How to Answer a Business E-mail

Avoid writing e-mails in a rush to give yourself time to read them before sending.

Avoid writing e-mails in a rush to give yourself time to read them before sending.

E-mail has grown into a primary means of communication for businesses, and it may be the only way many customers and collaborators will communicate with you, so the professional image you present in e-mails is important. Taking a few moments to reflect on the context of every e-mail can prevent you from making embarrassing blunders and help you to reflect a positive persona to people who may be making decisions for raises and promotions.

Respond to an e-mail within 24 to 48 hours of receiving it, depending on the priority and the effort required in your response. However, do not reply to an e-mail if action is not required. Flooding people's inboxes with e-mails amounting to nothing more than, "Got it. Thanks." can cause them to miss other e-mails with important information or required action.

Include both a greeting and salutation in your e-mail. They help to define, at a glance, who sent the e-mail and who is the primary recipient. This becomes important as more people are included in e-mail conversations. For people you do not know well, use a more formal greeting such as "Dear Dr. Jones," or "Dear Sarah Smith." You may shorten this to a first name as you develop a professional relationship with the recipient. Similarly, close with a more formal salutation such as "Sincerely," or "Warm Regards." You may omit this and simply sign your name in less formal e-mails.

Include a professional signature including your job title, division and full contact information.

Do not "reply to all" when there are blind carbon copy -- "bcc" -- recipients without first obtaining the permission of the original sender.

Write the body of your e-mail in a concise manner, limiting yourself to a few short paragraphs. Attach additional information as e-mail file attachments. Use professional language, avoiding the use of jargon, emoticons, exclamation marks, slang or unexplained abbreviations. Include blank lines between paragraphs to make them easier to read.

Indicate when there are attachments included in your e-mail or when you add additional recipients. For example, "I have attached last quarter's results as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet," or "I have cc'd Deborah Smith from accounting to bring her into the loop on the budget issues."

Never include confidential or proprietary information in an e-mail.


  • Some e-mail program can be formatted to automatically include a signature with your contact information. This can be deleted to save space when it is not needed.

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Chris Daniels covers advances in nutrition and fitness online. Daniels has numerous certifications and degrees covering human health, nutritional requirements and sports performance. An avid cyclist, weightlifter and swimmer, Daniels has experienced the journey of fitness in the role of both an athlete and coach.

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