The Art of the Professional Email

What’s appropriate to put in an email? Have you ever spent hours writing and rewriting, obsessing over just what wording to use? Or maybe you fall into a less extreme category where thoughts about writing don’t keep you up at night. Either way, email etiquette is an important skill to have, not just for college but for the rest of your working life. Here are a few tips on how to maintain a professional tone in an email:


The Opener: Make sure to adequately address the reader. There’s a difference between Doctor and Professor; if you don’t know which to use, ask your teacher which title they prefer (or check the syllabus or email signatures from the teacher). If you aren’t exactly sure who your reader is, do some research. For example, if you’re applying to a job, try to find out who reviews the applications. As a last resort, “to whom it may concern” is acceptable.

Punctuation: As a fairly enthusiastic person, my first draft of an email usually contains a hearty dose of exclamation points. However, when trying to maintain professionality, having tons of them can completely change the tone of an email. Before you choose to use an exclamation point, stop and think: if I put a period here, could it change how the message is read? Put yourself on an exclamation point budget and you’ll be in the clear!

General Mechanics: It should go without saying that your email needs to be well edited. Nothing makes a reader question a source’s credibility like a typo. Make sure to turn the spell-check option on and read through your email a few times before sending.

The Content: Don’t assume that the reader knows everything. If you are asking about homework for a class, be sure to provide your full name, the class name, and the section. If you identify yourself fully, it leaves no room for confusion and allows the reader to understand the rest of your message more fully.

The Sign-off: Again, identify yourself. It looks good to attach a set signature to the bottom of all your emails, and it’s an easy way to give the reader all the information they need. In the signature, include important information about yourself, such as university, graduating year, and any titles you have. See the example below:

Abbey Foucart

CUPID Associate

Elon University, Class of ‘17


For more information specifically on writing emails to teachers, check out Purdue OWL’s tips.

That’s it! Now go forth confidently into the internet world and send those emails!

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