How to handle emails in the workplace

Guest BloggerAdvice, Graduates, On Placement

Imagine this. You’re starting your placement or graduate job. You’re learning new skills, meeting new people, and experiencing a brand new professional world. It’s great, but there can be a lot to take in! The workplace can look very different to your world at Aston, and you’ll need to be able to adapt.

One of the things that might be different, is how you email people. Emailing colleagues is very different to emailing your mates.

Today, we’re sharing some tips to help you put your best foot forward when it comes to email etiquette.


Here are a few pointers to help you structure your emails at work:

Subject line
Don’t leave this blank. You need to write something concise that summarises the subject of the email. It could be something like “1-to-1 meeting actions”, or “Wellbeing event rota”, for example.

You’d be surprised by the number of emails we see from students that don’t start with a greeting. You could start with something like “Dr John”, “Dear Finance team”, or just a simple “Hello there.”

Next, you need to provide a short paragraph that explains why you’re getting in touch. For example, “Following our 1-to-1 meeting yesterday, I’d like to clarify some of the actions that we discussed.” If you’re emailing about a new topic, you could write something like “I’m getting in touch to discuss the possibility of arranging a 1-to1 to look at some of the tasks I need to complete over the next two weeks.”

The next section should provide more detail. It’s important to provide context – remember, the person you’re emailing probably has a lot of people emailing them about different things, so you need to be as clear as possible. Using our example from above, you could say “I’m not completely clear on how best to proceed with setting up that project group. Please can you provide some clarification? Alternatively, please can we arrange a suitable time to discuss it?”

When rounding off your email, it’s worth including the next steps. This could be something like “I’ll speak to Sam about setting up a rota, and I’ll look forward to hearing back from you about the suppliers.”

Signing off
Again, keep it professional. You could sign off with “Kind regards, Ashley”, or “Best wishes, Muhammed.”

General tips

We hope the advice on structure is useful. Here are some more general tips to ensure your emails are as professional as possible:

  • Use clear language to communicate the message. Your emails should be concise, and it should be easy to understand why you are writing and what you need from your colleague.
  • Use language appropriate to the target audience. Text speech, abbreviations and informal greetings should be kept for messaging your friends. If you’re emailing a colleague, please don’t say “Hey mate” – Stick to the suggestions we outlined earlier, such as “Dear…” or “Hello…”
  • If you’re emailing about something that you’ve already been in touch about, use the same thread. It means your colleague will easily be able to see what’s previously been discussed, and it’ll be easier for you both to keep track of everything.
  • Spelling and punctuation are important, and if you miss some, it can make your email tricky to understand, and potentially lead to confusion.
  • If you’re wound up about something, take a breather before you reply. Go and make a cuppa, or do another task for a while. When you come back to it, you’ll be able to reply in a more calm and professional manner. Don’t type when you’re angry!
  • Use simple and easy-to-read fonts, such as Arial, Calibri, or Tahoma. You should also stick to size 11 or 12.
  • Are you emailing about something confidential? Be mindful if you are, and consider including “P&C” (private and confidential) in the subject line, so your colleague knows there’s sensitive information in the email.
  • Always proof-read!
  • If you need to send a follow-up email to remind someone of something, make sure you leave enough time in between emails. What you consider a priority possibly isn’t a priority for your colleague, and they will likely have other things that they’re working on.