How to Write a Professional Email
Email Etiquette for Everyone!
In the architecture profession, a great portion of our work is communication. We are communicating design ideas to clients, communicating design intent to builders and so on. Therefore, we must always make sure we communicate in a clear and professional manner. This starts right at the beginning. Whether you are a first year at University, or already working in practice – email communation is used widely and regularly.
I am absolutely stunned how many emails I get asking for help that lack basic writing skills, lack any courtesy and just demand information from me. So, I have finally given in, and decided to write a detailed article on how to put together an email in a professional manner. Whether you are writing to someone you have never met, a work acquaintance, or perhaps a tutor, there are some basic standards of professionalism that you should stick to, in order to make sure you communicate clearly and respectfully.
If you want to see some examples of how NOT to write an email – scroll down to the end where I share examples of some of the emails I have received over the years…
So, here goes.
Steps For Writing Professional Emails
What is your goal?
Consider your goal of writing the email – what would you like the recipient to do after reading your message. For example, if you are asking for advice or assistance, make sure you are clear with your request and provide the information the recipient needs in order respond and fulfil your request.
Who are you writing to?
It is important to make sure the tone of your message matches the audience that you are sending to. For example, if you are emailing someone you have never met before, you need to keep it professional, and free of jokes. However, if you are emailing an acquaintance or colleague, you can be more informal and friendly with your tone.
Be clear and concise
People are busy. People get a lot of emails. Be considerate of your recipients time and try to be as concise as you can, without leaving out any vital information. Try not to ask too many questions in one email, as the recipient may put off replying to you, or may miss answering some of your questions. Keep it short and easy to read.
Proof read your email
In the haste to send our email, sometimes we overlook errors. Make sure before sending, you read through your email thoroughly, check any attachments, formatting etc.
Spell check your email
Just because you are writing an email, it doesn’t mean you should be remiss about spelling and grammar. Make sure you spell check your email. Spelling and grammar are easy to correct and there is no excuse for not taking a minute to spell check your email. An error free email shows diligence and professionalism, and will be more likely to be taken seriously.
Use a professional email address
Make sure the email address you are using is professional and doesn’t contain any jokey or silly wording. If your email is not appropriate, consider setting up a new email address for your more formal correspondence. Try to choose an address that includes your name, making it easier to see who the sender is.
Check your tone
Don’t forget that jokes can get lost in translation when written down, so can a more abrupt tone. Make sure you keep it polite, and try to avoid using negative words. Be aware that people from different cultural backgrounds speak and write differently.
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How to format professional emails
Your subject line should summarise the reason for your message, or the goal of your communication with the recipient. Always include a subject line when sending professional emails. People can often decide whether or not they are going to open an email based on the subject line, choose one that gives the reader a clear idea of what to expect from your message.
Always include a greeting. Even if you are writing a very short message, it is appropriate to include some sort of greeting addressing the recipient. Be courteous, friendly and polite.
Body of the email
The body of the email should not be too long as we mentioned above. Remember people want to read and process emails quickly so help them to do that by keeping things clear and concise. Don’t use text speak, acronyms or shortened/abbreviated words, in formal emails, it is completely inappropriate.
If you want something from the recipient, be polite and say please!
Styling and Font
Keep your font and styling simple and classic. Make sure it is easy to read, and ideally keep the font colour black for the many body of the email. Go easy on bold and italics in general, and don’t write in capitals as this can be interpreted as shouting/angry/over excited.
As a general rule, if the email is professional, avoid using emojis unless it is a more informal communication.
Finish your email with a brief thank you, or ‘best’ send off. Make sure you include your name. It is very frustrating if your recipient doesn’t know the name of the sender to reply to. You can create an email signature that includes your sign off along with your contact details if necessary. Having a signature to your email can look more professional and save you time signing off your emails.
Depending on the nature of your email you may want to include: ‘thank you for your consideration’ or ‘if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me’ or perhaps, ‘I look forward to hearing from you’.
All of this is pretty simple stuff and should be second nature to anyone studying or working in the architectural field.
Also be aware, if you are writing to ask for help or assistance from someone (like me) – give as much detail as you can and be clear and concise in what you are looking for. Asking a question like “I need advice on designing a museum” is far too broad and difficult to answer. Consider that people are busy, and if you want them to reply to your email, you need to make it quick and easy for them to reply. So be clear and polite.
How NOT to write professional emails
Here are some emails that I have received over the years…