Don’t stress about professional emails: 3 tips for success

by Rebekah Kati, Head Editor, INALJ North Carolina

Don’t stress about professional emails: 3 tips for success

HPIM1534My first librarian job was also my first full time job.  I was excited to start – but also terrified that I would do something wrong!  One of the things that I was most anxious about was sending professional emails.  Of course I had sent many emails as a student, but I felt that writing emails as a professional would be different.

Below are three tips that I’ve learned since I started work.  Of course, workplaces will have different email cultures, but these general rules should help reduce any stress that you might have!


Make use of white space

Break up your thoughts into small chunks.  A paragraph of two to three sentences is much easier to read than a big block of text.  Also, be as concise as possible.  Your recipient likely receives many emails in a day and may not have time to read a long treatise.


Use indentation or bold text as emphasis, not caps

This probably goes without saying to such a tech savvy group, but don’t use all capital letters as emphasis.  This is considered to be equivalent to shouting.  Instead, use indentation or bold text to make your point.

Example: This text is indented!  Doesn’t it stand out?


Tone is tricky!

The hardest part of writing a professional email is tone and it takes years to perfect.  Email does not have the context obtained by body language and facial expressions, and sometimes a point intended to be firm or direct could be taken as rude or insulting to the recipient.  Whenever I need to write an email of this nature, I typically write a draft or two, and then let the email sit for awhile.  After I return, I can look at the email with a more critical and objective eye.  Also, it helps to write multiple drafts if the email is important.  Of course, one should never send an email while mad!


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.