As many years as humans have been selling their goods and services to each other, business communication has been around. Throughout that time, we’ve developed official templates for business letters, but we haven’t yet established an official template for business emails. This isn’t too surprising, considering email only became widely available around 20 years ago. Still, we do have an email format that is very commonly used, and we’ll go over it in this article. Be sure to use this format, following the five guidelines below, to write a business email that can be tweaked and modified for nearly any purpose.
1. Make the subject brief but detailed.
Rather than using a generic subject line such as “Proposal,” it’s better to create a more informative subject like “Product ABC Case Study Proposal” to provide the recipient with as much information as possible. In most cases, knowing what to expect from an email makes the recipient want to open it more than a generic or mysterious subject line does.
2. Start with a salutation.
If your message is especially formal, open with “Dear [Recipient’s Name].” But in most cases, “Hello, [Recipient’s Name],” is the best option. Dear often sounds a bit too reserved for an email, since email is generally much more relaxed than letters are.
For a more casual message, customizing the salutation to the time of day (“Good afternoon, [Recipient’s Name]”) is a good choice.
3. Keep your message short and sweet.
In a business email format, after your salutation, skip one line and start your message. It’s better to skip a line between each paragraph rather than indenting paragraphs. Oftentimes, email-based text formats are unreliable, and indentations don’t always display correctly. Keep in mind that it’s likely your recipient will read your email on a device with a small screen, so try to keep your message as brief as you can as long as you don’t sacrifice clarity.
4. Don’t forget your closing.
In casual emails, feel free to sign off with just your first name. But more formal emails require a traditionally complimentary closing or an elliptical clause, for example, “Sincerely” or “Thank you.” Your closing should be placed one line below the conclusion of the message. Another option for less formal emails is to add a sentence that implies closure, such as “Give me a call if any questions come up.” Then, type your name below the closing or closing sentence.
5. Double-check your signature block.
Your signature block is essentially your electronic business card and is an important part of the business email format. It usually contains your name, company name, phone number, email address, and website. Sometimes, signature blocks also feature a photo or logo, social media links, and your business address.
Remember, similar to a traditional business card, your recipient is going to assume that they can use any information that you provide to them. Therefore, double-check your signature block to be sure that it’s up to date before you hit Send.