How to Master Your Professional Email Etiquette

Whether you’re using email as a daily tool for your online work or you’re using it to stretch into new territory career-wise, learning email etiquette will work to your advantage. Perhaps you want to get well qualified for a lucrative online job position, so you’ve signed up for an on-demand online course. It can be you’re currently between jobs. Or you’re working on being moved up to a higher pay grade. But how do you stand with professional email writing etiquette?

When working online, much of your communication with your superiors and colleagues is going to be carried out via task management tools and email. And the last thing you want is to come across as unprofessional in front of your future or current employer and co-workers, right? This is where email etiquette jumps in. So, a good email etiquette will:

  • Help you make a good first impression online.
  • Prevent you from dealing with work embarrassment that can happen within email communication.
  • Help you save a substantial amount of time.

Essentially, you call the shots when it’s going to happen for you. Ready to plunge in? Let’s get to it. This is your step-by-step guide to the winning email formula. It’s simple. Follow our tips and master your email etiquette before you know it.

Email Etiquette Tip #1: Get a Professional Email Address

Now that you’ve finally determined to polish up your email writing skills, you’ll want to start from the basic lesson of email etiquette 101. When writing a business-related email you’ll want to avoid any blunders that could make you look unskilled and unprofessional. And those blunders can happen even before you start writing a single letter of your email.

So, to get off to a good start in writing professional emails, you should choose a good professional email address first.

Note: It’s recommended to steer clear of witty, informal, and unintelligible email address names.

Your best bet is to come up with an address that contains your proper name and surname. Now, if your luck has turned its back on you and your name and surname string is already taken, any combination of your first and last name and your middle initials will do.

Consider the following combinations:

  • First name + last name = AmeliaWood
  • First name . last name = Amelia.Wood
  • First name last name = Amelia–Wood
  • First name + middle name initial + last name = AmeliaJWood
  • First initial + middle name + last name = AJaneWood
  • First initial + middle name initial + last name = AJWood
  • First name + middle name + last name = AmeliaJaneWood
  • First initial + middle name + last name = AJaneWood

Email Etiquette Tip #2: Craft a Good Email Subject Line

Clear and to-the-point subject lines are critical to good-paced, streamlined business correspondence. They are literally a lifeline for busy professionals that have gobs of incoming emails hitting their mailboxes on a day-to-day basis. If the message is clear high up in the subject line, your recipient will be able to get the gist of the message just by looking at it. Imagine it’s a potential employer. Getting good at this will make your email more clickable and your job prospect more realistic.

So, how do you write a good subject line? A good subject line creates a sense of urgency and is also:

  • Short,
  • Relevant, and
  • Specific.

Below are a few good subject line examples:

  • Applying for the content writer job position
  • Meeting date postponed
  • Application for a job opening for a VA position
  • A question re our latest Facebook marketing strategy

Compelling, short, click-worthy subject lines will also get you closer to an opened email if you’re doing email outreach for your company. Retention Science researchers recommend writing subject lines that contain between 6 to 10 words. This strategy has shown a decent 21% open rate.

Email Etiquette Tip #3: Use an Appropriate Email Greeting

Once you’ve made a great start with a proper subject line, make sure not to blow your chances by using improper greetings.

Let’s say you’re writing a professional email for a job. Isn’t it a bit too early in the email for rubbing people the wrong way? Sure sounds like it. This is exactly why you should know which email greetings and salutations to use.

When addressing an email to an employer, there are several options for you to weigh out. The following guidelines will nudge you in the right direction. Let’s dive right in. Generally, your best bet is to use more formal salutations, so you can either go for:

  • Dear Mr./Ms. [First name], or
  • Dear Mr./Ms. [Last name]

Now, you may be wondering: How to address an email when you don’t know the name of the recipient?

When writing an email asking for a job, you’ll normally aim to address the email to the head of the HR department or the hiring manager. So your first task is to scour a company’s website or the person’s LinkedIn profile to search for the name. If you had no luck with it, the greetings below are just as acceptable.

  • Dear Sir or Madam,
  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • Dear Search Committee,
  • Dear Human Resources Department, or
  • To Whom It May Concern.

It’s equally tricky if you don’t know the recipient’s gender. Hit the Google search for unisex names before making a run for Mr. or Ms. If this search turns out futile as well, the following greeting will work well:

  • Dear [First name] [Last name]

Furthermore, if you’re unsure whether the person’s married or unmarried, we recommend using the neutral title ‘Ms’ instead of ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’. Note that there’s no full-stop at the end of this title.

Finally, Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette expert, warns people about misspelling your email recipient’s name. Many people are insulted if their name is misspelled. Check for the correct spelling in the person’s signature block. You can also check the ‘To’ line. Often, people’s first or last names are in their addresses.

