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 gender, a quick Google search will usually help clarify if you are addressing a Mr. or Ms.

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.