What are the keys to writing a professional email? Hear from the experts.

While sending an email doesn’t feel as serious as writing a letter or memo, knowing the proper way to send an email is crucial no matter what prospective field you will enter following graduation. People get hundreds of emails a day and won’t take the time to read through each one, so knowing what to include and how to frame the content of the email will help you and your readers in the long run.

“People will delete or close an email if they can’t very quickly determine what the email has to do with them and why it is in their interest to read it,” said Catherine Gouge, associate professor in the West Virginia University Department of English and lead advisor of the Medical Humanities and Health Studies minor. “If your audience doesn’t read what you write, you can’t be successful in achieving the purpose of the communication.”

1. Know what to include in the subject line

The subject line of an email is arguably the most important piece. If your subject line isn’t intriguing, the reader will probably not bother opening the message. Your subject line is the very first thing the reader sees and is the only information they have to decide whether the email is important or not. Sometimes when the message you’re sending is short, it will make sense to include it in the subject line. Such as, setting up meetings.

“If your subject line doesn’t seduce the reader, he may never open your message,” according to the book, “135 Tips for Writing Successful Business Documents.”

2. Use proper address

The way you address your recipient is one of the first things he or she sees before reading your message. The last thing you want to do is offend him or her before they even get to read your message.

“Proper address is very important,” Gouge said. “Always use earned titles unless specifically told it’s OK not to. Rarely are people offended by this, but they might be if someone is overly informal. Also, professional women are frequently called by first names as a default rather than earned titles, so it is especially important to be mindful that both men and women are treated, by default, with respect and that earned titles and/or other more formal address is used until some clear indication is offered that a recipient prefer something more informal.”

3. Know when to reply all and definitely know when not to

Don’t fill up others’ inboxes with unnecessary emails. Before responding to the entire email chain, ask yourself who actually needs the reply? Everyone in the email or the sender?

4. Create an easy-to-read message

Using bulleted lists and short paragraphs will be more likely to keep the reader’s attention and allow them to skim through the message. Include the who, what, when, where and how in the first paragraph to answer the questions the reader has right off the bat.

“It is very important not to include anything that is not clearly relevant and important to the recipient,” Gouge said. “Make sure to tell all recipients briefly and directly why you are writing to them and why they might benefit from responding as you hope they will. Do not consider your need for a response the primary motivating factor for recipients. In business, people tend to be very sensitive to only spending time on things that they can clearly see will benefit them or their work.”

5. Create an email signature

Creating an email signature not only saves you time by putting all of your information in one place for the reader to refer to, but it can also serve as free advertising. You should include your phone number, email address and website/other pertinent information. It’s also crucial to know the proper way to close an email.

“It’s important to close with a ‘thank you’ or other positive closing, especially if you are asking for something, which is almost always true with business emails,” Gouge said.