E-mail Etiquette Tips

Looking back, I could never have anticipated how many emails I would write and receive in college. As we’re all aware, e-mail has become an essential part of every college student’s academic life. However, proper email etiquette is something that can be hard to pick up and isn’t always clear.

It was difficult for me to figure out how to properly send e-mails and word them in such a way that I did not feel like a crazy person. I’d like to share some of my tips with you in the hopes that you don’t feel like a crazy person too. Here’s a helpful list of e-mail etiquette guidelines that I have developed over my four years here at MSU.  I hope you find it useful!

  • You should be concise and to the point. This starts with a clear subject line that is straight to the point.
  • If you are sending an e-mail about a class, always make sure to include your full name, class number, and section. Ideally you should include the class number and section in your subject line. This will let your professor immediately know who you are, which can help the conversation flow naturally.
  • Recognize when e-mail might not be the appropriate medium for your conversation. In the same way that you might not want to break up with someone over the phone, there are some things that aren’t appropriate to talk about over e-mail. If this occurs, either scheduling a phone call or a meeting in real life are good solutions.
  • Be sure to pay attention to your tone; make sure you are using a tone that is appropriate for your audience and situation. This can be a tricky thing to determine, especially if you are e-mailing someone for the first time. If you aren’t sure what type of tone to use, assuming a professional tone is a good idea.
  • Do your best to be punctual with your replies. Treat an e-mail like you would a missed telephone call.
  • Keep your audience in mind. For email that means you might need to send an e-mail or a reply to multiple people, cc people, etc. Nothing is worse than sending e-mails to the wrong person and not sending them to the right person.
  • Mention what attachments you have attached and what file format they are. Make sure that the file format you choose is appropriate. For example, PDF is really good for several types of documents because it is almost universally compatible. Also, digital pictures are generally very big files that are too big to be attachments. If this occurs, you can put them on imgur.com (or a similar site) and provide the URL in your e-mail.
  • Also, don’t do this.

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