There will be many times during your university studies that you will have to write emails. You may have to write to the university administration, to your lecturers or to some of your classmates. It is important that you have an understanding of how to choose the correct style for your audience and how to write the email with the right level of formality.

Let’s start by looking at the typical features and organisation of an email to make sure we include all of the necessary elements.

Task: Look at the typical structure of an email below. Can you identify the different parts?

Let’s look in a bit more detail at these features.

Carbon Copy: Carbon copy is usually referred to as just ‘Cc‘ and means that you are sending a copy of the email to the person specified. You might hear people say things like “I’ve Cc’d you in to the email” which means ‘I’ve sent you a copy of the email’ or “can you Cc me in please?” meaning ‘send me a copy of the email, I want to be included in the conversation.’

Blind Carbon Copy: It is important to understand BCc as it helps to ensure you are protecting peoples’ data. If you are sending an email to a group of people who do not know each other, it is often better to use BCc so that you do not share personal email addresses with people that don’t want their information to be shared. You might hear people say “make sure you BCc not Cc” meaning ‘don’t let everyone see each others email addresses!’

The subject line: Depending on who you are sending your email to, the subject line can be one of the most important parts of your email. You should make sure that your subject summarises the content of your email concisely, and depending on whether you know the person, invites them to open and respond to the email. People often use ‘Re:‘, meaning ‘regarding’ when they are replying to an email or referencing a previous conversation.

The Greeting: We usually begin an email with ‘Dear‘ and the first name of the person and then a comma e.g. ‘Dear Gareth,’. If you do not know the person very well or it is a formal email you should use ‘Dear’ followed by the title and surname of the person e.g. ‘Dear Mr Jones,’ / ‘Dear Dr Gardener,’. When you know a person well and have exchanged emails before it is perfectly fine to use ‘Hi/Hello’ e.g. ‘Hi Gareth,’. If you are sending an email to a company or department that has a generic email address and you do not know the name of the person who will read the email you can use ‘Dear Sir/Madamn,’ or ‘To Whom it May Concern,’.

The opening: Just like in academic writing, it is important to structure your emails and organise them so that they are easy to understand. We usually start an email with a friendly greeting such as ‘I hope you are well’ or ‘I hope you’re having a good day’. before then summarising the nature of our email. We should aim to introduce the idea generally at first before we give more details in the main body of the email. e.g:

Dear Mr Jones,

I hope you are well. I just wanted to ask you about the time for our tutorial next week.

The main request or response: You should aim to keep your email as short and concise as possible. If you need to reference several different things in an email it is a good idea to use bullet points to make them easier to process. Remember not to be too detailed or give too much personal information in an email as this can be embarrassing for yourself and the person reading the email. e.g.

Dear Mr Jones,

I hope you are well. I just wanted to ask you about the time for our tutorial next week.

It says on your door that the office hours are 10:00-11:00am but I thought we had agreed to meet at 12:30pm. I apologise for not writing the time down when we spoke.

The close: It is a good idea to close your email with a brief summary of your request and any actions you expect to result from it. Try to be clear about exactly what response you would like from the recipient as this will make it much more likely for them to reply e.g:

Dear Mr Jones,

I hope you are well. I just wanted to ask you about the time for our tutorial next week.

It says on your door that the office hours are 10:00-11:00am but I thought we had agreed to meet at 12:30pm. I apologise for not writing the time down when we spoke.

Please could you let me know whether 12:30 is the correct time or if I should try to arrange another time please?

The Sign-off: To end your email you should include a sign-off. People often have a favourite sign-off they use for all of their emails but they can vary slightly depending on the level of formality or the nature of your request.

For instance, a typical sign-off is ‘Kind regards‘ or ‘All the best’.

Email Signature: You should set up an automatic email signature to include your name, position in the company or your student ID and name of your subject. You can include contact details like your mobile phone number if you don’t mind the person calling you. Always remember to update your signature if you change your phone or role as this can make it very frustrating for the person receiving the email if the information is incorrect! E.g:

Dear Mr Jones,

I hope you are well. I just wanted to ask you about the time for our tutorial next week.

It says on your door that the office hours are 10:00-11:00am but I thought we had agreed to meet at 12:30pm. I apologise for not writing the time down when we spoke.

Please could you let me know whether 12:30 is the correct time or if I should try to arrange another time please?

Kind regards,

Stu Dent,
SID:093845
Accounting and Finance
0762090999

Now let’s practice. Can you identify the mistakes in the student emails?

Task: Now let’s practice. Can you identify the mistakes in the student emails? Click on the parts of the email you think are inappropriate for the context. Then, click through the slides to improve the style.