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8 Rules For Writing Clear, Professional Emails

by Elizabeth Harmon
Posted: May 02, 2016

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Writing clear and effective emails may sound simple but there is actually quite an art to getting your point across succinctly and with precision. Open Colleges Careers explores ways you can improve your technique. 

Emails are quick, easy and effective. So effective in fact, that many of us use them in our personal lives, as well as in the workplace.

However, with messages flying around all day, every day, popping up on our PCs and pinging on our phones, it’s important to remember who you’re speaking to. You wouldn’t speak to your manager in the same way as your mates, or talk to your family as if you were speaking to your colleagues…

Here we share 8 essential tips, which highlight the key differences between casual and professional emails.

8 Rules For Writing Clear Professional Emails

1.       Always use a greeting

When sending a casual email, it’s perfectly acceptable to begin with informal language, or go straight into the conversation, neglecting a greeting altogether! However, in a business environment, it’s best to begin every single email with a greeting, even if it’s only “good morning” or the recipient’s name. Read more tips here

2.       Use a sensible subject line

When you write an email, it is important to bear in mind that the recipient may be very busy and inundated with their own emails. Make sure your subject line clearly states what the email is about, as many people determine how important an email is just by reading these few words.

3.       Avoid emojis/emoticons

8 Rules For Writing Clear Professional Emails

A smiley face here and there is good fun in a casual email, but in business it is unprofessional and many people find it irritating. Save your emoticons for texts and emails with your friends, not the office.

4.       Use an email signature

Many companies will have a set structure or template for an email signature, so check with a colleague as to what is required. Email signatures will often include a business logo, contact details, a link to the company website and your job title. This is always useful within a business email, but is not required in a casual message.

5.       Send to the right people

8 Rules For Writing Clear Professional Emails

Many people in business are bombarded with emails and there is nothing worse than being copied in on an email chain that has nothing to do with you. Although you may send around funny jokes or conversations about nights out to all your friends in a group message, in business, it’s best to keep the recipient list as low as possible.

6.       Write a clear, concise message

Sending an email at work is not the time to show off your incredible knowledge of the English language. Whilst you shouldn’t use informal language, it’s also best to keep your wording simple and straightforward, so it’s easily understood and not open to interpretation. Also remember that email recipients cannot read your tone of your voice and so humour, especially sarcasm, are best kept for a casual email.

7.       Respond in a timely fashion

8 Rules For Writing Clear Professional Emails

If someone sends you a casual email asking what you’re up to this weekend, they probably won’t mind too much if you take a day or so to respond. But with business email, it’s always best to respond as soon as possible. Other areas of the business may be waiting on your input before they are able to proceed with a task.

8.       Know how to sign off

When you send a casual email to a friend or family member, you might sign off with “lots of love” or “see you soon.”  Neither of these is suitable for professional emails. Instead, use something simple such as “Kind regards” or “Many thanks”. This should go above your email signature and applies to every email you send.

Emails can be a successful tool - when you use them correctly

Email is an effective way of communicating, both personally and professionally, but it is important to remember the main differences between the two. We hope these tips will help keep them separate, so you can maintain a high level of professionalism whilst at work. For more information, take a look at our business email etiquette guide.

Do you have any other tips to share when it comes to sending business emails? Leave us a comment in the box below!


Elizabeth Harmon

Elizabethis an experienced Freelance Social Media Consultant based in the south of England. She works with a growing number of clients all around the world, showing businesses how to use social media more effectively and helping them to get the maximum benefit from it.

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