Research Skills for Developing Writers: Writing professional emails

An introductory guide to help multilingual undergraduate writers at the U develop their research skills.

Professional Communication

When contacting a librarian, an instructor, another student or a university administrative professional by email, it is important to be professional and polite. Many times, the email is their first impression of you.  žEmailing your instructors, faculty, and peers in a professional way makes a good impression about your abilities and seriousness as a student.

Adopting professional emailing skills will help you for the rest of your university career and in your future career.  Here are 10 tips to help you write more professional emails:

#1 - Always include a specific subject in the subject line.  Do not assume the librarian knows why you are emailing.  Be brief and say something like "Research help" or "Sources for a paper about smoking"
#2 - Do not start your message with “I am+ Your Name.”  (e.g. I am Xiao.)  Sign your name at the end of the email; this is standard in written communication. 
#3 - Do not start your message with “How are you?” “What’s up?”. Begin with a more polite greeting like "Dear Ms. Smith" or "Dear Dr. Jones".
#4 - State your purpose in the first sentence. (e.g. I am writing to make an appointment.)   
#5 - Use professional language.  You do not talk to your instructors the way you talk to your friends so avoid casual  language (e.g. Hi, What's up?), swearing, and abbreviations or emoticons (e.g. LOL, BTW, :-/, ^_^).  
#6 - Use correct English.  Proofread your email before you send it to correct any grammar, capitalization, punctuation, or spelling errors you notice.
#7 - Do not use all CAPITAL LETTERS or all lower case letters.  Your email should reflect proper capitalization.
#8 - Do not end your message with “Bye” or “See ya.”  End with a more polite closing like "Thank you" , "Best", or "Sincerely", and your name. (e.g. Sincerely, Yelena)
#9 - Say "please" and "thank you".  Librarians are happy to help you but they are more likely to respond promptly and politely if your email is polite.
 (Content adapted courtesy of Anna Krulatz)

Good Example of a Professional Email



SUBJECT: Appointment to meet about research


Dear Ms. Jones,

I am writing a report on the health benefits of yoga for my ESL 1050 class.  I need some help finding sources.  I have found 2 articles already but I would like to find a book, too.  Could we meet next week to find some sources?  I am free on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday after 1pm.  Please let me know what times work for you.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.



Bad Example of a Professional Email



SUBJECT: (no subject)


  hi june,

  i am lina. how are you? i am greet J, but i need find book for ESL. let me know because i must do it. if not, i get f :-P     DON’T FOTGET!!!

ok bye

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