How to Communicate Effectively Via Email

Improve your Communication Skills!

The majority of this newsletter article has been adapted from the course “PD3: Communication”, created by Andrew McMurry, and offered at the University of Waterloo.

Email communication is a quickly growing segment of communication.  Many users of email prefer it over other types of communication for several reasons:

  1. Offers lots of style and formatting options
  2. Prevents the need for face-to-face and/or phone conversations
  3. Is nearly instantaneous 

However, it is important to consider that, even though email is mostly text, language and tone are still very important. For example, the “tenor” (the level of formality of your speech) of your e-mail conversation is advisable to remember. You may be much more formal with your boss as opposed to a good friend. A large part of tenor is judgment-based; you will have to decide on your own, what level of formality is required. 

Some aspects of emails to keep in mind when communicating are:

  1. Your email address: if you are emailing a potential employer or a professor, sending it from an email address such as won’t inspire confidence in the reader. 
  2. The subject line: keep it brief and to-the-point, but also informative. Don’t just use something such as “!!!” as a subject line to an email. 
  3. Salutations: salutations such as “ Hello Mr./Ms. __________” are ideal. However the type of salutation required depends on the email in question. When emailing a superior, definitely avoid salutations such as “Hey” or “Yo”. 
  4. Body of the email: make sure to confirm that the information in the body of your message is correct and necessary. As mentioned before, also ensure that the tone of your email is correct or applicable to the situation. 
  5. Grammar: grammar is always important in life, even in a communication format such as email. 
  6. Closing: something such as “Regards, *your name*” works well in a professional situation
  7. The exact tone or tenor of an email depends on various factors, mainly who you are sending it to. If you are emailing a friend, you don’t need to be formal. Ultimately, use your best professional judgment when deciding on the required tone for an email message.

Another concept to keep in mind is something called “mirroring”. Mirroring means communicating to others in roughly the same tone they use when communicating to you.  If someone sends you a formal email, normally reply back in a formal way. If someone sends a short, terse email, reply back similarly. However, this doesn’t help if you are sending an email to someone for the first time.

Here is an example of two different emails, one good, one not so good, both created on the premise of sending a resume to a potential employer for a job opening labeled “12345”. 



Subject: I want to apply to a job!

Hey, take a look at my resume. I am interested in your job opening for ____________, which is numbered 12345 on your site. I do a lot of stuff that makes me good for the position. When can we meet and talk about this? 




Subject Job application for position 12345

Hello Sir/Madam, 

I am emailing you today in regards to the job opening 12345 on your website.. I feel that I am qualified for this role because of _________________ as well as ________________. I have attached my resume and cover letter to this email. If you have any questions you can reach me via this email or call me as well at ___________. I hope to hear from you soon. 


John Doe 

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