Email: Think Before You Send

November 16, 2012 by Jenny Bravo  | Comments


Email is a critical communication medium for all professions and it can make (or break) your success, so it's good habit to always think before you send.

Do you know the difference between the “to” field and the “bcc” field when sending an email? Do you effectively use email subject lines? Do you always proofread your emails for tone and grammar before sending? We will be talking about these things and much more! Yes, email is quick, easy, and a major communication medium for all professions, but this doesn’t mean all grammar rules go out the window. There are also many genre and etiquette rules to email and you should know them all if you want to successfully correspond with other in a professional manner.

Here are some tips for professional email etiquette:

Select an appropriate email address and signature. "" is not professional.  Also, you should always have a signature line at the end of your email, even as an undergraduate. Consider structuring it this way:

Jane Smith
LSU Biological Sciences Student
(225) 555-5555

Fill in the “to” field last. This way you can focus on drafting and editing your message and it will not accidentally be sent before you have a chance to proofread it a couple of times.

Understand the difference between To, CC and BCC.

  • “To” involves a message to a specific person(s). It’s a direct email.
  • “CC” is how you keep people in the loop; you are copying them on the email.
  • “BCC” stands for blind carbon copy and is rarely used unless you are sending emails to a large group of people. BCC protects the identity of those to whom you are sending.  It also protects them from being bombarded with responses from recipients who hit "reply all" because only you will receive the response if you used BCC, not everyone on the list.

Choose your subject line carefully. You want to be descriptive, but concise. Avoid terms like “urgent” or “important” as they are typically spam triggers. Also, make sure to use the high priority marking sparingly.

Be clear, concise, and complete. Use clear language, so your message is understood.  Be concise; emails are no place for a manuscript.  Anticipate questions from your reader and be sure to include that information upfront.  

Be informal, but professional. Get to the point, but don’t come across as a jerk.

Find the right tone. Email is not typical social media. It’s a formal mode of communication. Don’t email a boss as you would text a friend. They cannot hear your voice or see your face, so be conscious of the tone and approach you use in relaying your message. When in doubt, save a draft and consult a colleague.

Apply the proper styles. Here are the "technical don’ts":

  • Avoid unprofessional fonts such as Comic Sans
  • “Pretty” backgrounds and graphics distract from your text.
  • Text formatting is good (bolding, bullets, etc.), but beware of text-to-html conversions.
  • Acronyms can cause confusion (and make you seem immature). LOL and BRB are not professional speak.
  • All caps indicate screaming, so stick with sentence-case.

Employ the 3-step Writing Process: 1- Plan (think), 2-Write (draft), and 3-Complete (proof and send).

Use Attachments Wisely. You want to make the file size as small as possible and remember to actually attach the file. Keep in mind that some company systems do not allow attachments to be received.

Know when (and when not) to reply and/or forward.

  • Reply: Do you need to include anyone else when you reply?
  • Reply All: Does everyone really need to hear your response? It’s easy to make this mistake when you meant to reply back privately.
  • Forward: Is it appropriate? For example, email humor isn’t for the workplace.

Avoid the "Nastygram." Attacking emails that are rude and unprofessional are never appropriate. Responding to controversial email is better done via conversation. If you need to vent, type it out in a word document and then delete it.

Consider other effective methods of communication. It’s okay to call or talk in person. You need to be considerate of confidential and/or sensitive information, especially on the Internet.

Don't forget to check the website for future student workshops. They're free and typically open to all students, so plan to attend one soon!


What students said about the CxC Email Etiquette Workshop:

“It helped me realize how important it is to formulate emails in order to come across as professional, competent and intelligent.” - Richelle Saluga, marketing senior

"It was especially relevant for us as seniors entering the corporate business world." - Ryan Hernandez, marketing senior

"It was a great reminder of the do's and don'ts of  sending and replying to emails. You should always be cognizant of what you say and how you say it online. This especially goes for many of us who are trying to apply for jobs after college or for when we do reach the corporate world." - Amanda Murphy, marketing senior