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Professional Email Etiquette 

December 9, 2020

When communicating with professors, supervisors or other superiors, it is essential that you are communicating professionally. Your writing must be well thought out, concise and grammatically correct. Whether you are asking a simple question about a homework assignment, applying for a job or requesting an appointment, using a respectful tone and formal language is more likely to produce a timely, helpful response. It can be tempting to write an email the same way you would write a text message. Learning to write a clear and professional email is a skill that will serve you well the rest of your life!

Below are best practices for effective communication and proper email etiquette. You will also find a basic email template, as well as a sample email.

Include a direct subject line.
Think of the subject line of your email as a title for the content. It should be direct, self-explanatory and properly capitalized. We recommend including your course number and session in the subject line. For example, if you are writing to ask a question about the upcoming final exam, the email subject line should be something like, “Chapters on the Final Exam (HIST 383)” or “Format of Final Exam (ENG 1120)”.

Use a proper greeting and closing.
When communicating via email, use a formal greeting such as, “Dear Professor Brown” or “Good afternoon, Mrs. Smith”. You should also close the email in a respectful manner. The following closings are dependable: Best, Thank you, All the best, Sincerely. When signing the email, include your full name.

Format the email correctly.
Use a black, 12-point font in Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial. The first line of the email should include a formal greeting followed by a line break then the first sentence of the first paragraph. Use line breaks between each paragraph. Follow the last paragraph with a line break then the closing.

Write concisely and effectively.
The first sentence of your email should include a nicety such as, “I hope this message finds you well!” or “I hope you had a wonderful weekend.” In doing so, you set a warm yet professional tone for the rest of the message. Use exclamation points sparingly. Be sure that the email is no longer than two paragraphs and includes all relevant information. For example, if you are requesting a meeting with an advisor, include a few windows of time that work for you. Ensure that you are using full sentences, proper grammar and punctuation and that you are not including unnecessary information.

Add the email address last.
By adding the recipient’s email address last, you avoid potentially sending the email before it is ready to be sent. Copy and paste the email address, if possible. Double check that the email address is correct before sending.

Read over the email at least once before sending. Better yet, ask a family member or friend to review the email. It is helpful to read the email aloud when you proofread. Ensure that the subject line reads well and that there are no grammatical or spelling errors. If you are ever unsure of how to best phrase your email, reach out to your tnAchieves Coach for help!


Email Template – Asking for Help:
Subject – College Study Smarts

Hi, Professor ____!

I hope this email finds you well. My name is ____ and I am a student in your _____ class (insert course name and section). I have some questions about _______ (include an overview of what you are asking) and would like to discuss them with you. What is the best way to schedule some time with you? I am available _____ (insert a few dates and times that you would be available for a 30 minute meeting). Please let me know what works best!


______ (insert your full name)

Sample Email:
Subject – Question on Textbook Chapter 3 (MATH 110) 

Good morning, Professor Brown,

I hope this message finds you well! I am a student in section three of your MATH 110 class and have a question about our recent reading. I am having trouble with problems 11-13 on page 114 of our textbook and would like some clarificaiton on the subject. Are we supposed to simply answer the questions on our homework, or would you rather us show all steps of the problem? I look forward to hearing from you!


Jane Smith