Email etiquette is a small thing that goes a long way in the business world. Whether you’re in a corporate setting, running your own business, or somewhere in between, learning and then executing a professional email can set you apart from other partners, prospects, and/or clients.

When you sit down to write an email, erring on the side of professionalism is always a good idea. For some emails, you don't know the recipient and this could potentially be the first impression you give them about you or your business. Don’t leave room for subjective interpretation and craft an email that puts your virtual best foot forward in the conversation. To do that, here are the five rules to keep in mind when writing your next professional email. 

Identify your goal and who you’re speaking to.

Before you write anything, what and who is this email for? Some business professionals can receive hundreds of emails a day, so making sure this email has a purpose and a needed action will ensure you and the recipient's time isn’t being wasted. Now, who is this email being sent to? Considering this allows you to write in the correct tone of voice. Typically, your tone of voice in a business email should be formal, polished, and respectful. Knowing who the recipient is, or their position is valuable information to consider before you start writing.

Always include a greeting.

Whether you are sending the first email, responding to one sent to you, or replying for the 15th time in the conversation, always include a greeting to the other person. It can be as simple as “Hi (name).” A greeting sets the tone for a professional email to follow. Not including a greeting gives the impression of a rushed response, without careful attention to the email or detail. Again, it’s always best to err on the side of formality and professionalism no matter who you are talking to. Your professional image is something you never want to jeopardize.

Emphasize your needs and follow-up details

When crafting a long email with multiple courses of action needed, things can get unorganized and lost quickly. If you need several things or answers from someone, make sure to clearly state what you need and how it should be communicated as a follow-up. The better you communicate what you need, the easier it will be for the recipient to provide it. It all starts with you. Don’t expect the other person to read your mind or be an expert at navigating your chaotic thoughts. If you aren’t organized and clear, it will be hard for anyone to respond accordingly. 

Add white space.

Reading one big paragraph of information with run-on sentences and no clear action points is a sure way to not receive a reply to your email. Doing this makes it difficult for the recipient to digest the information and miss key points of your email. Also, it reflects on you, as the sender, showing you could be scattered, unorganized, or confusing in your communication. Avoid this by creating white space within your email and adding paragraph breaks to make the information you are sending easier to read and understand, and also more likely to get a response. Utilize formatting options like bolding, italics, and underlining to emphasize different categories of information, topics, or follow-up that are needed. However, don’t go overboard on formatting otherwise the purpose is lost. 

Proofread your email.

Once your email is written and before you hit the send button, proofread your email. Double-check your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and any links or attachments that may need to be included for reference within your email. An error-free email speaks louder than you may think. It sends a message of diligence, thoroughness, and professionalism to the recipient.

Writing professional emails is an important part of working in the business world, although it goes far beyond that. Knowing how to craft and respond to emails professionally reflects on you and your level of professionalism as an individual. Give off the best first impression possible, and follow these steps the next time you need to send a professional email.