Email etiquette

This resource will explain the standard email etiquette that you are expected to demonstrate when communicating with others via email.

What is email etiquette?

Email etiquette is a standard of practices that are used to demonstrate professionalism and courtesy when emailing others.

Showing good etiquette when emailing others not only avoids confusion, but also ensures you put your best foot forward. At university, you will regularly have to email your tutors, subject co-ordinators and peers, and it is vital to use good etiquette so that you can demonstrate your professionalism and ensure effective communication.

Standard email etiquette

There are several things to consider when showing professional email etiquette. We have listed some common ones below.

Email address

Your email address should appear professional. It should convey your name so the recipient knows who is sending the email, as demonstrated in the example below.

Good email address example
  • john.smith@gmail.com
  • jane_brown@gmail.com

You should avoid using email addresses with an inappropriate name, like those listed below.

Bad email address example
  • monkeyingaround@hotmail.com
  • babygirl@yahoo.com

Subject line

You should always include a subject line that explains exactly to the recipient what the email is addressing. A subject line should be clear and direct, as demonstrated in the example below.

Good subject line examples
  • Subject: Questions on Assignment 1
  • Subject: Meeting date changes

You should avoid writing subject lines that are vague and/or pushy, like those listed below.

Bad subject line examples
  • Subject: Hellllooooo!!!
  • Subject: Issues...

Greeting

It is basic courtesy to address the recipient at the start of the email rather than jumping straight into the body of the email. If you do not know the name of the person you are emailing, begin your email with a simple ‘Hello’. Examples of how to address recipients can be seen below.

Examples
  • Dear Ms/Mrs/Mr/Dr Franklin,
  • Hi James,

Font & formatting

Ensure the font and formatting of your email can be easily read. Standard practice is to use the fonts Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman, in size 10 or 12, and in black.

The email content should be as reader-friendly as possible with avoidance of using one long paragraph and long sentences. It is best to organize your ideas into bullet points and short paragraphs with a blank line between the paragraphs.

Language & tone

Keep your writing simple, clear and direct to avoid the risk of ambiguity. The sentences should be short and complete and never use SMS language like you would when text messaging your friends like ‘btw’ for by the way, ‘u’ for you or ‘tmrw’ for tomorrow.

Be mindful of your tone of voice in the email as it can be misconstrued without the context that comes from vocal cues and facial expressions in face-to-face situations. In addition, avoid using explicitly negative words such as ‘failure’, ‘wrong’ or ‘neglected’ and always end with a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

Confidentiality

Always remember that nothing you send via email to a recipient is strictly confidential. The recipient can forward the email to another individual or when the recipient replies to your email they can cc or bcc other individuals into the email. All emails can be retrieved, read and archived by the service provider, even after they have been deleted by you or the recipient. So be careful with what you say in emails and write accordingly.

Closing line

Similar with greeting the recipient at the start you should always sign off at the end of the email with a set phrase such as ‘Kind Regards’, ‘Many Thanks’ etc., followed by your name.

Signature

To avoid forgetting to sign off at the end of an email you can create a signature that will always appear at the end of the email. To learn how to do this on UOWmail, check out our Using UOWmail resource.

Your email signature when communicating with others at university should include the following:

  • Name:
  • Degree:
  • Faculty/School:
  • University:
  • Telephone/mobile:
Example

Jane Brown
Bachelors of Arts (Honours)
School of Humanities and Social Inquiry
Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Wollongong
(+61) 41 111 111

Proofread

Always read and re-read the email before clicking send and check whether the following details are correct:

  • Am I sending this email to the right person?
  • Is the email address of the recipient correct?
  • Have I written an appropriate subject line?
  • Have I greeted the recipient?
  • Have I spelled the recipient’s name correctly?
  • Have I organized my email contents in clearly divided short paragraphs and/or bullet points, using clear, simple and direct language?
  • Have I checked for spelling errors? Appropriate punctuation? Accurate information?
  • Have I signed off on the email?

Further tips

Add email address last

It is good practice to add the email address of the recipient last to prevent you from sending an email before you have finished writing and proofreading it.

Always reply to an email

Even if the email is not directly intended for you, it is good email etiquette to try and always reply to an email to inform the recipient that you have received the email or to inform them that they have accidentally sent it to the wrong person, especially if they are awaiting a reply.

Further resources