Writing Guidelines
for Engineering and Science Students

Sample Email Format

Subject: Title of E-mail in Initial Capitals

Engineers and scientists use e-mails to make requests, to answer questions, and to give announcements. E-mails are read quickly. For that reason, get to the point in the first paragraph--the first sentence, if possible. In other words, state what you want up front. Be careful about e-mails that make complaints, which are usually better handled in person.

In e-mails, keep the sentence lengths and paragraph lengths relatively short. Sentences should average fewer than twenty words, and paragraphs should average fewer than seven lines. In the format suggested here, you should single space your e-mails, skip a line between paragraphs, and use a typeface that is easily read on a computer. If possible, keep the total e-mail length to a length that can be viewed entirely on the screen.

Because the reader sees only the title of your e-mail in the Inbox or in the folder where it has been filed, give some thought to that title. Choose a title that orients the reader to the subject of the e-mail and, if possible, distinguishes your e-mail from other e-mails about that subject. For example, choose "Proposal Draft for Our ME 440W Design Project" as opposed to "Design Project" or "ME 440W."

With e-mails, send copies to anyone whose name you mention in the e-mail or who would be directly affected by the e-mail. Also, be sure to mention explicitly any attachments. Finally, remember that final paragraphs of e-mails generally tell readers what you want them to do or what you will do for them.


Your Name
Your Contact Information

Leonhard Center, Penn State
University Park, PA 16802

Content Editor: Michael Alley