In this day and age of text speak and emoticons, it's sometimes hard to remember that in some instances you'll need to send a formal email that looks professional. Every day emails to friends and family can be personal, fun, and informal, but if you're trying for that big job position, sending an email to a teacher or boss, contacting someone within the government, or contacting someone in a business, you need to step up your game and sound professional. Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing professional correspondence.
Your email address does matter. While your friends may know you as BippyBopper5, you'll want to can the cutesy moniker and go for something more professional, such as your name. And while you're at it, avoid using mail servers that have a reputation for being unprofessional. If you need a free mail server, try Google, or have LinkedIn or one of the other professional social media websites forward your email.
Although it should go without saying, leave your emoticons on social media and your texts. No one will be impressed with your smiley faces :-) :-D or your joking winks ;-). And certainly, nobody will be impressed with :-P. Be sure to avoid using them, even in quick conversations to people whom you wish to have a business relationship with.
Like emoticons, text speak is the bane of formal email. Writing something like, "RU Hiring? Looking four a gd job." is a good way to have your email trashed, no matter how stellar your resume might be. If you need to, brush up on your spelling and writing and be sure you write coherently. Avoid jokes, slangs, and other informal forms of writing.
People rely on spell check too often when it comes to formal emails. Have you run into the grammar Nazis on local media lately? They're constantly correcting your/you're and they're/there/their for a good reason. Words that sound the same but mean different things are known as homonyms -- and spell checkers can't distinguish between them. It's up to you that you wanted to say "they're" as in "they are" as opposed to the possessive form of "they," which is "their." Proofread your letter before sending to catch any errors.
Most email services allow you to change fonts, colors, and sizes, which isn't necessarily a good thing when it comes to looking professional. Your email will look more formal if you use a professional font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Bookman, or even Calibri. Stick to 12 point fonts and black font color. Do not use fancy fonts, other colors, or larger or smaller font sizes. Comic Sans will most likely get your email trashed.
Get to the point of your email in the subject line One of the worst things to do is to provide a rambling -- or worse yet, a cryptic -- subject line. A good subject line for your boss might be:
Problems with the Madison Account
A poor subject line would be:
We need to talk about something.
When you address a person in a formal letter, you will need to use their correct title or salutation and end the sentence with a colon. For example:
Dear Ms. Martha Jones:
Dear Dr. Joseph Roberts:
If you do not know the person you are addressing in the email, such as a customer service representative or someone within the government, you can use:
To Whom it May Concern:
When you're trying to make a good impression, the worst thing you can do is fail to get the person's gender right. Such as calling a man Ms. or a woman Mr. Some names are not gender-specific, such as Pat, Chris, Carol, or Lindsey. If you're not certain of the person's gender, try addressing them by their title, such as:
Dear Editor Lindsey Smith:
Dear Officer Pat Jones:
If you have no title, using their full name may be the only option:
Dear Chris O'Connor:
If you're sending an email to someone, who does not know you, briefly explain who you are and why you are making contact with the person. That way, the person understands why you sent this email, to begin with. You should also summarize the issue at hand, so they don't have to wade through verbiage to understand why you contacted them.
Don't forget to include any documents you're referencing. Rather than guess what format they might be able to read, use PDFs to be sure it is readable.
When you're through with your letter, sign it formally. Like your salutation, you'll need to have a professional closing to your letter. Good closings include:
You can also simply sign your full name at the bottom without a formal closing and still look professional.
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