The 9 Do's and Don’ts of Professional Email Etiquette

By Megan Johnson on October 16, 2013


Professional emails differ from the casual emails you send to friends and family members. Professional emails take time, care and editing to be worth reading and responding to.

As you apply to grad school, contact potential employers or email professionals in general, adhere to the follow 9 do’s and don’ts of professional email etiquette.

1. DO use a professional email address.

It is time to get rid of the “cool” email address you used as a kid (my old screen-name was writerchik14) and opt for a more professional looking email address. Choose something that includes your name so that it will be easy to remember and not be confused with spam or junk mail. In addition, people will have trouble taking emails like “Iamawesome332” seriously.

Email services such as Gmail and Yahoo allow you to create an email account at zero cost. Also, consider using your school email address which will show your status as a student.

2. DO fill in your subject line with something meaningful.

You must fill in the subject line of your email with text that means something to the recipient. The subject line needs to tell the reader what is included in the email in a specific, yet simple manner.

Make your subject line definitive. For example, if you are emailing someone about renewing a parking pass, you would write “renewal of parking pass” instead of just “parking pass.” If you are applying for a job, use the position that you are applying for as the subject. If you are requesting an interview, put something to this effect in the subject line.

3. DO NOT leave your subject line blank.

Leaving the subject line blank could result in your email going unopened. The reader may assume the subject of the message was not important enough for you to put in the subject line and thus assume reading the email is not worth their time.

People who do not know you may not read your email if the subject line is blank, because in the eyes of the recipient, your email could contain viruses.

4. DO NOT use text-speak.

Avoid using text acronyms or abbreviations in professional emails. Professional emails are just that—professional. Why would you email a potential employer using incorrect spelling and short-hand phrases when you are trying to work for this person?

You need to demonstrate knowledge of English writing skills. If you want to type “please” in a professional email, type the word; do not use the shorthand “plz.” Text-speak has no place in professional communication.

5. DO be brief.

Compose short paragraphs in your emails over long blocks of dense text. Make your email easy to read and to scan for important points. State your main point in the opening sentence of your email and stay concise throughout the body of the email.

Be polite but concise and direct by coming straight to the point. If your message runs longer than three short paragraphs, revise your message or add an attachment to your email.

Think about it this way—have you ever received an email from your university that took an extremely lengthy route to explain a change in policy? Pretend that when you send long emails to professionals, this is how they feel. Chances are they will not read the entire email and may miss your important points.

6. DO add a signature block.

The addition of a signature block to the end of your email, including your name, email address, and phone number, looks professional. Many email programs will let you save a signature that will automatically be placed at the end of your outgoing emails.

With an application like WiseStamp you can create signatures with add-ons, including links to your social network profiles or blog feeds. Here you can create different signatures for different types of correspondence. However, I would not recommend using too many graphics in a professional email or you risk looking unprofessional.

Photo by Search Engine People Blog on

7. DO NOT use all capital or all lower-case letters.

Typing your email in “all caps” gives the impression that you are shouting, an impression you do not want to give to potential employers and professionals. Likewise, typing an email using all lower-case letters makes it seem that you do not grasp the basic structure of writing sentences.

Compose your email as if you were writing a letter on actual paper (remember snail mail?).

8. DO use proper English.

Use proper grammar and punctuation in your email. Eliminate slang and abbreviations to maintain clarity. Remember, this is not a casual email to a friend; this is an email to someone that may grant you admission into graduate school or eventually pay your salary.

9. DO NOT click send before editing.

Proofread, proofread, proofread. And when you have done that, proofread again. Small mistakes show carelessness to your reader. A few quick scans before you hit send will ensure your email is error-free and professional. Take pride in everything you write.

I once sent an email to a company I was interviewing with the name of the company spelled wrong. Imagine my embarrassment when my interviewee pointed out the error to me. Had I taken a few seconds to edit my email, I would have caught this error. Avoid embarrassment–edit!

Follow these tips to enhance your professional email etiquette writing skills.

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