from the blog.

How To Write A Formal Email

I think this would be a great way to document some of the essential information I learned from my stay in the corporate world. I have a terrible case of memory loss and this would be a good way to recall things in case I forget – blogging.

So while I was walking home from taking out the trash, I suddenly thought that its been a while since I last wrote an email (super unrelated, I know). My last email was actually my good-bye email to my colleagues. Sad to say, I was not able to read most of the replies since I forgot to copy my personal email address in the distro. Anyway, this post would help in avoiding the same mistakes.

Getting started – write the body first and put in the recipients last. This will avoid accidentally sending the email prematurely.

Address – not the email address but the title of the person you are writing to. Avoid just “Hi,” Put in a complete title and name. The formality should be equal to the level of the person you are writing to and the subject. “Mr.”, “Dr.” and the like are often needed for formal communications especially when writing to a high-level person. More so if you are writing to someone outside of the company.

For more relaxed messages, one can use “Hi, [first name]” This is most used on same level emails (supervisor-to-supervisor , manager-to-manager.)

Grammar – Internet grammar is never acceptable on emails. Correct grammar should always be observed. Your email client likely has a grammar-check function. Use it. Seriously.

Composition – emails should be as short as possible. But never sacrificing content. Keep things as simple as possible but do not miss out anything. Use bullets instead of paragraphs if needed.

Smileys – yes, some offices use smileys on private communications. Be sure this is kept to a minimum. Even if it is just among similar-level employees, keep the smileys at around two. Never put two smileys consecutively. Even if you are very familiar and at ease with your colleagues, remember that you are still in the workplace and not on Facebook.

Tone – one of the most important aspects of the email. This is very crucial for high-level matters. Avoid writing emails when your emotions are high. If time permits, be sure you are calm and collected before writing any emails. Remember that the other party will only see words and they will set the tone based on what they see. Remain as friendly and professional as possible at all times.

Signature – this varies for different companies. Essential pieces of information include:

Your Name (or course)
Contact information (email address, IM ID, website, office address, office phone number)

Check which pieces of information are needed and be sure that they included in your signature.


Recipients – check if you are sending to the right person/s. Make sure all the addresses are correct. Ensure that all needed parties are looped in. Ensure that those who are not needed are not copied in the distro. This can be catastrophic is neglected.

Take note of the level of importance of the To, Cc and Bcc fields. The To field should contain the main recipient, the Cc should contain secondary recipients – those who need to know whats going on but are not necessarily the target of the message.

Attachments – ensure that all needed attachments are in place. Many emails are sent only for the purpose of sending the attachment. Yet some of these emails are mistakenly sent without the attachment more often than you think.

Review – double check everything above before clicking send.

Recall – MS Outlook has an option to recall an email after it was sent. If you notice something wrong with the email you have just sent, recall it quickly. If recalled early, you the receiving party will not see the content of the email anymore. They will just see a message that the email was recalled. If recalled a little too late, the receiving party will see the content but it is indicated that the email was recalled. This way, the recipient will know that there was something wrong with the email.

Hope this helps you. When you get your first email address and have a first taste of formal corporate electronic communications, it can be scary when you think of whats at stake if you mess up. Just follow these directions and observe how your colleagues go about sending their emails. Like a lot of things, emailing is a culture. Have a feel of the general tone and manner of how your business and office go about sending emails. Before you know it, you’ll be sending those emails left and right like a pro.

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