Writing a professional email can leave you feeling like you’re walking on eggshells. Especially if you’re new to the working world or have a few prickly coworkers. While no one email is the same, if you master a few basic and professional openings and closings and know what phrases to avoid when writing emails, you’ll soon find that you don’t have to nervously edit every email you send.
Picking up good professional habits now will make all of your following workdays so much easier. That’s why we created the only email writing guide you’ll ever need. We’re going to break down the phrases you should avoid in the opening, body, and closing of your emails—as well as what phrases you should use to make sure you nail the landing every time.
How you start an email sets the tone for your entire communication. When writing your next email, consider skipping these intros.
- Sorry to bother you. Are you sorry? Are you bothering them? Probably not. Start off all of your emails from a confident place and never use language that can convince someone they should feel bothered by you. Instead of saying “sorry to bother you”, you can say “I appreciate you taking the time to help me with this presentation before our all-hands meeting.” You can show gratitude for their collaboration without implying you did anything wrong.
- Per my last email. If you’re following up on a request, this is one of the worst ways to start your follow up email. By now, everyone knows this is a form of not so passive aggression, so instead try “I still need last quarter’s sales numbers. Can you take care of this by the end of day tomorrow?” There’s no need to beat around the bush, you can circle back to what you need without potentially causing any office drama.
- Hey. Stick with “hello” or “hi” so you don’t give off any of those “fresh out of college” vibes.
- Hey guys. Even worse than “hey” is “hey guys” if you’re emailing multiple people. It sounds too casual and while most people won’t assume you mean to exclude female colleagues, this phrase can rub some people the wrong way. Go for “Hi team” or “Hello all” instead when emailing a group.
- Hope this email finds you well. This greeting is an infamously cliche opening and one that doesn’t really benefit anyone. It comes across as something you have to say, not something you genuinely mean, so usually you’re better off just jumping straight to the point. If you want to add in some pleasantries, try to make it a bit more specific. Like—”I hope your vacation in Hawaii was really relaxing.”
As easy as it is to sweat the small things—like whether to start your email with “hello” or “hi”—it’s the meat of your email that really counts. The point of the body of your email is to clearly and concisely relay what you need to say to your recipient, whether that be a request, submitting work, or asking a question. Knowing what phrases to avoid can make the body of your email so much stronger and more effective.
You will want to pass over this language whenever possible:
- Just. The word “just” weakens your language greatly. You don’t say “I just want to check-in on the status of your deliverables.” That makes it sound like you’re apologizing or as if you feel bad about making your request. Instead you can say “I am checking in on the status of your deliverables.” This language makes it clear you expect a status update.
- Maybe. Using the term “maybe” in email communications like “Can we maybe meet on Tuesday” or “Can you maybe get your final edits to me by the end of the day”, doesn’t do you any favors. You don’t need to give someone the chance to drop the ball. You will always benefit from clearly asking what you want. They may respond with a “maybe” answer, and if they do, that’s on them.
- Apologies for the delay. Unless you truly are late on something, there’s no need to apologize in an email for not responding immediately. We live in a world where it feels expected to always be online, but in reality you don’t have to respond to someone’s email within the hour or even within the same day. So you really have nothing to apologize for in most cases.
If you write dozens of emails a day (which many of us do), it can feel like your email closings are getting stale. But just like how now one notices when you wear your favorite pair of jeans three times in a week, no one will notice if you close your email with the same turn of phrase repeatedly. Point being, choose a salutation or two that are professional and that you feel comfortable with and use them as much as you’d like. To remain professional, refrain from using these endings:
- Sincerely. You would use the word “sincerely” when writing a condolence card to a dear friend or a letter to your grandmother, not when communicating with a business colleague. This turn of phrase is way too familiar—try “best”, “regards”, or a simple “thank you”, and then you add your name.
- Love. Just in case you didn’t know, don’t ever sign off a business email by saying “love”, no matter how good of friends you are with the person receiving the other email. If you want to show some warmth in an email to someone you’re close with, you can say “warm regards”.
- Cheers. Again—this option is just too informal and personal. If you want, before you close out your email, you can add a quick line wishing them a great weekend or that you hope they enjoy that vacation they’re about to embark on, and then you can add a normal salutation.
Other Helpful Email Tips to Keep in Mind
Since we’re already on the topics of mastering email communications, let’s run through some other helpful quick tips that can make your emails as polished and effective as possible.
- Keep it brief. People tend to skim emails for high-level details, so whenever possible cut the fluff and keep your email as brief as possible. Bullet points are your friend here.
- Dive right in. Along the same theme of keeping your email brief, dive straight into your request or debriefing as quickly as possible. We’re all inundated with too many emails, so the easier you can make it for people to process what you need, the better.
- Cut the exclamation points and emojis. Written text can feel harsh, but trust us, no one will think you’re rude if you don’t use exclamation points or emojis. Professional emails don’t need to be dressed up to be considered friendly and appropriate.
- Tread lightly with reply all. Does everyone on an email chain really need you to respond to every group message with “thanks” or “got it”? Probably not. If you really want to confirm something with the sender, you can remove everyone else from your reply to save their inbox from further clutter.
- Don’t forget to set your OOO. When you’re going to be out of the office for an extended period of time, it’s important to set an out of office (OOO) message. This message should be brief and clear (this is a running theme) and should address what dates you will be out of the office and who they should contact instead if they need help immediately.
- Keep the recipient in mind. We’re not going to pretend like every single email you send at work has to meet the highest office etiquette standards. If you’re sending your work bestie a quick note about donuts being in the breakroom, it is okay to use an emoji or exclamation point. Just be careful that you don’t fall into bad habits and accidentally send too casual of an email to someone you don’t know that well or who is much higher up the chain of command than you. Email lives on forever in our digital world, so be careful what you write and who you write it to.
Best of luck with all your future email endeavors!