Email Etiquette for College Students

Email Etiquette for College Students
College students often interact with professors, advisors, and other college personnel through email. Therefore, as a college student, it is important to learn how to interact appropriately with these personnel when using email so that the person you are corresponding with forms a positive opinion of you.

As a student, it is important to have college personnel think well of you. College personnel often advocate for students and may be willing to go the extra mile for students who conduct themselves professionally. Also, college personnel are potential references for students seeking employment or acceptance into a graduate program. Students who conduct themselves professionally will be more likely to obtain a positive reference when needed.

In most cases, students want college personnel to have a good impression of them and are aware that they need to behave appropriately for this to happen. When talking with college personnel on the telephone or interacting with them in person, students are usually polite and well spoken. However, this professional behavior does not always transfer to email.

Many students consider email to be an informal form of communication. They often use shortcuts and unconventional grammar. While informal communication might be appropriate for email messages to friends and family, when informal messages are sent to college personnel, the sender may be viewed as lacking in respect and professionalism..

To communicate respectfully with college personnel, follow the list of do’s and don’ts below:

Do’s and Don’ts of Email Etiquette


Use short and informative subject lines
It is important to have a subject line that quickly lets the reader know what the email message will contain. Subject lines let the readers know what the email will be about and can be used by the readers to retrieve the email at a later date.

Begin your emails with a proper greeting
Start with the proper prefix followed by their last name (e.g., Ms. Smith, Dr. Johnson, Professor Weber, etc.).

Be polite
Be mindful of the tone of your email. It is difficult to convey tone in writing therefore, it is even more important to be sure your email is polite.

Use complete sentences
Using complete sentences helps the reader be able to understand your email more easily.

Use proper grammar
Using proper grammar helps readers understand your emails.

Use proper punctuation
End questions with question marks and other sentences with periods. Include commas when needed. If you are uncertain where to place a comma, a good rule of thumb to follow is to place a comma where you take a breath when you say the sentence out loud.

End your emails with your first and last name
Include your first and last name at the end of an email so it is easy for the reader to know who sent the email. For emails to professors also include the course and section number you are in for their reference (e.g., PSY 101 Sec 3 or PSY 101.03).


Don’t use unconventional capitalization
Using all capital letters is difficult to read and is considered shouting in email.

Using lower-case letters for proper nouns (such as “i” for “I”) and to begin sentences may be interpreted as lazy or cutesy writing. Neither of these are qualities that you would want your writing to be labeled in a professional environment.

Don’t use unconventional spelling
Do not use short cuts such as shorter spellings, such as “thru” for “through.” Proper spelling is essential for all professional correspondence.

Don’t use foul language
Foul language is inappropriate for professional communication.

Don’t include anything that you would not want published or shared
Be careful what you include in your email because you never know who may end up seeing your email.

Don’t say mean things about others
Even when you are making a complaint about others, do so politely. Don’t refer to someone as using derogatory names such as “stupid.”

Don’t use emoticons
It is best not to use emoticons in professional writing because they may be viewed as immature and unprofessional.

Don’t send an email you haven’t read first
Proofread your email messages before you send them to ensure you have not made careless mistakes. This is important both to ensure the reader understands your message and to ensure it is professionally written.

It is important for college students to follow these suggestions for writing email messages to college personnel in order to make a positive impression. Having college personnel think well of you is not only important while you are attending college, but it is also important when you begin seeking positive references for employment or graduate school admission.

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This content was written by Susan D. Bates. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Eliza Morrison Nimmich for details.