Business communication has been around for as long as humans have been selling goods and services to each other. And over those millennia, we have developed official templates for writing business letters, but we have yet to establish an official template for how to format a business email. (Granted, email only became widely available to the general public about twenty years ago.)
However, we do have a commonly used email format, which is shown in the image below.
Use this format with the following five guidelines to write a business email that can be easily modified for nearly any business purpose.
(Click on the image for a larger view.)
1. Use a short but detailed subject line.
Instead of using a generic subject like “Proposal,” create a short but informative subject such as “Product XYZ Case Study Proposal” so the recipient knows what to expect.
(And knowing what to expect may entice the recipient to open the email in the first place. Mystery is not always a good thing!)
2. Open with a salutation.
Begin with the salutation “Dear [Recipient’s Name]:” if your message is particularly formal.
In most cases, “Hello, [Recipient’s Name].” is the better option because dear may sound too reserved for the email format, which is decidedly more relaxed than a letter.
If your message is a bit more casual, you can also customize your salutation to the time of day, such as “Good morning, [Recipient’s Name].”
Visit my post “How to Punctuate Salutations in Emails and Letters” for more information on—you guessed it—how to punctuate salutations.
3. Write a brief message.
Skip one line after the salutation and begin your message.
Skip one line between each paragraph rather than indenting paragraphs because email-based text formats, including indentations, are notoriously unreliable.
Remember that your recipient may read your email on a small-screen device, so keep your message as brief as possible—without sacrificing clarity, of course.
4. Use a closing.
Although signing off with just your first name is common in casual emails, conclude formal emails with a traditional complimentary closing (e.g., “Sincerely,”) or an elliptical clause (e.g., “Thank you.”) placed one line below the message.
Less formal email can conclude with a sentence that implies closure (e.g., “Please call me if you have any questions.”) instead. Type your name below the closing or closing sentence.
If you would like to learn more about complimentary closings, elliptical clause closings, and closing sentences, visit my posts “How to Close Emails and Letters, Part 1” and “How to Close Emails and Letters, Part 2.”
5. Make sure the information in your signature block is accurate.
A signature block is basically an electronic business card under your closing. It typically includes your name, company name, telephone number, email address, and website. It may also include your business address, social media links, and a picture or logo.
Just like a real business card, your recipient will assume that he or she can use any information provided, so make sure your signature block is up to date before hitting the Send button.
Further Reading: Three Things to Include and Three Things to Exclude in Formal Business Emails