Professional Email Etiquette

You’ve probably written countless emails in your life by now and can post, text, and tweet with the best of them. But professional correspondence is a whole new ball game. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

  • Use a Professional Email Address
    You may prefer to be known by a witty screen name, but at best you won’t be taken seriously and at worst, your email will land in a spam folder. We recommend either using your official university email address or creating a professional email address with your first and last name.
  • Use a Formal Salutation
    Professional correspondence should have a certain level of formality including a standard greeting. Unless you are invited to use a first name, it is best to address your recipient by his or her title, such as Dear Mr., Ms. or Professor. Hint: If you don’t know a recipient’s pronouns, a quick Google search will usually help clarify who you are addressing.
  • Lead with a Clear Subject Line
    A concise and specific subject line will help your reader know exactly what to expect. If you are writing to a networking contact, you may use the subject: Career Question from Tufts Senior. If you are writing to a professor, consider including your class department and number. For example, a question about midterm might have the subject: SPN 0003-B Midterm Question.
  • Be Clear, Polite, and Succinct

    Emails to networking contacts should be requests for advice or career information, rather than a job/internship. Emails to professors should reference the course, and if appropriate, the name of the assignment. If your question relates to your academic record, include your student ID number.

    Before sending, review your copy and make sure that it meets these criteria:

    • It is written in complete, coherent sentences
    • There are no spelling errors
    • No part of it is written in all caps
  • Sign Off with a Thank You
    It is common courtesy to thank someone for his or her time and help. End your email with a “thank you” or “best” and your full name. Staff and professors are often keeping track of thousands of students, so clearly identifying yourself is the easiest way to ensure you get an answer.
  • Boost Your Image with a Strong Email Signature

    There is no exact template you have to follow, but your ultimate goal should be to clearly state who you are and how to easily contact you.

    We recommend following these guidelines:

    • Include essential information such as your name, major, school (Tufts) and expected graduation year.
    • Limit your signature to 3 or 4 lines. Use colons or pipes to separate.
    • Include your preferred email address and phone number.
    • Include links to your social media accounts such LinkedIn and Twitter. Make sure these are accounts with a professional message.
    • Avoid fancy fonts, colors, graphics, and inspirational quotes.

    Jane Jumbo │ International Relations Major, Tufts University 20XX │(617) 627 -2000│


A Few Final Thoughts

  • Emails are Forever
    You cannot take back what gets sent, and without a clear tone of voice, it can be easy to sound offensive. Read your message before you send it and keep in mind that some issues are better discussed in person. If it can’t be wrapped up in a short paragraph, consider making an appointment or visiting office hours.
  • Patience is a Virtue
    We all like instant gratification, but everyone is busy and sometimes a reply takes more time than you’d hope. If your question or concern is time sensitive it may be appropriate to write a follow-up email, but be realistic about your expectations.
  • Practice Common Courtesy
    If you expect timely, helpful replies, you should do the same for others. Check your email regularly, and respond as soon as you are able.