When you participate in face-to-face communication, your appearance, tone of voice, and word choice determine the impression you make. In the era of globalization, the internet allows us to contact people we have never seen and might never meet. This online interaction can impact our lives even more than our friends and families. How so?

E-mail etiquette enables you to show your professionalism, efficiency, and respect.

College is a test-drive for your professional life. Developing proper email etiquette is an essential part of your studies. During your college years, you will communicate with your teachers, apply for scholarships, and respond to job offers, mostly through email. The answers you receive will determine your future. That’s why it’s better to learn these email etiquette rules as soon as possible.

1.  ❓  What Is Email Etiquette?

Email etiquette is the name given to the rules that govern the use of appropriate language, phrasing, structure, and other formalities in email correspondence. Proper email etiquette is needed for formal letters addressed to school authorities, company employees, government departments, etc. The rules are numerous but intuitively clear. Sometimes people use the term “email netiquette” to combine the words “net” and “etiquette.”

Why Is Email Etiquette Important?

The way you write emails can reveal a lot about your education, behavior, and attention to detail. Your email etiquette reflects the aspects of your personality.

  • Professionalism. Being a student means that you are a professional-to-be. An email is an easy way to convince the reader that you are responsible, capable, and perfect for that scholarship. Show that you are ready for your future career by following these accepted standards of communication.
  • Efficiency. Emails differ from handwritten letters in many ways. Generally speaking, a good email is a short one. You demonstrate efficiency when your messages are to the point.
  • Respect. Avoid unnecessary embellishments and small talk. This will show the reader that you respect their time and value your own.

2.  📜  How to Write an Email to a Teacher: General Rules

Emailing your teachers is a perfect opportunity to practice proper email etiquette. Teachers will usually point out your mistakes gently since they understand that you are still learning. At the same time, a correct and well-organized email can impress them and make them favorably disposed to you. The following tips will improve your written communication with your college instructors.

✔️ Is there a better way to communicate? Sometimes it is better to call or ask your question in person. This is even more true if your issue is urgent. Few people answer emails as soon as they receive them. Moreover, if you intend to answer an email, consider if it is really necessary. Do not feel obliged to write trivial responses.
✔️ Introduce yourself Always use a narrative greeting in your first email to any teacher. In other cases, follow your intuition. Does the person remember who you are? Even if your email address contains your last name, that might not be enough to jog the person’s memory. College teachers have hundreds of students. In the first paragraph, give your name, the course name, and the class or section number.
✔️ Write a clear and brief subject The subject line is like the thesis sentence of a paper. What is it all about? Never leave this field blank. Avoid using such subjects as “Request for help” or “Question.” They are brief but not precise. Later on, this can help you by making it easier to find any email by its informative subject line. “Question about Chemistry homework, 1st year” is better.
✔️ Important information comes first It only takes a few seconds for your reader to decide how much time and attention they are going to spend on your email. If there is something you need to say, do it right away. Then decide if it is worth saying anything else. If there are several issues to discuss, make a summary first, and then use a numbered list to expound on point. Alternatively, think about writing separate emails for each subject.
✔️ Be polite Remember to greet and thank the reader. Regardless of the result of your request, thank the recipient for taking the time to consider it. Use standard vocabulary for formal letters. Discern the tone of your instructor’s message and, if necessary, reply accordingly.
✔️ Be honest This rule applies to all communication, but with teachers, it requires extra attention. Instructors are superb lie detectors. It is better not to write at all than to write something deceptive. Even if your request or excuse is not accepted, your directness will be appreciated.
✔️ Use formal language Chatroom shorthands are inadmissible in formal emails. Writing “u2” for “you too” makes you sound lazy and juvenile. Spell out all the words, except for generally recognized acronyms.
✔️ Make it readable When you are replying to an email, cite what is necessary. You can copy the questions and write your answers below. Effective use of paragraphs is a must. Make them short but avoid starting each sentence on a new line.
✔️ Be careful with attachments If your teacher already has the file you have a question about, attach it to your email anyway. It will show that you appreciate the time your instructor will dedicate to answering your request. Do not send attachments in a separate email from your message. This is disrespectful, and you will most likely not receive any answer.
✔️ Mind your promises The recipient will have a permanent record of your email. Written information binds you with more responsibilities than an in-person conversation. If you promise to turn in your paper in two weeks, be sure to do so. Otherwise, ask for an extension.

3.  📑  The Structure of a Formal Email

Before you set out to structure your letter, make sure that your email address is appropriate for professional communication. Using an address like “kitten666@gmail.com” is not appropriate. Create an address that contains your last name and initials for business and study purposes.Formal email structure includes a recepient's address, a subject, a main body, a signature, and attachments.

All email platforms follow the same structure given below. You will find some differences in the design and naming of the fields (1 to 4), but their sequence will be the same. 