Now you probably don’t wonder anymore why email etiquette is so important, right?

Email Etiquette Tip #4: Get Straight to Business

right arrow sign on wall
Image Source: Hello I’m Nik

During your job hunt, chances are you’ll send heaps of emails. Not only resumes and cover letters but also back and forth emails to job search-related contacts and thank you notes.

For starters, it’s critical to keep the following piece of information at the back of your head. An average business person has hundreds of emails landing in their inbox during a single day. So, how are you supposed to increase the chances of your job search email being actually read?

Get straight to business, that’s how. So, make sure to:

  • Make your message well-delivered to your potential recruiter from the get-go.
  • Bring out your intentions in the very first sentence of the very first paragraph.
  • Introduce yourself, state your interest in the company and say what job you’re applying for, then set out your work history.
  • What you say in those first few sentences sets the tone for the entire email. So make sure to write a killer introduction.

Email Etiquette Tip #5: Maintain a Professional Tone

When you’re writing a job application email it’s recommended that you use a professional tone. Most industries out there will appreciate more formal communication via email. So, play it safe and keep to the formal end of the formality scale. You can’t go wrong with it.

You need to be up for the task here. Otherwise, you’re putting yourself at risk of looking unprofessional in front of your future employers. And heaven forbid we let that happen. Business email etiquette doesn’t allow for the inappropriate use of language. And specifically:

  • Poor punctuation, grammar, spelling and capitalization.
  • The use of out-of-place informal language such as using slang and emojis.
  • Using acronyms such as LOL, OMG, etc.

Email Etiquette Tip #6: Make it Short and Sweet

Don’t EVER send a disorganized and messy email to a recruiter. People are slowly catching on to their job. The inquiry should be short and quick. And this is critical. If you value people’s time, they’ll reward it with reading your email. Fair enough.

Yet, it can be as simple as rejigging your email content slightly when you’re done writing. Include only the most important information in your email job application. And this is what you should include:

  • Explain why you’re writing.
  • State which job you’re applying for.
  • List your qualifications for the job.
  • Include contact information.

Note: Go for essentials only. Spoon-feed your email recipient with information. The content of your cover letter already contains the same info in much more detail. On top of that, include the following information as well:

  • State what you have enclosed for review.
  • Don’t forget to mention your reference if there is any.

Now, let’s take a look at some good practices to help you get to the desired scannability and brevity.

  • Steer clear of long, unintelligible sentences.
  • Let your text “breathe” by organizing the text into shorter paragraphs.
  • Use lists, bullet points and bold to make key points stand out.

What you get using the advice given above is a clear, short, and scannable email that people will open, read and understand.

Bonus tip: Finally, if you think you’re lousy at staying short and on-topic, use a set of questions below each time you’re writing an email to help you hone the skill.

Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple evangelist, a marketing specialist, and an author advises double-checking your writing to ensure it answers ONLY the following 5 questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why are you asking me?
  • Why should I do what you’re asking?
  • What is the next step?

Email Etiquette Tip #7: Respond to Your Emails Without Delay

It’s a matter of email courtesy to respond to your incoming emails on time. Letting your email languish in your inbox for too long is a red flag for an employer.

They may think to themselves: If they can’t reply to a simple email within a given time frame, how can I delegate an important task to them and expect it to be done by a required date? So, whatever you do, make sure you get punctual with your emails. Hopefully, you’re going to be a full-fledged online worker soon.

But how to be sure whether you’re on the right track as far as your email timeliness goes? Abide by these email etiquette rules and you’ll be fine. Make sure you check your work-related emails at regular intervals. And respond to your work-related emails within 24 to 48 hours.

Importantly, as a future online worker, you’ll most likely have too much on your plate handling your emails. And perhaps the first days (weeks, months) of your online work have thrown you into chaos already? No worries. There’s a way out of it.

Bonus tip: Use email and content management apps to track emails and speed up your time-consuming email tasks and allow you to focus on your professional email etiquette

Try the following two email apps. It’ll be much easier to get to your emails on time.

Inbox by Google

Among other features, it lists your emails by priority so you can note your priority emails on time without scouring your inbox.


You can use Streak to help you organize and schedule your emails to save time.

Email Etiquette Tip #8: Put Off Writing an Email if You’re Feeling Angry

There’s about no one that can keep one’s cool at all times when toiling their workweek away. You’ll get stuck on a problem, you’ll receive that irksome email and, of course, lose your wits. However, sending an emotional or an angry email is a very bad idea. You can let it slip even if you think you’re in control.

So, close that Gmail tab until you’re back to your usual self again. Want to mess up your relationship with your boss and co-workers? No? Then stick to this professional email etiquette tip.

