Email Etiquette: The Professional Business Email Format

Updated 6 August 2023

The ideal business email format shows respect for your recipient while driving in the reason for your correspondence. It follows a coherent structure that enhances your message's readability. This way, your recipient can focus on what is being said, rather than how it's being said. Adhering to the correct email etiquette speaks volumes of your professionalism, too. This is especially important when you are trying to make a good impression through a job application email. In this article, we discuss what a business email format is, how to format one, email writing tips and examples of business emails for different situations.

Related: How to Write a Cover Letter

What is a business email format?

A business email format is a formal email structure that professionals use to communicate within the workplace. Adhering closely to the standard format facilitates the flow of information. It acts as a safeguard against misunderstandings that may cause a loss of productivity.

A business email format is simple and clear. It avoids descriptive writing techniques and focuses on the primary point instead. This saves the reader valuable time and effort, especially in a busy work environment that receives dozens of emails every day. Co-workers appreciate regard for business etiquette, as it not only conveys respect but also shows your initiative to make their work easier.

How to format an email

The business email format follows a standard structure that you can apply to most other email correspondence too. Putting these conventions into practice improves the readability of your email. The following is a step-by-step guide detailing how to format a business email:

1. Write a subject line

A clear and concise subject line is essential to every email, especially in a professional setting. Usually, people scan their inbox before opening an email to prioritise more time-sensitive information. This way, they can increase their own productivity. Consider this behaviour when composing your subject line. To ensure your message stands out, keep these things in mind:

  • Write a subject line that is simple and specific

  • Use keywords to create a concise version of your message

  • Place the most important words at the beginning of your subject line

  • Use email markers, such as 'urgent' or 'reply', to inform the reader about the nature of your email

Here are a few examples of effective subject lines:

  • Urgent: Sales Meeting Today at 3:30 pm

  • Mark Wang - General Manager Job Application

  • Operations Budget, June 2021

2. Include an opening greeting

Adhering to business email etiquette from the start sets the tone for the rest of your correspondence. It presents you as a consummate professional that people will want to take seriously. Open your email with a standard greeting, such as 'Dear Mr/Ms. First name' or 'Dear Mr/Ms. Last name'. In traditional company cultures, you can expect to address senior leaders by their last name. When introducing yourself to a new contact, it's also best to err on the formal side. However, as you become more friendly, you may refer to them by their first name.

Addressing your recipient by name in an email makes you appear more genuine. If you can not find an exact name after doing some research, then opt for a neutral greeting such as, 'Dear Sir/Madam' or 'To Whom It May Concern'.

3. Next, add an introduction

Establish the purpose of your email with a clear introduction. Keep it concise at only one to two sentences so that you can dedicate the bulk of your writing to your main body paragraphs. You should aim to provide the reader with enough context to understand the rest of your message. Here's an example of an effective opening sentence for a job application email:

I am writing to apply for the 'Fashion Designer' position at your company.

4. write the main body

The key to a powerful business email is editing down your content so that you can get your point across in as few words as possible. Typically, professionals just scan through their messages. This means that they are likely to overlook important pieces of information if it's too wordy. Thus, when writing the main body of your email, you need to elaborate on your introduction efficiently. Here are a few tips for you to consider:

  • Structure your main body using three paragraphs or fewer

  • Use bullet points for instructions

  • Use bold and italic fonts to draw attention to different content

  • Use colours, such as red or blue, to highlight important points

  • Use the yellow highlighter to make key points stand out

Related: Email Examples: How to Respond to an Employer Interview Request

5. Add a closing

The closing of your email should contain a call to action. It could be as simple as requesting them to respond to your email within a certain timeframe. However, if it's you who are responding to an email inquiry, end with a sentence that gives the writer an opportunity to clarify their points, such as 'hope I have sufficiently addressed your concerns.' Keeping the lines of communication open helps maintain productivity and reduces human error.

Before you sign-off, remember to thank the recipient. Being a gracious professional is key to nurturing relationships in the workplace.

6. Finish with a signature and salutation

In your business email signature, state your name, followed by your job title and company name. In this section, some organisations may also mention notable accolades, such as industry awards, to boost their credibility. Most email programs will allow you to save this template so that you can reuse it in every email correspondence. Here's a brief example of a standard email signature:

Best regards,
Martin Ho
Human Resources Manager
ABC Recruitment Firm
Recruitment Firm of the Year, 2020

Tips for composing a concise email

The following are some crucial tips to consider when composing a business email:

  • Focus on the principal topic. Write with a simple goal in mind to improve the coherency of your message. Try to decide on the most relevant information the recipient needs to know to elicit an effective response or action.

  • Keep a positive tone. Despite what you think about the person or feel about the situation, it's always best to maintain professionalism in your email correspondence. This way, you can maintain a cordial business relationship that can prove useful for future partnerships.

  • Proofread your email. Think about if you can phrase your message more concisely. Edit it for spelling, grammar and structural mistakes. An error-free email creates a good impression and ensures the recipient takes you seriously.

  • Remember to follow up. Most people receive several emails a day, so it's possible to overlook or forget yours. Sending a quick follow-up email will help prompt their reply.

Business email format examples

The following are examples of the correct email format for different situations in business:

Networking email

Here's an email example that you can use to introduce yourself to a new business client or customer:

Subject Line: Limited Time Offer: Unlimited Data Plan

Dear Ms. Man,

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to reach out to share XYZ Technology's latest internet provider services. Please find an overview of our Business Broadband package below.

  • Fast connection, secure connectivity and comprehensive coverage

  • Unlimited data services per user per month

  • Up to 1,000 Mbps internet speed

  • 24-month subscription plan

  • 24/7 customer services hotline and live chat

The package begins at $130 per user per month. If you're interested, please feel free to reply to this email. Thank you for your time.

Best regards,
Angela Lai
Customer Services Manager
XYZ Technology
Top Internet Service Provider in Hong Kong

Follow-up email

Here's an example of a follow-up email:

Subject Line: Re: Meeting with ABC Communications

Dear Mr. Tam,

I wanted to confirm our meeting for this Thursday. Please let me know if you are still available to meet at Landmark Hotel at 11:00 am.

Looking forward to seeing you there. Thank you.

Best regards,
Andrew Chan
Account Executive
ABC Communications

Related: Follow-Up Email Examples For After the Interview

Group email

The following example is for an email that you want to send to multiple recipients at the same time:

Subject Line: Thank you, team!

Dear team,

I wanted to send a quick email thanking you for your hard work during the conference yesterday. Each of you did an amazing job!

I think what sets us apart as a team is our drive to always improve. Thus, here are a few pointers I think we can pay closer attention to in our next conference:

  • Starting registration 30 minutes earlier so that we don't have to rush

  • Printing extra event schedules to keep on the registration table

  • Taking staggered lunch breaks to ensure we have enough personnel on the event floor

Thank you team, for continually giving me your best. Keep up the outstanding work!

Best regards,
Phoebe Leung
Events Director
ABC Event Services

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: Explore Examples for a Reply to a Thank-You Email (And Steps)

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