I’ve been told by senior generations that they were taught in school how to write formal letters. My experience was learning how to write a formal email, but that was only because I took a computer class in 7th grade.
It seems that some students may have been shown things like how to properly format a letter and address the receiver while still in grade school. Meanwhile, the rest of us were left to our own whims, trial and error, and chastisement from senior generations to guide us on how to put together a formal letter.
Worry not, my young padawan professional. In this blog, we’re going to cover exactly all the things you need in your formal letters, including emails. We’re also going to cover a few tips and tricks to help your emails really POP! (And in the interest of writing condensation, I'm foregoing adding pictures or media to the body of this article for maximum absorption and referencing.)
1. Be professional
We all want to use a lighthearted anecdote to get in the immediate good graces of the reader, but a supervisor or potential employer is most likely on the clock while reading what you’ve sent. Meaning their work time is limited and valuable to them. Don’t make them regret how they’ve used it when they read your email by keeping it clear of off-topic conversation.
Ensure your email address is similarly tactful. If you were a hiring manager and received an email from email@example.com, how would you react? If you said anything along the lines of “poorly”, that’s exactly how they react.
2. Format is tops
Using a 12-pt font in something conservative like Times New Roman or Arial is best. Keep your subject line a condensed version of the significant information in the email. Use a formal salutation such as “Dear Professor” or “Dear Audrey”. If you’re unsure of who the actual recipient may be, you can hit them with the tension-inducing “To Whom it May Concern”.
Skip a line and get to your intro line, which is where you introduce yourself, give a bit of background on yourself if it’s called for, and state the overall purpose of the email. Once you move past your short intro line, you’ll expand on it through the body of the email with your main message. This is where you put every detail you need the reader to know, if even just for reference purposes. Be careful not to make the body several paragraphs long. We still want to make emails as concise as possible for easy reading. Long emails will immediately turn off some readers while entirely turning away a few more.
Now you’re ready to “close” the email. This is what’s going to leave a lasting impression on the recipient. The most common way to start off an email closing is with “Sincerely”, but I prefer “Respectfully” since I may not know whether something in my email inadvertently offended or put the reader off at all. Other formal closings are “Regards”, “Yours cordially”, or even just “Best”. An example of a formal closing is
3. Proofread, edit, revise
Take a quick look back over your email, but when reading try putting yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Is the tone appropriate? Is it too informal? Are you missing any important attachments for the email? Is there any personally sensitive information in this email?
Going back over your email to edit is crucial in how your message is conveyed to the reader. Most writers will tell you the first draft they write of anything is utter garbage and would never be published. Approach your writing with the same critiquing to ensure you’re writing the best email that will get you noticed in the most positive light possible.
Take the time to sue for brevity in your writing, condense clauses, take out any fluff. Anything you can do to cut down the amount of time it takes to deliver information will be greatly appreciated by the recipients of said information.
Do you know any other tips & tricks young professionals can learn from? Share the wealth of knowledge by letting us know in the comments, so we can all grow and be our best together.
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