A good professional email communicates information clearly and completely. Language and tone are very important in email writing in English, especially when we write to someone we do not personally know. Luckily, there are words and phrases that you can use to ensure that your email sounds professional regardless of the receiver.
This resource covers every aspect of professional email writing:
You will also find some sample emails at the end of this resource. You can use these as templates for your own emails.
Strong email skills are essential for work, school, and daily life. In an office job, team communication software and messaging apps are often used for informal communication, but email is the preferred method for clear, formal communication. The purpose of this resource is to teach you essential email skills, so you can communicate more effectively and feel more confident the next time you apply for a job, email your boss, or respond to a client, customer, or colleague.
Good subject lines are clear and to the point. The best ones are usually 2 to 4 words, though this is not always possible. If you want people to view your complete subject line on a phone, try to make your subject 30 characters or fewer. For example, if you have a question about a product, “Product question” is a direct subject line. Here are some other scenarios and suggested subject lines:
Asking your boss for time off:
Applying for a job:
Introductory email (sent to potential partners, clients, customers, etc.):
Subsequent (or “follow-up”) email:
Information request (about a product, service, decision, etc.):
Asking for feedback:
There are levels of formality to email greetings. If you know the person’s name whom you are writing to, you can use one of the following greetings:
Slightly more informal greeting:
“Hi” has become more standard in recent times, and it is accepted as a standard greeting by most people, especially in the tech and media industries. However, if you have never met the person and would like to be safe, use “Dear,” “Hello,” or a time of day greeting instead.
Very familiar greeting:
If you do not know the name of the person whom you are writing to, it is usually acceptable to write the department name or the position of the person instead. For example: “Dear Human Resources Department” or “Dear Operations Manager”.
“To Whom it May Concern” is also still used, but depending on the person reading the email, this greeting can sound cold. “Dear Sir/Madam” and “Dear Mister/Miss” are old-fashioned and not in popular usage anymore. It is usually possible to learn the name of the person whom you are writing to, so make sure you do your research before you use an impersonal greeting such as “To whom it may concern”.
After your salutation, it is common and polite to include a personal greeting or question. If you are applying for a job or university, most of these sentences are not necessary, but if you are writing to a potential client or colleague, this is a common practice. Note the examples:
How you introduce your topic mostly depends on the level of formality you are trying to set.
Slightly less formal:
To follow up means to contact someone whom you have previously communicated with, and to provide new or more information about something. If someone says, “I’ll follow up with you next week”, it means they will contact you next week with new information, or they will expect to hear new information from you. We often follow up with people who have not responded to our original email fast enough. Look at the language you can use to follow up with someone:
The most standard request structure in English speaking and writing is “Could you…?”. For example: “Could you let me know when you’re free?” To make this more polite, use “Could you please…?”. Take a look at the request examples below, and at the common questions in the second half.
Depending on the email, we can say “Thank you” at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of an email. Use “Thank you” for added formality, or “Thanks” for more casual communication. Here are more ways of saying thank you:
Near the end of an email, it is common to make a promise of future action. Promises are often made with “I will” or the contracted form “I’ll”. Here are some of the most common email promises.
Closings are an integral part of professional emails. A good closing should leave the receiver feeling positive, or it should politely encourage them to act. If you expect a response from someone, the first three sentences below are very common.
Final word(s) before your name and/or email signature (note the punctuation):
Now that you have studied some of the most common email language, let’s look at some example emails. Of course, there are many ways to write these types of messages, but I hope these samples will help you with your own emails.
SUBJECT: Executive Assistant position: Shirley Hemsworth
I am writing to express my interest in the Executive Assistant position advertised on your website. Please find attached a copy of my resume and three letters of reference.
If you require any further information, do not hesitate to contact me.
SUBJECT: Hello Rita, does your printer keep jamming?
Good morning, Rita,
I hope you had a good weekend! I am writing to ask if you are satisfied with your current printer. Most companies keep their printers for 3 years longer than they should. Our company leases modern printers at an affordable price, and the second you are not satisfied with one of our models, you can exchange it for a new one.
Is this something you might be interested in? Please let me know, and I would be happy to send you a price list.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
SUBJECT: Regarding your offer
Thank you for your email and for the attached quote. It looks like your company has a lot to offer!
After considering our needs, we have decided that we are satisfied with our current situation and will therefore not need your services at this time. If anything changes in the future, we will keep your company in mind.
Thank you again, and I hope you have a great day.
If you would like to review some of this information and test your email writing skills, watch my video on How to Write a Professional Email: