Top 5 Email Etiquette Errors

woman sitting at desk typing on laptop

It can be scary to write an email to a professor, boss, colleague, or any other professional. You might ask yourself questions like, ‘Are they going to judge my writing? Do they even know who I am? Will they even take the time to read my email?’ There was a time that before hitting Send, these questions caused me to second guess everything in my email because I wasn’t sure what needed to be included or not.

I know others who have a different take on emails. They think, “It’s just an email—it doesn’t matter how it looks.” They are all too happy to quickly hit Send.

Writing an email requires a special balance. It isn’t a text message that you’re sending to a buddy, so the way it looks and what is included does matter! It also isn’t an essay, so it should be short, while still including all necessary information.

Top 5 Items to Avoid in an Email

  1. Placing the entire message in the subject line
  2. Forgetting to include your name
  3. Having an email address that is offensive, unprofessional, or sexy
  4. Using texting lingo, such as shortened words or a lack of punctuation and capitalization
  5. Using ALL CAPS

Top 5 Items to Include in an Email

  1. A subject line that indicates the topic of the email
  2. Professional tone and language—you are a professional writing to another professional
  3. A short, direct message that gives only the necessary information—utilize bullet points or bold font to draw attention to key items
  4. A closing that includes your name, affiliation, and contact info (if needed)
  5. Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation

Example of What NOT to Do

i am REALLY excited to start class. i have always dreamed of becoming a writer or an author of some sort. I made my first book when i was in kind garten. My mother was so proud and she told me that I can do anything I wanted if i worked and studies hard. That is why i am here. But i need your help cause i do not understand the assignment for week one. Can you help me?


Example of a Professional Email

Good evening Ms. Jones,

I am really excited to start class. I am having some trouble understanding the first assignment. The instructions say to write a formal journal, but I am not sure what that means. Can you help me?

Thank you for your time,

Sam Student

Course: ENG 122

Student ID: 123456

Simple skills like writing an email help you prepare for entering the working world and set you apart from others in your classes. Start implementing these tips now to get ahead of the game.

For a thorough guide on professional email etiquette, see this guide.

Allow Grammarly to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation for you. Current students and faculty have a free premium subscription to Grammarly, accessible within the Writing Center area right in your course.



By Millie Jones, Learning Services Writing Center.

Questions? Talk with an Advisor