Email: Ten Things You Must Do

Dear Student Branding Reader,

More and more of your friends are probably jumping on the Twitter bandwagon and creating LinkedIn profiles. And pretty much everyone you know is on Facebook (including your professors, internship supervisors and parents). It’s important to understand how to leverage your brand through these platforms, since they are playing an increasingly prevalent role in all of our lives.

But, amidst all the hype about social media, we’ve lost focus on something important: how to email well.

How to Email Well

Have you ever received an e-mail and thought, “This person sounds mean,” or “That person used ten exclamation marks!!!!! He/she must be really hyper!!!!!”? When you e-mail, your choice of words and grammar tells a story about who you are. While it’s important that you convey an appropriate message and “tone” with everyone you e-mail – whether it be friends, family classmates, work colleagues or strangers- it is particularly imperative that the email is of the highesgt quality when you are contacting potential employer.

If you are in the running for a job or internship opportunity, you are almost certainly going to be communicating via e-mail at some point. If you’ve ever had to do so before, you know the experience can be slightly nerve-racking because it is hard to be 100% sure that you are conveying your message in a clear and appropriate way.

I remember writing some of my first e-mails to potential employers in college, and they took forever! I’d sit at my desk staring at a few sentences on a computer screen, wondering to myself: “Is two exclamation points too much? Should I include my contact information again even though I included it in my last e-mail two weeks ago? How do I address the person I am e-mailing…Ms? Mrs? First and last name? Just the last name?”

There isn’t a comprehensive list of hard and fast “rules” for e-mail etiquette. A lot of what you choose to say and how you choose to say it will vary depending on the personal brand you wish to put forward, as well as the recipient of your e-mail. But, here are a few email etiquette MUSTS to keep in mind when e-mailing potential employers:

Email Etiquette Musts

1.) DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPS – Not only is it difficult to read- it also feels to the recipient like you are shouting at them or overemphasizing a point. Avoid putting any word in ALL CAPS.

2.) Limit your use of “!” – While it’s great to be excited about a job or internship opportunity, keep it to one or two exclamation points per email. When you are still introducing yourself to a firm, it is important to structure your emails with a sophisticated tone. That’s difficult to do when you have lots of exclamation points at the end of every other sentence!!!!

3.) Keep the font formal and normal - Just as you would for a resume, don’t get too crazy with your font choice. It’s arguably harder for some people to read your email on a screen than it is to read your resume on a piece of paper, so be conservative and choose a basic font.

4.) Make sure your signature is appropriate - You may have an automatic email signature that includes your current internship title or a link to your blog, Twitter page or Facebook profile. If you decide that you do not necessarily want to include some of these things in your e-mail to a new employer, revise your signature.

5.) Remember the attachment! - I’ve certainly been guilty of writing “see attached” somewhere in the e-mail and then forgetting to include the attachment. When you have to follow up with a second “oops” e-mail to resend the attachment you meant to forward on the first time around, the recipient may see it as a sign of your forgetfulness or lack of attention to detail. To avoid this, include all attachments before you begin drafting the body of the email.

6.) Don’t fill out the “To:” section right away – Just because it is at the top of the e-mail doesn’t mean you should fill in the recipient’s e-mail address right away. Accidents happen – avoid the possibility of sending an incomplete email by waiting until you are completely done writing it to fill in the “To” section.

7.) Do not rely on spellchecker - Spellchecker is a very helpful tool. Most e-mail programs spellcheck automatically. The downside to spellchecker is that it gets us in the habit of not double checking emails ourselves for spelling and grammar errors. Save the email you wrote and come back to it after 30 minutes to proofread before sending it on.

8.) Address the email correctly - Addressing emails correctly is tricky because you never know exactly how someone wants to be addressed. To be on the safe side, I always use “Ms.” instead of “Mrs.”, and tend to use only the last name- for example: “Ms. Smith” or “Mr. Johnson”. Once the person replies, any follow-up correspondence should be addressed in the same way that the person signed his or her e-mail reply to you.

9.) Say “Thank you” and “Please” - Using etiquette words such as these convey a sense of respect and maturity when used appropriately. For example, you could say, “If you want to reach me, my number is 212-555-1234.” Or, you could say, “If you have any questions or would like to contact me in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at 212-555-1234.” Both sentences say pretty much the same thing, but which one sounds more cordial and professional?

10.) Signing off - How you choose to sign off on your emails is important, too. Again, use your judgement. I sign off differently depending on the situation. Sometimes, I use “Warm regards” or “Best”- other times, just a simple “Thank you” or “Sincerely”. Choose one that works for your personal brand, and don’t be afraid to alter your sign-off choice depending on not only who you are emailing, but how many times you have emailed- as well as the particular context of each email.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and please do share your own email etiquette tips with us!




Melissa is the Editor-in-Chief of She is also an Assistant Brand Manager at Time Inc. Home Entertainment, where she manages brand extension projects for numerous publications including: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, People, and Entertainment Weekly. Melissa majored in Psychology at Hamilton College and currently resides in New York City. To find out more, read her blog, follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. What’s Your Email Style?
  2. Personal Branding Predictions for 2010
  3. The Importance of Social Media

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    Dan Schawbel, the founder of the Student Branding Blog, is a world renowned personal branding expert, the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog.

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    Chelsea Rice is the editor-in-chief of the Student Branding Blog. She began her work for just before graduating from Boston University, where she studied journalism and minored in international relations.

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