Note – we originally published a version of this blog in 2014. Since we continue to experience and hear about email etiquette gaffes (from law school admissions deans – yikes!), we thought we would run an updated post on this topic.
Email etiquette is a critical skill whether you are communicating with law school admissions officers, potential employers, professors or your pre-law advisors! Remember: these contacts are formal and therefore VERY different from emails sent to friends or family members. A lack of professionalism and/or respect can create very negative impressions, which then likely lead to unhappy admissions or employment outcomes. Want to avoid common email pitfalls? Read on for some practical and easy tips.
1. Salutation: DO NOT begin your email with “Hey” or “Joe”. You should ALWAYS err on the side of being more formal: “Dear Dean Jones” or “Dear Ms. Smith.” First names or casual openings are for friends and family only. NEVER address individuals you encounter in a professional setting by their first names until you have been invited to do so!
2. Subject Line: Never leave this blank. Instead write a brief but accurate description of the content of the email. Examples: “Application Status Inquiry” or “Interview Follow Up.”
3. Organization: Collect your thoughts (what are you trying to say?) and then organize your email into an introduction, body and closing. The introduction states your reason for contacting the person. The body details the information you are trying to convey. The closing wraps up your email, including whether you will be contacting them in the future or if you would like them to contact you.
4. Proofread: Nothing leaves a bad impression like a careless typo or typos. Draft your email and reread it, checking it several times for any spelling or grammatical errors.
5. Manners: Say “please,” “thank you,” and sign your emails with a courteous sign off, such as “sincerely” or “best.” Remember: anything you put in writing is there forever. Do you want to be remembered as the polite, interested candidate or the clueless jerk?! And, by the way, if you receive a reply to your inquiry, always write a quick thank you for that response!
For more info on these suggestions and for other tips about composing professional emails, read “10 Professional Email Tips” by Elizabeth Hoyt, May 8, 2018, at fastweb.com.