A title card which says, "The Only 4 Business Email Formats That You Ever Really Need."

We’ve all been there.  You sit down at your desk to email a customer or a coworker and you can’t even get past the subject line before you draw a blank.

It’s not what you should say that gives you trouble.  You probably already know who you want to talk to.  It’s how you should summarize your thoughts so that they’re easy for someone else to understand.

This is a problem that plagues professional emails.

Your business email format needs to fit the situation and get to the point quickly so that readers can grasp your ideas.  Your message can’t be too long, and your ideas need to be easy for others to recognize.

But here’s the thing.  A lot of people try to get fancy with their emails.  Realistically, that just leads to confusion.

So, today, we’re going to cover four business email formats that you can use to send professional emails.  These email templates can boost your business communication and ensure that readers pay attention from subject line to sign-off.

As an added bonus, 95% of the time, one of these formats will get the job done.

Ready?  Let’s take a look.

01. The Classic

If you’ve ever taken a business class or you’ve looked up tips on writing emails, you already know how this format works.  The classic business email consists of the following:

  • Subject line
  • Salutation
  • Three short paragraphs
  • Signoff
  • An email signature

This is the easiest and most straightforward email that you’ll ever write.  It’s simple, effective, and familiar.  It’s also great at getting the purpose of your email across to the reader.

Everyone from entry-level employees to C-suite executives uses this format when corresponding in a formal or semi-formal way when they email clients, coworkers, or bosses.

Here’s an email example of this timeless business email format in action:

An example of the "Classic" email.

02. The 3-Pointer

Sometimes, you need something with a bit more style than the classic template — especially when you consider that an average user could receive up to 122 emails per day.

This email format replaces the middle paragraph with three main bullet points that you can use to highlight the purpose of your email.  It goes like this:

  • Subject line
  • Salutation
  • Introductory paragraph
  • Bullet point paragraph
  • Conclusion paragraph
  • Signoff
  • An email signature

Bullet points are powerful tools in business writing and can help you build an effective email that is easy for customers to read and understand.

To understand how effective this is, check out the email below.  

Despite the short sentences and the quick email subject line, notice how your eye goes immediately to the bullet points in the middle of the email.  

Knowing where the reader’s eyes will go first can be a huge advantage when writing your email message.  Use that to your advantage.

At the same time, keep in mind that email formatting is tricky. Keep your bullet points short and sweet to avoid formatting errors that make them difficult to read.

Here’s an example of the 3-pointer in action:

An example of the "3 Pointer" email.

There’s an alternative version of the 3-pointer format:  The 5-pointer.  This format uses five bullet points instead of three.  

In many cases, the two additional bullet points make sense as long as they’re short and sweet.  Consider why you’re writing the email in the first place and whether that extra information is necessary for the reader.

If so, add two more points.  If three does the job, stop there instead.

03. The Recap

One of the fastest and easiest ways to send off an email is to use the recap.  The idea for this type of email is pretty simple:  You want to recap a meeting or conversation and get that into the inbox of your email recipient.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Subject line
  • Salutation
  • Introductory paragraph
  • 1-3 summary paragraphs
  • Conclusion paragraph
  • Signoff
  • An email signature

All you’re really doing here is recapping a conversation that you had with the recipient or someone relevant to them and passing that information along.  

If you’re working in an office environment, this is a great email to send after a meeting.  Practice your writing skills by summarizing your notes and emailing the meeting recap to all relevant individuals.

Unlike some of the more formal email styles on this list, the recap is short, sweet, and simple.  The bulk of the content will actually be the recap itself!  Here it is in action:

An example of the "Recap" email.

While this is a good email to send as part of your typical correspondence, you can also send it as a first-time email if you’re recapping a conversation with an associate.

Imagine that I wanted to use the language that I demoed in “The Classic” example (above) right here.  To do that, I would recap the conversation with Melanie and then use that as an invitation to connect with John about his website.  It’s a little unconventional, but it still works!

04.  The Short and Sweet

I like using short and sweet emails to get straight to the point when I’m sending an email.  The reason is pretty simple:  I’m busy, other people are busy, and nobody wants to see a novel sitting in their inbox.

That’s why I use a short and sweet email about 70% of the time.  I do it for potential new clients, for existing clients, and for email marketing.

Plus, plain text emails get higher open rates than HTML-based emails, and this format is great for that.

So how do you make a short and sweet email?  To do that, you need:

  • Subject line
  • Salutation
  • 2-5 sentences
  • Signoff (Optional)
  • An email signature

This email eliminates a lot of the build-up and pointless lead-ins that writers sometimes use to reach their point.  Instead, this email cuts straight to the heart of the issue without taking any detours.

Here’s what it looks like:

An example of the "Short and Sweet" email.

While this is a good email to send as part of your typical correspondence, you can also send it as a first-time email if you’re recapping a conversation with an associate.

Imagine that I wanted to use the language that I demoed in “The Classic” example (above) right here.  To do that, I would recap the conversation with Melanie and then use that as an invitation to connect with John about his website.  It’s a little unconventional, but it still works!

Double-Check the Details!

Regardless of how you go about sending emails, you should always make sure that you’ve taken care of the basics before you press that send button.

  • Ensure that that you proofread for typos.
  • Put capital letters where they should be — not just at the start of sentences, but in company names and surnames.
  • Add your full name, job title, phone number, and other contact information to your email signature.
  • Don’t go crazy with exclamation points or emoticons.

Sending a business letter or email doesn’t have to be a massive headache.  Stick to the basics, focus on getting your point across, and everything else should fall into place.

What About Everything Else?

The four business email formats listed above can get you through about 95% of the business situations you’ll encounter on a daily basis.

If you use the classic format for an introductory email, the short and sweet format is great for a follow-up. Need to summarize something that someone else said?  Send a recap-style email.  Want to make sure that your boss understands what you’re proposing?  A 3-pointer may be just the thing.

Sure, there are other types of emails out there, but you’ll never even need to think about them most of the time.

If you’re looking for something more complex, like an email drip campaign or a long-form sales email, get in touch!  I’d be happy to help out.

Marc "Scott" Summers | © 2020