Email: how to be professional

It’s easy to think that email is a casual form of communication that requires little focus on language, structure and technicality. However, whilst informal emails to friends can follow your own sociolects (a way of talking and writing unique to different social groups), when you write an email to a teacher or potential employer, it’s crucial to remember that you are sending a message about yourself in what you write and how you write it.

If you send an email where the subject line is misspelled, you’re sending me the message that what you have to say is unimportant to you — so why should it be important to the person receiving it?

-Steve Coleby, GPUTC Director of Operations


When writing your email:

  1. Start with “Dear [name]” or a similarly formal greeting: “Good afternoon” or “Hello [name]”. Some of your teachers may use their first name in class, but if you’re unsure, it’s always best to be formal and use their title and surname.
  2. Be concise: why are you emailing? What do you need? Don’t waffle.
  3. Be polite! Use “please” and “thank you”.
  4. Make sure you mark your sentences using capitals and full stops (or question marks where relevant).
  5. Don’t use emojis, smiley faces, excess punctuation (??? or !!!) or all capital letters.
  6. Sign off formally: use “Yours sincerely” (as you’ve used their name) then your full name, or “Kind regards”.
  7. Use the “review” tab to check your spelling and grammar.

email example

What “CC” and “BCC” mean:

“Carbon copy” – someone who is not the main recipient of the email, but who would benefit from seeing the email. For instance, if your mentor wants you to email a teacher asking for extra help, you might find it helpful to copy your mentor in to show them you have done as instructed.

“Blind carbon copy” – someone you want to receive the email but don’t want the main recipient to see. This can be useful if you have to email a group of people without sharing their email addresses with one another, or if you are sending a difficult email and want someone copied in for your own records. Typically, you won’t need to use this for in-school emails.


Some other tips:

Have a clear subject: this is the first impression your email gives of you. It also helps your recipient find your email if they need to search for it later.

Aim to check your school email account every day.

A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t say something in conversation, or over a telephone to the recipient, don’t write it in an email!

-Steve Coleby

Remember that anyone you email can see the photo you’ve set as your avatar: don’t change it to something silly. If you must change it (and you can just leave it: the avatar will show your initial instead), keep it school/work related.

Whilst email can be instant, remember that people have jobs to do and may not reply right away. Outside of school/office hours, people may or may not check their email. Don’t send a follow up, “Did you get my email?” if someone hasn’t replied within a few hours.