  1. To (recipient’s address). Enter the address of the person or organization that will receive your letter. If you make a mistake, you will receive a message that such an address does not exist. Recheck for any typos, so your email does not go to the wrong person.
  2. Copies. Be careful with Listservs when replying to an email. These can be useful when you need to send the same letter to multiple users. However, when responding to such a message, all the users included in the mailout will receive your answer. It is much better to copy the necessary address and paste it in a new email than to simply press the “reply” button.
    • CC (Carbon Copy). Enter the email addresses of other people who need to receive your letter. Note that the receiver you indicated in the previous line will see these addresses.
    • BCC (Blind Carbon Copy). This field is similar to the previous one, save one detail. The word “blind” means that the original recipient will not know that someone else also received the same message. Be aware that the people whose emails are marked as BCC will see that they are not the original addressees.
  3. Subject. Make it short, clear, and informative. When emailing your teacher, include your name and class here. Then put the contents of the email in a few words. Avoid vague language.
  4. Email body. Enter the text of your letter in this field. Try to make it no longer than one screen length. Write in complete sentences with correct grammatical structures. Before you press “Send,” check for spelling errors (not all email platforms provide this feature).
    • Greeting. If you know the recipient’s name, use it here. “Dear Sir/Madam” is polite but impersonal. Then explain who you are because your signature will come at the end.
    • Main body. If you have several questions or subjects to discuss, structure your text with a numbered list. Consider whether it is better to discuss them in person if there are too many. Always consider the receiver’s feedback. How long will it take them to read your email and answer it? Do your best to cut this time to a minimum.
    • Signature. This feature is often automatically attached to any email you send. Check if the wording of your standard signature is appropriate for the purpose of your email. In addition to your name, write your phone number and course name and number here.
    • Attachments. If you add an attachment, be sure to reference the file in the main body. Explain why you would like the recipient to review the document. Avoid attaching files that are too large or too numerous. It is often better to combine multiple pictures into one PDF.

4.  ✔️  The Ultimate Email Checklist

Have you specified the recipient’s address?
Is it the correct email (no typos, and not a “no-reply” email)?
If you have copy emails, are they in the correct line (CC/BCC)?
Is the subject clear, short, and informative?
Does the critical information appear at the top of your email?
Does the text have a clear structure?
Can you make your email shorter? If yes, do so.
Is your signature appropriate for the recipient?
Does the signature contain all the necessary information?
Have you attached the necessary files?
Are their size and format appropriate?
Have you mentioned the attachments in the body of the email?

5.  👀  Email Etiquette: Bad & Better Examples

Below you’ll find several examples of the emails that are not so good, as well as the explanations and better versions.

Typical email mistakes include those in the address, the greeting, the subject, and the letter's tone.

Student’s Email Example #1

👎 A bad email To: james.butler@abc.edu

From: agent00707@gmail.com

Subject: question

Hi! Yesterday you gave us an assignment, but I don’t understand what I am supposed to do. PLEASE explain once again.

Thanks in advance.

🤔 What’s wrong 

with it?

  1. You should have asked this question in person. It will take too much time for the instructor to write a thorough explanation in an email. Also, the question is too general. Identify the specific misunderstanding you have about the assignment.
  2. There is no greeting, and the tone of the letter is impolite.
  3. The subject line is not informative. Add more details.
  4. You do not identify who you are. Include a signature and indicate your class in the greeting sentence.
  5. Your email address is inappropriate for formal letters. Create another one that contains your name.
  6. Never use Caps Lock in formal letters. Writing in all Caps stands for shouting.
  7. Most likely, this rude request will receive no answer. Thanking in advance is also tactless in this case. Leave your recipient a choice.
  8. Which assignment are you speaking about? Try including an attachment file with the specific task.
👍 A better version To: james.butler@abc.edu

From: mary.summers@gmail.com

Subject: Question regarding Chemistry assignment for section H001

Dear Mr. Butler,

Yesterday you gave us an assignment, but I don’t understand what I am supposed to do. You can reference it in the attachment. When could I see you for clarification?

Best regards,

Mary Summers

Student’s Email Example #2

👎 A bad email To: james.butler@abcde.edu

From: 12345mary@yahoo.com

Subject: ________

Mr. James,

I cannot attend the class tomorrow. I need to visit my physician because my stomach has been hurting for three days in a row. Could you send the homework to this email?

Mary Summers

🤔 What’s wrong 

with it?

  1. Your email address should contain your last name.
  2. In the greeting, use the instructor’s last name. Addressing someone by their first name only can be disrespectful.
  3. There is no subject.
  4. Do not include unnecessary personal details.
  5. You could have asked your classmates about the homework. Give a good reason why you decided not to do so.
👍 A better version To: james.butler@abcde.edu

From: mary.summers@gmail.com

Subject: Missed class. Question about homework, Section H001

Dear Mr. Butler,

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend your Chemistry class tomorrow. I have a physician’s appointment. I will get the assignment from my classmates to be ready for the next class. If there is any additional information to read on the topic, could you please advise where I can find it?

I really appreciate any help you can provide.

Kind regards,

Mary Summers

Your business life starts at college. Approach your education as an investment in your future career. Communicating with your teachers is a practical course in business interaction. Using this time to practice can save you a lot of time, money, and effort in the following years.

Choosing the right words is half the battle. The way you present your thoughts reveals your personality to an attentive reader. Following the rules of email etiquette will convince the reader that you are an educated, respectful person.

Share your experiences with email communication in the comments below. Your advice may be valuable to your peers.

🔗  References