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E-mail Etiquette and Why it’s Important

March 30, 2009

Email etiquette. It’s something that seems to be simple – but it is also a lasting first impression. I receive numerous e-mails from students, and lately I have noticed that more often than not, they write as if it is an extension of a text message or a previous conversation we have already had. So, a couple tips from LAF on how to communicate via e-mail:

1. Exclamation Points are not your friend

It’s always great that you are EXCITED!!!!!! about e-mailing me. However, you can get your point across with a period too. I know you want a job and/or to network. The exclamation point doesn’t convince me otherwise. In fact, it can come across as very unprofessional if you use them excessively. “I look forward to speaking with you!” vs. “I look forward to speaking with you.” is the same exact wording, but can come across as a completely different sentence.

2. Address the recipient at the start of the e-mail

E-mails need to be personalized. It is proper etiquette to view an e-mail as a business letter. Start with a “Dear”, or if you are more familiar with someone, “Hi.” View networking e-mails as a pitch – you are selling your product (yourself) and starting conversation. Also, always end your e-mail with “Sincerely”, “Best Regards” or even “Best” with a signature that defines you. I want to see your name and best way to contact you.

3. Don’t make the email a novel

We are busy people. A lot of times, we read your e-mails off a PDA, and it can get annoying to have to scroll down forever. It makes my fingers hurt. Be courteous and respectful of the professional’s time, and make sure your e-mail is concise. It also gives me an idea of what type of writer you are. Remember, news releases, pitches and e-mails need to be to the point – so it’s good practice.

4. Don’t ask for a job right off the bat

E-mail networking is like dating – you need to court me first on your fabulous assets before I offer you a job or help you connect with other people. I want to see what you’re really like and how you approach situations in which you ask for advice beforehand. Show me your dedication to the field before I show you the money – or how to get your foot in the door.

What else makes e-mails stand out?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. sheesidd permalink
    March 30, 2009 4:41 pm

    Great post! E-Mail etiquette is really important because a lot of the time, its someone first impression of you. Unfortunately, a lot of people lack this skill!

    I think another thing that would make the e-mail stand out is the individual gave a reason about why the decided to contact you or were drawn to you. Not to say they want a job, but they are interested in the type of PR you do , or they were inspired by something you wrote on your blog, etc.

  2. March 30, 2009 4:48 pm

    You offer some excellent tips here, Lauren. Regarding point number one on your level of “excitement” when communicating: Someone once told me that professional writers should write as though they’ve only been allotted three exclamation points for use throughout their entire writing career.

    I am so with you on number 3. I almost always see emails on my Blackberry first, and even an e-mail that’s just 3-4 paragraphs can take endless scrolling to read on a 2″ screen. Include important information and make yourself relevant, but get to the point, too! (There goes one of my three exclamation points.)


  3. March 30, 2009 8:22 pm

    Great post Lauren. This is definitely an issue that students need to be aware of.

    The one concern I have is with #4. I feel like it depends on the professional. I know someone like you, who is always willing to help people will gratefully read an email from a student talking about their passion for PR, and will follow up. Other professionals may not be so receptive to such an email and would just ignore it for lack of time. I’ve been told by professionals many times to get to the point when sending emails.

    Is there a method you would recommend that students use where they can let the professional know that they are looking for a job without seeming too forward?


    P.S. I can be a big violator of #1. I’ll have to work on that! …DOH

  4. March 30, 2009 8:24 pm

    Hey Dave –

    I would e-mail the professional and ask if it would be ok to send them occasional e-mails asking for advice, maybe see if they could go for coffee, and ask about job opportunities. That way, you aren’t just coming out and saying: “Hey, You! Give me a Job.” You are being respectful of their time and asking for guidance and a job, rather than just a job.

  5. March 30, 2009 8:26 pm

    Sheema – That is an excellent suggestion on how to approach an email. Thanks for reading.

  6. April 2, 2009 4:25 am

    I always use a ton of !’s in my email. Usually I get crapped on by some employees, but it’s my signature,

    I also started using ~ before stuff – just to mix it up! LOL! 😉

  7. April 8, 2009 2:22 pm

    All good tips. FWIW: As part of #3 I’d add a caution about large attachments.

    And for #4 I have two tips: 1) before asking for a job, do a little research, as perhaps you’ll discover that someone–such as myself–is a solo practitioner, without a job to offer and 2) which really should go without typing, Spell Check. (Resisted the urge to put an exclamation mark there.) Always. Certainly when applying for a job as a professional communicator.


  1. How to Communicate with Professionals « The Spinks Blog

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