Professional Email Etiquette

We all have to do it… the professional email. Whether you’re in college, applying for a job, emailing your new work team or boss, email has become an innovation that has replaced correspondence globally, in most professional, and even informal settings. As a population that communicates in this manner, daily, there should be some basic guidelines as how to convey whatever message needs to be sent out. Listed below you’ll find basic etiquette for writing both formal and informal professional emails that will really wow whoever is on the receiving end.


  1. Use a professional email address:
    1. Most of the time (if not all the time) you should be using your company/institution’s email address that has been provided to you. This way it is very clear that the message isn’t spam, or something else that could potentially not be opened by the recipient. It is also a good idea to set yourself up a private address (Gmail, Hotmail, msn, etc.) so that you can maintain a professional feel when sending email correspondence.
  2. Use a clear subject line:
    1. Your subject should never be vague and should include vocabulary that fits the situation being written about. If you’re asking a question, use terms like “inquiry,” or “questions regarding…” This lets your reader know right away what the mail is about before they open it.
  3. Don’t put in the recipient’s email address until you’re done with the email:
    1. This will ensure that you won’t accidently send the email before it’s exactly how you want it. The last thing you want is to have to send another email telling them you made a mistake, and “here’s the rest of the information.” Save yourself the trouble and add in th address last.
  4. Professional Salutations:
    1. Salutations can change depending on who you are corresponding with. For generalized greetings, use “Hi” or “Hello.” These two greetings are proper and should be used consistently, unless your specific company/institution requires something else. Use people’s titles: Dr. Smith… or Bill? Michael or Mike? This all depends on how well you know them, what they prefer, and your position in reference to them. If you are emailing a professor, or your boss, be as formal as you can be. If they have a Ph.D. call them Dr. If you know they prefer to be called Michael instead of Mike, don’t call them Mike.
  5. Reply or Reply All?
    1. When dealing with mass emails it is always important to check whether you’re replying to just the sender or replying to all who received the email. This is the difference between reply and reply all. If you have questions for the sender, hit reply, if you want to add on to what the sender emailed everyone, hit reply all. What really matters is how many people do you want to see what you thought you were just replying back to the sender. Don’t embarrass yourself unnecessarily by not checking who you’re replying to.
  6. Don’t scream at people!!!!!!!
    1. The excessive use of capital lettering and or exclamation points can send the wrong message. Be calm and collected with your writing and it will come across that way.
  7. Avoid humor:
    1. Spoken word to written word loses something; tone. Even if you’re the most hilarious human being on earth, that can all be lost through an email, and it can come across as you being a completely insensitive jerk. It’s just best to be straight to the point with your thoughts and avoid trying to say anything funny.
  8. Proof read everything:
    1. Not to sound overly harsh, but misspelled words, wrong words, etc., make people automatically judge things like your intelligence, and your authority. In a world where first impressions mean so much, don’t let someone automatically think you’re an idiot, just because you couldn’t be bothered to proof read your own work.
  9. Be a caring individual:
    1. If someone needs clarification on something in an email you sent them, respond to them with your clarification and a follow up of “does this help?” or “let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” This allows for your emails to be incredibly productive, and for correspondence to move along quickly.
  10. Remember, the internet is not confidential:
    1. Using a company/institution’s email server? Remember, that doesn’t belong to you, and if someone wants to see it, there’s an avenue to do so. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want others to see, as forwarding an email takes one click of the button. So, whether you hate your coworker, your boss, or your job in general, just keep it to yourself. Writing it down in an email and sending it out could very well cost you your job.
  11. Format your email so it’s easy to read:
    1. People won’t read huge blocks of text in emails. They just won’t… and if you have multiple things to talk about, it is a great idea to have each individual thought/goal/reminder in a separate paragraph. This way your email is readable and trackable. If you need, use bullet points or numbers. If things are clearly spelled out and formatted properly, there’s no mystery as to what you want.
  12. Get a signature block:
    1. This is your sign off, and will give the recipient some extra info on you, like your title/position, extra contact info, etc. There are templates all over the internet, so go find yourself one that fits your personality/job position.
  13. Send it to the right person:
    1. After you have proof read your email and it’s absolutely perfect, make sure the email address you’re sending it to is the person it’s supposed to go to. The last thing you want is for your mail to never arrive, so double, triple check the address is correct so that it can be received by the right person.
  14. Reply promptly:
    1. No one likes waiting around for a response, so a great habit to get into is to set aside a period of time every day to respond to all the email you have received.


These, again, are just basic etiquette guidelines for being successful in your professional email endeavors. Email is the mail of the present and future, and as the internet grows, it will stick around. Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success by writing emails that are as professional sounding as they look, and you’ll be the star of the office (or whatever you do). Please provide your feedback, if you have any, below in our comment section and like always, Happy Writing!


Aubrey Baucum

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