesn’t mean you should put every idea, solution or proposition into one email message.

On the contrary the One Thing rule is opposite to that. It claims that one email should be about one thing only. If you need to contact the same contact regarding different matter, you should send another email.

Practice Empathy

Try to look through your reader’s eyes. Think about their thoughts and feelings. David Masters suggests an empathetic way of looking at the world to help you get started. He said that most people:

  • Are busy. They don’t have time to guess what you want, and they’d like to be able to read and respond to your email quickly.
  • Appreciate a compliment. If you can say something positive about them or their work, do so. Your words won’t be wasted.
  • Like to be thanked. If the recipient has helped you in any way, remember to say thank you. You should do this even when it’s their job to help you.

Limit Your Text to Five Sentences

Entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki says that every email should answer these 5 questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why are you asking me?
  • Why should I do what you’re asking?
  • What is the next step?

“This is all an intelligent person needs to know to make a decision,” he says. You need no more than five sentences to answer these questions.

Check Before Sending

Before sending your emails you should quickly revise it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I state a clear purpose? There should be one purpose per one email without any misunderstandings.
  • Does CTA button lead to the desired place? This is crucial because the wrong redirection will make sending emails pointless.
  • Do I need all these words and sentences? Look back to Orwell’s six rules.
  • Are there any grammar mistakes? Personally, I use a grammarly extension to correct my grammar mistakes.
  • Is my writing easy to read? Paste your text on readability grader to find out if your writing is readable.

If you can say YES to all these questions, you’re ready to send your emails.

Conclusion

Nowadays when we have so many quality researches about everything related to emails including subject lines, writing style, people’s reaction to them and more, bad emails should be gone for good.

But somehow, staying out of spam, and following all the rules is not enough anymore. Due to the competition, you need constant improving to reach your goals.

This is where your creativity can make the difference which is one of the reasons why we enjoy this industry. It always requires finding new ways of grabbing and retaining the attention of the recipients.

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