Email Etiquette

Last week in class, we touched upon some rules with regard to email and ethics. Over the weekend when I sent out email to a colleague that had a typo (which I feverishly corrected before hitting “send”), I was reminded of a story a friend told me recently. She complained about how email is ruining the business world. She said, “People think they’re talking on the phone, that email is somehow a lesser form of business communication. They’ll be professional in a letter sent by the post, but shockingly unprofessional in email.”


Because I have my students’ futures in mind, I thought I’d go over some basic email etiquette that I pulled off of Purdue University’s writing workshop website:

  • Be sure to include a meaningful subject line; this helps clarify what your message is about and may also help the recipient prioritize reading your email
  • Just like a written letter, be sure to open your email with a greeting like Dear Dr. Jones, or Ms. Smith:
  • Use standard spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. THERE’S NOTHING WORSE THAN AN EMAIL SCREAMING A MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS.
  • Write clear, short paragraphs and be direct and to the point; professionals and academics alike see their email accounts as business. Don’t write unnecessarily long emails or otherwise waste the recipient’s time
  • Be friendly and cordial, but don’t try to joke around (jokes and witty remarks may be inappropriate and, more commonly, may not come off appropriately in email)

That last point is so true! How often has someone misinterpreted your humor?


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