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 webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its 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. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians 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 one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.