Email etiquette for students and recent grads


Over the last few years while working as a co-ordinator in a university department and as a manger of a student service on campus, I’ve noticed many post-secondary students and graduates are unable to write emails that would be considered appropriate in the workplace. I have received countless messages which have made me cringe.

To avoid alienating current and future employers with your spelling, grammar and email etiquette, check out these suggestions:

What your ‘handle’ says about you

An email address can project certain interpretations of who we are, regardless of how true it may actually be. If you are using an address such as, or to send queries to prospective employers, they are not going to take you seriously.

Create an email account that is more professional. A safe bet is a combination of your first and last name. For example,

Spelling and Grammar

Take the time to manually check the spelling and grammar of your emails. Many email servers and some web browsers have this function built in, but it will not be able to discern between alternative spellings of the same word which have different meanings. For example:

Poor spelling and grammar make you look lazy and uneducated, so do everything you can to ensure your writing is error-free. If you’re not confident in your abilities, get someone who is to read over your resumes, cover letters and emails before you send them.

Luckily, we don’t need to be as formal in an email as we would in an essay. An email can be considered conversational, so much of our speaking mannerisms can be appropriately incorporated.  For example, contractions are fine but stay away from slang.

Mind Your Manners

In my experience, many people often forget the two words which were drilled into everyone as a child: “please” and “thank you.” Forgetting to use these words when requesting something – even in an email – makes us look ungrateful and rude.

As someone in a managerial position, I often received emails from staff which implied they would be doing certain things regardless of my decision about the matter. For example:


I can’t work next Wednesday because I’m going to a concert.


My staff was telling me what was going to happen, regardless of the fact that they had a responsibility to uphold as an employee. I would much rather have received the following email instead:

Hey Danielle,

I was wondering if I could please have next Wednesday off, as I would like to go to a concert with some friends.

Thank you!


Although both of these examples state the same thing, the latter is much more respectful and acknowledges the fact that, as a manager, I make decisions about time off.

What’s Your Point?

Give the reader your point as soon as you can, but remember to include the appropriate details. If the length of your email is epic, go back to the top and apologize for your wordiness in the first line of your message.

Dont Abbrvt Plz

Emails should not be written in the same fashion as text messages (even if you’re sending them from a Blackberry).

Hey, can U plz fwd the msg 2 Bill again?

K thnx

Unless you’re sending a personal email, avoid abbreviations, especially texting short forms. However, certain workplace abbreviations like FYI, CC, etc. are considered acceptable.

Tone Deaf

The correct tone can be very difficult to portay in writing, especially in emails. Before sending an email, read it over to make sure what you say can’t be misunderstood. Try to come across as friendly, respectful and approachable, not demanding or curt. Sometimes this can be remedied by simply re-arranging your paragraphs and adding those magic words we already talked about: “please” and “thank you.”

Kind Regards

Take your time when emailing a prospective employer or high-profile individual. If you make a mistake and do not realize it until after you hit send, there is no option to backspace. The gaffe could cost you your next job, or even your current one.