Make a good first impression. Your email address and the subject line of your email message are the first things seen by a recipient. Don’t expect to be taken seriously with an inappropriate email address like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If your regular email doesn’t convey a professional impression, use a school email account or create a new Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail account. Many professionals use an email address of the form firstname.lastname@[host].com.
Convey meaning with your subject line. Busy professionals and academics may receive dozens of email messages each day. If your subject line is vague or missing altogether, your email may be ignored or deleted without being read. Make your email subject line as specific as possible to let your recipient know that it’s worth reading. Examples include “Resume for Intern Position” and “Question About Economics Assignment.”
Avoid informality. Never use textspeak or emoticons to convey meaning. Avoid using ALL CAPS, which many people consider rude. Also avoid using only lowercase letters. Professional email correspondence should resemble written correspondence rather than the informal tone you use in emails with family and friends. Begin the message with a standard salutation, such as “Dear Ms. Jones” or “Hello Professor Adams”). Never use the recipient’s first name unless you’ve been asked to do so. End your message with your full name followed by your phone number and other contact information. If you’re unsure about the proper format to use for the body of your email, you can find all types of sample letters online.
Check before you send. Carefully proofread important emails before hitting send and don’t rely on spell check to find all errors. Make sure that you’ve spelled the recipient’s name correctly. If you tell the recipient that you’re including an attachment, don’t forget to attach it! Give attachment documents meaningful titles that identify the subject matter and author. Most recipients will appreciate attachments that are in PDF format that can be opened and printed on a variety of computers.
Avoid fancy fonts and backgrounds. Use a professional font like Times New Roman, black text and a plain white background for professional-looking email. If you use the signature feature of your email system, including a favorite quotation is fine for personal email but should not be used for professional correspondence.
Never underestimate the importance of professional correspondence. There’s no guarantee that a well-written email will get you a job or academic recommendation, but a poorly written one can definitely put your name on the rejection list.