You don’t have to be the next Ernest Hemingway to write a powerful and effective business email. Even for those who think of writing with a roll of the eyes, there are some simple formulas you can follow that can make your next email come to life.

1. When to write.

Knowing when an email is appropriate is a good place to start. Emails are still the norm in business circles, even in an age of texting and Facebook instant messages. Anytime you are looking to network with someone, inquire about work, or anything involving your professional life, stick with email. If you feel more comfortable speaking on the phone, you can articulate this in your introduction and offer your phone number.

2. How to structure.

Taking the time to craft an email can be the difference between getting the job, making the connection, building the relationship, or getting ignored.

It’s easy these days to just shoot off a note, but this can work against you in the business world. Here’s how you can show you’re intelligently engaged and informed:

  • Greeting: This is your opener. “Hello Mr. Smith.” Avoid more casual greetings like “Hi” or “Hey.”
  • Give a compliment: Offer a personal compliment. That might be, “I enjoyed meeting you yesterday,” or, “I was impressed with your LinkedIn profile, and inspired to reach out to you.” If it’s a referral, it could be something like, “I recently spoke with Jane Smith, who had great things to say about working with you.” This shows you’re interested in them as a person, not just a means to an end (like a job).
  • Show knowledge of the company: “You work for Hirepurpose, which I know has been ranked as one of the top 50 places to work.” You can research the company online, including on its website, to learn more about it.
  • Explain why you emailed: Make this brief and to the point: “I’m writing because I wanted to learn more about the position of manager at Hirepurpose,” or, “I’m currently looking to expand my career options, and looking for mentors to help me to build my professional network. I would love to speak with you briefly, about this.”
  • Give a call to action: If you didn’t say what you wanted them to do in step four, be sure to include it. For example, “Are you currently still accepting applications for this position?” or, “I would love to have just a few minutes of your time to talk about this. Please let me know if you have the time and interest.”
  • Close: Thank them and close briefly.

3. Make yourself sound interesting.

If you’re writing about a job or to create a professional connection, you can discreetly make yourself stand out a little, which would fall under step four. For instance, what’s something that is unique about you that you could share, briefly?

As a member of the United States military, you have some things to offer that can make you stand apart from civilians, if you phrase things properly. For instance:

“When I served in Afghanistan, I learned how to bring a team of extraordinarily socially diverse people together to accomplish a complex mission in a high-stress environment.” This shows you served overseas, you’re experienced and thoughtful, and you’re team oriented. Not bad for a single sentence.

Or you might say something like, “Through a distinguished military career, I learned that my success was always tied to my willingness to reach out to mentors like yourself.” This shows humility while also paying the person you are writing a compliment.

4. Be professional.

It’s best to write the way you would speak to a superior. Read your email out loud before you send it. The flow of the email should be somewhere between conversational and formal.

Being professional also means minding the details. Use proper grammar and word usage (“they’re” versus “their”). Never use emoticons, slang, or acronyms like LOL. Always double check the spelling of the person’s name, because Deborah isn’t the same as Debra, John isn’t Jon, and Mr. DeMatto isn’t Mr. Dematto.

5. When to respond.

Reply to any response you received from a company within 24 hours, even negative ones. Be as polite as you can, because you never know when another opportunity might come up in the future.

Specifically, thank them: “Thank you for the response.” Repeat what they told you, such as, “I understand that the position isn’t available any longer,” or, “I understand that my qualifications were not the best match for the position.”

Ask them to keep you in mind, “Please do let me know if anything changes.” Close with another thanks. “Thank you again for considering me.”