Using email for business communication is very common, so as a preemptive measure, it is advantageous for you to know the guidelines of email etiquette. Proper email etiquette shows that you not only understand and accept the means of business communication, but also that you will be able to represent the organization in a professional manner if hired. Here are some ways to sharpen your email etiquette:

First Impression

Your actual email address says a lot about you. While you might have a personal email address that is fun and different, it's important to use a simple, professional one when emailing employers. If you need to make a new one for this purpose, it's always a good idea to incorporate your first and last name in a simple way. For example, JGibbs@emailaddress.com or RyanSelf@emailaddress.com.

A message subject is a great way to define your email and prepare the recipient for the context of your email. When defining the email in the message subject title, use as few as possible descriptive words (5-6 max) to highlight the main point of your email communication. An example is "Marketing Assistant Position #109387" or "Informational Interview Request on 12/23". Your email will be much more well-received with a descriptive yet concise message header than with none at all.

Body of Email

Sending an email is not the same as sending a hand-written letter to a good friend. While your friend may enjoy hearing a long winded description of what you’re up to and your goals for the future, an email to an employer should be brief and concise. State the main point of the email and try not to stray too far from that point throughout the email.

Just as with outlines and formal papers, an email needs to have a proper structure. Humans are essentially visual people, so by breaking up the email in to short paragraphs, the email becomes more easily readable by the recipient. No one wants to read a one paragraph email that goes on for two pages.

In a formal email, there should be no abbreviations, spelling mistakes, or poor punctuation. It is imperative to read, re-read, and re-read again the email before hitting send. Too often homophonic words like "they're," "there," and "their" end up in emails because the sender failed to re-read the email multiple times before sending it.

After you have re-read your email, it is important to analyze the tone of your writing. Because the words we write only account for a small amount of what we actually say, your tone in the email needs to be pleasant and polite. To start out on a positive note with your email, try using parts of your 30-second elevator pitch to give a brief yet representative description of yourself.

To keep from clogging someone else’s inbox, be sure to answer all questions asked of you. A good habit to get in to is to think of questions that could be asked in the future and then answer those questions in your email. An example is when an employer asks you what your major is and then, in another email, what your minor is. It is also wise to give options to your recipient when trying to plan something together.

Before the conclusion of the email, it is always a good idea to thank the employer or recruiter for their time and express sincere appreciation for the opportunity to interview. If you seem rude and automatically assume that the employer should cater to your requests, the employers will be less likely to put in a good word for you. Just remember, a few simple words ("Please" and "Thank you") go a long way.

Tidbits to Keep in Mind

Attachments are probably the most abused feature of emails. An unwanted attachment is not only annoying but also clogs up the recipients’ inbox. Only use attachments if the recipient specifically asked you for one (i.e. a resume). Emails with attachments may be flagged as spam, thus, the recipient never received.

As was mentioned above, your email should be read over at least twice before it is sent out. Keep in mind, however, that a response should be timely. Give yourself time to review the message but don’t wait too long and decrease the recipients reply time if it is a time-sensitive issue. Simply remember to read the email over and think the email over as well.

The most important, but often overlooked, bit of information to remember is to never give confidential information about yourself in an email. Once a piece of confidential information is out on the internet, it can most likely be found again, even if the email it was sent in is deleted. Examples of confidential information are social security number, salary, bank account number, or even discriminatory comments. Once it hits the web, it is viewable to almost anyone, so be careful with what you discuss via email.