How to Reply to a Business Email

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Carefully crafting a reply to a business email –– whether from a client, prospect, boss or coworker –– can make all the difference in ensuring the desired reaction and response.

Step 1: Understand the Writer

Carefully look at who wrote the email since this plays a role in the level of formality you use to respond. For instance, email etiquette expert Lindsay Pollak suggests responding to an email that uses formal language by using similar formal and polite language. If the sender uses an informal tone, use a more relaxed tone, but keep it professional.

Step 2: Determine the Outcome

Figure out what action you want the reader to take once you respond. For instance, if you're sending a response to a prospect, you want them to buy. However, if you're sending a reply to your boss, you want her to think you're professional and capable. Replies to people about customer service issues should result in a happy customer who feels his needs were met.

Tip

  • Wait until you've calmed down to respond to a controversial email.

Step 3: Describe the Outcome in Sentence 1

Use the first sentence of your response to describe what you want to achieve, suggests Geoffrey James, a contributing editor at Inc. For instance, if a customer sends an email with a complaint, use your first sentence to say that you want to resolve the issue so the customer feels happy and satisfied with the purchase.

Step 4: Make Your Points

Now it's time to explain how you plan to make your first sentence happen. Use small paragraphs to make your points. James recommends using evidence to back up the ideas you describe in your response. Depending on the topic and action needed, evidence can be as simple as pointing out a fact or as extensive as providing multiple details specific to the topic. For instance, if your boss asks why you want an expense approved, provide a fact or two about how approving the expense will benefit the department or company in general.

Step 5: Provide a Call to Action

Use your final sentence to restate what you want the reader to do next. This sentence should go hand-in-hand with your opening paragraph. For instance, to make your customer happy, explain the step you're willing to take to resolve the issue.

Step 6: Sign Off

Finally, use sign-off words, such as "Best" or "Thank you" so the recipient knows they've reached the end of the email, suggests Forbes staff writer Susan Adams. Add your name, and include your business signature in all emails. The signature should include your full name, company name and contact information, including phone number and website address.

Tip

  • Proofread and spell check your email before hitting the "send" button. Otherwise, mistakes may make you look sloppy and unprofessional.

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