Her Guide To Life

An Unofficial Guide to Staying Sane(ish) in your 20s

Sunday, 7 May 2017

BEDIM 6: Her Guide To... Writing A Professional Email


I recently ran a competition at work for art students to win a load of practical art books and money for themselves and their university. This meant that a LOT of the past two months have been emailing students, and let me tell you - students do NOT know how to email. And it's actually, definitely not their fault. Yes, you can analyse the main themes of The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock until you go to bed dreaming of T.S. Eliot's raspy voice, but you never, ever get lessons in uni on how to do something... useful. Like send a professional email and not make a tit of yourself. From signing off with 'Yours sincerely', not using paragraph breaks and starting with 'To Whomever It May Concern', I'm here to be the patronizing adult that I sadly am nowadays and outline How To Do An Email.

Keep it short, sharp and simple


The point of a email is that - that there's a point. You're either asking for something, or delivering something. Stick to short sentences, with simple language - nobody wants to read three paragraphs of your waffle about how you found this email address before you get to the point.
Picture credit: @charlubby

'Yours sincerely/faithfully' is for a letter


Signing off. Should be simple, is often over complicated. Stick to three phrases: 'Thanks, Hannah', 'Best, Hannah', or 'Kind regards, Hannah'. If you think you've come to the end of your correspondence, 'Best wishes' is nice, too.

Turn your CV and covering letter into a PDF


There is nothing worse than opening a CV to find half of it underlined in red or green. Turn it from a Word document into a PDF so that it isn't blindingly obvious by the red underline where the row of 'aaaaaaaaa' in white is that you inserted to make your address all line up. You know what I'm talking about.

Add your attachments first


Nothing, NOTHING worse than the split second after you press 'send', realising that you haven't attached the CV that you slaved over for five hours for your dream job. Especially if you spent half your personal profile going on about how great your attention to detail is.


Picture credit: @charlubby

Read it back, then cut it down 20%


Your first draft of an email is going to contain some drivel whilst you're working through your train of thought. That's fine - but read it back afterwards, work out the point of each sentence, and redraft. Stephen King says in On Writing that your second draft of a novel should be 20% shorter than the first - this totally works for emails too. Stick to what you need to say and make sure your tone is polite.

Always, always say thank you


'Thanks for getting in touch.' 'Thanks for your quick reply.' 'Thanks for this'. It doesn't matter if it's your millionth speculative email you've received about work experience, always, ALWAYS say thanks. And if the shoe's on the other foot and you're the one asking for work experience, 'thanks for your time' before signing off will always go down well.

Go forth and smash that professional correspondence!


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