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Email Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of the Email Application

After the hours spent perfecting your resume down to every last punctuation, not to mention the time poured over a strategically tailored cover letter, it’s time to pull the trigger.


Before you type a single word into that daunting “new message” box, think about it; after all your time and work, this is the make-or-break it, last-shot-as-the-buzzer-sounds moment. That’s right, we’re talking about the email — the single most overlooked step, and the one that can get your resume read or tossed with the rest directly into the recruiter’s already-crowded trash bin.

To shed some light on the matter, I spoke with Meaghan O’Connor, current Editorial Assistant at Food Network Magazine and past Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief at Seventeen Magazine. It’s up to her to interview, hire and manage a team of interns every semester – which as you could probably guess, involves floods of emails to her inbox everyday. Take it from someone who knows and follow these simple guidelines to ensure your email is read and (hopefully) land the coveted interview.


Do include what you’re applying for and your full name in the subject line. Although some emails are sent to a separate address strictly for applications, at Food Network Magazine, Meaghan receives all the apps straight to her inbox. She suggests including your full name and what you’re applying for. “That way,” she says, “when I go back searching my inbox for resumes I may have forgotten to print, your subject line hits all of the key words.”

Don’t opt for a cheesy subject line. After all that time spent on the app, it’s easy to get caught up in a moment of desperation and throw in a last minute attempt to stand out. “The best email you’ll ever open” probably will be the last email ever opened from you.

Do put your cover letter in the body of your email. When scanning over 75 prospective intern emails, Meaghan rarely reads cover letters sent as attachment. Instead, she’s looking for ease and convenience. “I’d say just stick the cover letter in the body of the email,” she says. “But keep it short (2 paragraphs or less!). Get to the point quickly and include only the essential info (what you’re applying for and which semester, where you go to school, why you are interested in the internship, when you are available, and maybe a sentence that captures the reader’s attention or speaks to why you’re the perfect fit!).”

Don’t attach your resume as a word document. Instead, attach your materials as a PDF. Regardless of whether you put your cover letter in the body of the email, Elon Communications Career Advisor, Marianne Brigola, suggests attaching as few documents as possible. “If you can do one attachment with your cover letter as one page, and your resume as the second page, that’s better, as it’s one less thing for them to keep track of,” she says.

Do make your email short, sweet and to the point. As a rule of thumb, keep your email under two paragraphs. Challenge yourself to sell it as quickly and concisely as you can. “Introduce yourself and explain really quickly why you’re the perfect fit,” says Meaghan. “Also, it helps to either mention some sort of connection you have or mention something about the magazine specifically (maybe a recipe you’ve tried or a section you really like) that shows you actually read it!”

Don’t forget to address your contact person correctly. Do you homework to ensure you don’t make the fatal mistake of spelling a name wrong. “It’s on the internship posting,” Meaghan says, “so no excuses.” Especially with ambiguous names, don’t assume Cameron is a male and address your email to Mr. Cameron Last name. Most professionals have a LinkedIn page you can quickly check to avoid confusion.


All application processes will be different, so it’s important to tailor your materials – yes, email too! – to each specific job. Now that you know the do’s and don’ts of application emails, you’re ready to un-pause, send away and pray to the Gmail gods. 

Anjelique is a senior at Elon University, a National Contributing Writer for HC and an aspiring magazine editor. 
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