As a student or professional, you will invariably run into the need to write a professional email to address your educational and/or career pursuits.
Email is a universal communication tool across all industries. Even if you get a job in which you don’t think email is used, you may be surprised to find yourself using it one day.
To help you overcome some struggles that you may encounter in your email writing, we’ve created a list of email etiquette tips. These will help you write strong, professional messages to get your business done.
- If you’re a student, we cannot stress this enough: Check your student email, or have it automatically forward to an inbox you check frequently—like, at least daily.
- If you’re sending a message from a personal account, use a business-appropriate email address. For example:
- firstname.lastname@example.org is not good. Try creating a new free account with an address that is based on your name instead.
- Don’t use someone else’s email to communicate about your own business. It can be confusing when you sign at the bottom, and your name isn’t what’s in the email address.
Writing Your Message:
Include a clear and precise subject line. Don’t be overly detailed and unclear. And don’t leave your subject line blank! Examples:
- YES: “Question About Registration” or “Employee Benefits Enrollment Question”
- NO: “Why culdn’t I registr for general psychology at 2pm on thursdaes with Professor Snape. I don’t understand I need ur help”
Only “reply all” if actually necessary. Ask yourself what this email is meant to accomplish—if the answer is “nothing,” do you really need to send it?
Respond at the top of the email thread, in the response panel that opens when clicking “reply.”
Always include a greeting. (For example: “Buenos días!” “Hello,” “Benvenuti!” or “Félicitations!”)
Be concise with your writing. Get your point across in as few words as possible. Don’t make people read a long paragraph before they get to your point.
Don’t be afraid to try different formatting options to better communicate your message. Examples include:
- bullet points
Don’t make assumptions. For example, don’t assume someone’s gender. And don’t assume everyone remembers all the details of a prior meeting. You may need to reiterate key points.
Protect yourself! Don’t share your personal identifying information, unless you are certain you are sharing only your minimum necessary personal information in a secure electronic setting.
- Important note: Don’t send your social security number over email. And be extra careful when sharing your birthday, address, banking information and family demographic information with others over email, text, or phone!
Be polite and respectful – use “please” and “thank you.”
- Don’t write in anger. Wait a day to respond if you’re upset about something.
- No all caps. All caps reads like YOU ARE YELLING AT THE READER.
For school-related emails, include your name and student ID.
For work-related emails, include your professional contact information—usually at least a phone number.
- Proofread to yourself to make sure your message makes sense and includes any necessary attachments before clicking “Send.”
- Double-check before sending that you did not accidentally select “Reply All” to a group of people, when you are intending to “Reply” to a single person.
- For matters that are not time sensitive, please wait 1-2 business days before following up.
Here are a couple of examples designed to show you what works—and what doesn’t—in the email format.
To: My Future Boss
i got loked out of my hr account. her is my social – 000-00-0000. Plz fix.
To: My Future Boss
Subject: Can you assist with my locked account?
Thank you so much for helping me through getting started at ABC company! Unfortunately, I’ve run into a problem with my HR account and now seem to be locked out. Can you please help me with regaining access?
If I need to contact the HR department directly, I can do so as soon as possible – please let me know if this step is needed.
It’s OK to Ask for Help
Please note these aren’t the only tips out there, and they may not apply in every email. When in doubt, ask your advisor, instructor—or a friend or mentor—for help.
And it’s always a good idea to ask a friend or family member to proofread important emails before sending. Getting advice from a trusted source will help you build your effective email communication skills!
We hope you find these tips and examples helpful. Happy emailing!
This blog post was co-written by Rebecca Hubbard, assistant director for online advising and retention at FRCC.