A well-written, structured email provides information about you and your level of professionalism; therefore, this should be considered every time you write a business email.
Below is a general structure to business emails that works well, shows your professionalism, and leaves your reader with a good feeling about doing business with you.
Let's look at each of these sections in detail, keeping in mind that as the conversation moves forward in the email, not as much detail will be necessary in some of the sections.
The greeting in a business email message is fairly simple. If it is someone you know and have done business with in the past, an informal "Hi NAME" or slightly more formal "Dear NAME" will work just fine.
If the recipient of the message is someone you do not know, but you know the name, then it is appropriate to greet the person with "Mr. NAME" or "Ms. NAME." If you are writing to someone whose name you do not know, the proper greeting can be simply "Hello."
The thing to remember is to use a greeting of some kind. It will help set the tone for the message.
The second part of the greeting is the ice breaker. It is just a quick, pleasant extension of the greeting and can look like this for a first-time correspondence:
Once you have corresponded at least once, this part of the greeting should change to include an acknowledgement of their return message:
This second part of the greeting is also very important in setting a professional, yet friendly and approachable tone to your email.
When contacting a recipient for the first time, mention how you obtained the recipient's contact information. Possibly you met him or her at a conference or other meeting and exchanged business cards, or you found his or her contact information on a Web site. Establishing a connection early in your message will help your reader want to continue reading the message.
Once you have established a rapport with your reader, you will need to tell him or her just what it is you are emailing about. Make sure this comes close to the top of the message, right after the greeting, so your reader does not have to scroll down to see just what the email is all about.
This can be a single sentence, and should not be more than two sentences at the most. Some examples of this are:
Make it interesting, short, and to the point. You want your reader to read on to find out the rest of the information, but remember that email messages should be short and concise. If the readers do not have to scroll through the email to find out what it is all about, they will appreciate it and will stay on the message to read more if the topic is of interest to them.
The body of the email should be short, to the point, and understandable. Bullet points are appropriate ways to list several points in an email, but they need to be introduced so the reader can follow the content.
There are three parts to the body of the email:
The closing line is as important as the ice breaker at the beginning. It should be friendly, professional, and pleasant. Examples of closing lines are:
This short message will leave your readers with a good feeling about you and your professional way of doing business.
The signature follows the closing line. Many email programs have an auto signature feature which gives you the opportunity to put contact information, links to your Web site, etc. in your signature so you don't have to type that information every time you send an email. The auto signature also gives your readers instant access to any information you want them to have.