How to Professionally Format an Email in 6 Steps
Updated December 4, 2023
Email is one form of business communication that is critical to successfully sharing and gathering information. When composing an email, you want the recipient to understand the purpose of the message and respond accordingly. Learning how to format an email can help make your messages more efficient and professional. In this article, we discuss the steps to take to format an email, highlight a template you can use to write your professional emails, and share an example of the template in action.
How to format an email
When writing a message, use these six steps to format an email properly:
1. Identify the purpose of the email
Before you compose an email, the first step is to identify the purpose of the message. Because email messages are easy to send, people can often misuse them or send them without a clear purpose. If you're gathering information, you can ask yourself if emailing is the best option and if it's necessary. For example, you may find the information you're looking for in company training materials or through an internet search. After searching for the information and not finding what you require, you can ask yourself if there's someone you can ask or speak to in person.
If you determine that emailing is the best choice, identify the recipient of the message or inquiry. Be sure to address the message to the most appropriate person who's likely to have the information or provide you with insight into who else you may ask. If you're emailing a customer or client outside of the organization, ensure you have all necessary information, such as the proper spelling of their name and email address. Next, define the purpose of the email to ensure that the message you write is concise and respectful of the recipient's time.
2. Write the subject line of your email
Once you identify the purpose of the message, you can write the subject line for your email. Creating an intriguing or impactful subject line can influence the recipient to open and read the email. Many individuals choose whether to open an email based on the subject line without knowing the content. It's best to keep the subject line concise and state the email's purpose in as few words as possible while remaining informative.
An email recipient can only view a certain number of characters from a subject line. On a computer, the ideal length is less than 65 letters. If you type anything longer than 65 characters, the computer cuts off the remaining letters on the home screen. If you think the recipient is reading the email on a cell phone or tablet, use less than 30 characters in your subject line. Here are several subject line examples that encourage a response:
[Mutual contact] recommended I get in touch
Application for [job title] from [your name]
Met at [event name]
How to [accomplish XYZ task]
Please submit X form by [time or date]
Meeting on [subject] at [time or date]
Final approval needed by [time or date]
3. Write the greeting
Next, you want to write your greeting and address the email recipient. The tone of your greeting depends on who you're emailing. For example, if you're emailing a customer or client with whom you have a professional relationship, it may be advisable to address them formally, such as Dear Mr. Smith or Dear Ms. Pankar. If the connection is more casual, you can include a more relaxed greeting using the recipient's first name. Business emails you send to work colleagues are typically more informal than those you send to managers or people outside the organization.
Here are several examples of email greetings you can use:
Hi [recipient's name],
Hello [recipient's name],
Dear [recipient's name],
4. Create the body of the email
Once you write the greeting, you can begin the body of the email. It's best practice to limit the subject of your message to one topic. Sending an email with more than one purpose can cause confusion and be inefficient. Limiting your topic allows for an email thread to remain concise and enables you to find the information easier in the future within your email inbox. If you ask several questions related to one topic, create a short numbered list so the recipient can quickly identify what information you're requesting.
Use the first several sentences of your message to identify your question or the purpose of the email. To create a rapport with the reader, you can include a short sentence of interest, such as "I hope this email finds you well." You can also use these introductory lines to remind the recipient of a mutual connection or how you met. Follow your introduction with no more than three sentences to detail the purpose of the message. Use clear, polite language to ensure the reader understands your request. Also, bring attention to any attachments you include with the email.
Related: How to Write a Professional Email
5. Write the conclusion
Once you complete the body of the message, you want to write your conclusion. Within the ending of your email, you want to include a call to action, a closing remark, and your email signature. The purpose of adding a call to action is for the recipient to identify how you want them to respond. For example, you can restate the question you asked or include a simple phrase such as "please respond to this email." When writing your closing remarks, remain professional and friendly. The formality of the conclusion depends on the professional relationship you have with the reader.
Some examples include:
Thank you for your time,
Following your closing remarks, you can include your email signature. An email signature is like a business card because it provides a professional presentation of your contact information to use during the first few communications you have with the recipient. After establishing a relationship, you may not want to include the entire signature and simply sign your first name. Many organizations have a pre-formatted email signature that employees use. If you don't have one, provide your full name, job title, company name, phone number. You can add social media platforms or website information if it applies to the conversation.
Related: How to End an Email
6. Edit and proofread the email before sending
Reviewing the email at least once can ensure the content is concise and intentional. Next, add necessary recipients to the To line. These are the individuals you addressed in the greeting and the ones you want to respond. For others who may need the information in the email, you can include their email address in the CC line. If the email has multiple recipients and you would like to keep their email addresses private, remember to use the BCC address line.
Before sending the email, also ensure that you attach any documents or files you reference in the message's body. Here are several considerations when editing and proofreading your email:
spelling, grammar, and punctuation are correct
remove unnecessary words, phrases, or details
the recipient's email address and name are correct
you attached any referenced documents
the subject line is concise while accurately communicating the purpose of the email
the purpose of the email is clear
you included a call to action
Email format template
Use the following template as a guide for formatting your professional emails:
Subject: [concise statement that describes the purpose of the email]
Greeting [choose an appropriate greeting for the relationship you have with the recipient and their name],
Introduction [Introduce yourself or remind the recipient of how you met].
Purpose [In two to three sentences, clearly describe the purpose of the email].
Call to action [Tell the reader how you want them to respond, such as answering a question or booking a meeting].
Closing remark [choose a closing remark that matches the level of formality with the greeting].
Email signature that includes:
[Your full name and job title]
[Preferred phone number]
[Website or other contact information]
Email format example
Using the template above, here's a basic example of using the principles to format a professional email:
Subject: Follow up on our meeting last week
Dear Ms. Wong,
It was a pleasure to meet you at the sales professional networking event last week.
As you requested at the event, I have attached my graphic design portfolio for your review. I feel confident that our agency can provide you with the level of service your company requires for your next product launch. I invite you to review the portfolio at your earliest convenience. Please respond with the best date for an in-person meeting this week.
Northern Star Media Inc.
#414, 14735 - 95 Street
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