And it gets worse. You can end up being responsible for losing a client. What’s written in the email is set in stone and there’s no turning back. It’s ridiculously easy to sound offensive in the written form, even if you’re not annoyed by something. So, be cautious not to use punctuation marks, all-capital letters, and inappropriate words when you’re:

  • Emailing someone with bad news.
  • Calling a co-worker on the carpet.
  • About to discuss a complex issue.

Email Etiquette Tip #9: Use an Appropriate Sign-off for Your Professional Email

professional email etiquette
Image Source: Justin Morgan

Whether you’re sending an email for a job or are already testing the waters of working online by communicating with clients via email, make sure you use the appropriate sign-off. This is just basic etiquette when it comes to professional email.

It’s not advisable to use casual closings, such as “Cheers” or “Best” in your professional email. This can literally ruin your prospects of getting the job and threaten the relationships with your clients and superiors. In online communication, all you have is a written word. So you better weigh out your options well before typing anything down.

When deciding on which sign-off you’re going to use for your professional email, etiquette dictates that you decide using the following criteria:

  • Your relationship with the email recipient
  • The intention of the email
  • The level of formality the recipient is using

Below are a few examples of etiquette in professional email closings and their respective meanings and connotations.

  • Sincerely: This highly formal closing salutation is applicable in most business-related situations. It’s considered too stiff to use with colleagues you work closely with.
  • Best regards: This sign-off is professional enough, but has an added nuance of warmth to it.
  • Best: Short of “best regards”. Use it when you want to give a warm close. However, it can also be seen as inauthentic if the previous person to person relationship doesn’t exist between the correspondents.
  • Respectfully: This is a formal closing line suitable for addressing your CEO, your senior executive or a Chairman of the Board.
  • Warm regards: This closing line contains a note of positive feelings. As such it’s more appropriate for social emails.
  • Yours truly: This sign-off line can sound way too formal and outdated when used in an email. So, it’s more convenient for business correspondence via printed letters.

Email Etiquette Tip #10: End Your Email With a Professional Signature

It is of top importance that your business email looks professional. And including a professional electronic signature will add to the professional feel of your email. And come to think of it, having a hiring manager that has no way of contacting you doesn’t exactly work in your favor, right?

A good business email signature should include your contact information, your company’s logo, and a link to your website and social media profiles. So, when creating your own signature, include the following:

  • Full name
  • Job title
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Website
  • Links to social media profiles
  • Mailing address

Beyond that, add a profile picture to help make your signature stand out.

However, be sure not to overdo it. Include only information that’s relevant for your business communication. In addition, don’t use too many different font colors, styles, and sizes.

Bonus tip: Don’t see yourself copying and pasting your email signature every single time you’re writing an email? That’s an easy one. You can use WiseStamp tool to automatically add your email signature to all of your emails.

Note: If you’re writing an application email make sure you DON’T include your current employment information in your signature. Also, be careful NOT to give out a contact phone number that your current receptionist or other colleagues pick up as well.

Email Etiquette Tip #11: Review Your Email Before Sending

Finally yet importantly, NEVER hit the send button before you’ve checked your email for any grammar, typing, and punctuation mistakes. The best way to do this is to read it to yourself out loud and see how it stacks against your inner language feeling. You’d say we’re fussing over it with no apparent reason? You couldn’t be more wrong.

Making embarrassing grammar mistakes doesn’t go together well with having a good professional image. A recent study has revealed that people react negatively to typos and grammar mistakes in emails.

Plus, a typo-ridden email is hardly ever going to earn you a job interview. But what exactly do you need to do? Make sure to tick these important boxes:

  • Spell-check your email and correct any grammar and punctuation mistakes.
  • Make sure your sentences are coherent and complete.
  • Double-check your names, toponyms, and titles.
  • Get rid of any redundant text to make your message clear.
  • Check your mail for any missing links, and ensure you’ve enclosed the necessary documents.

But what do you say about grabbing a free online tool that will automatically review your emails? Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Below are a few to consider:

  • Grammarly Use this online spelling and grammar checker to polish up your email content. It will suggest better grammar solutions, offer better sentence construction ideas and correct your spelling.
  • Hemingway Use Hemingway to improve the readability of your email and make your sentences more compact and to the point.
  • Writefull Use this English language use app when you run out of ideas for your email. The app helps you find synonyms and better ways to use certain words in a given context.

Live Up to Your Public Image

Good email etiquette is an important element of your job search. And once your search is over, sending proper emails is going to be your mundane reality. You’ll need to master that email etiquette sooner or later.

What awaits you on the other side is a huge payoff. Becoming email savvy will not only guarantee you quick and streamlined business communication. It will also testify to your professional competence. Being or aspiring to be an online worker will always keep you on the ball, meaning you should never stop learning. High on the idea?

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