Section 5 - Parts of an Email Message

Email messages, like other forms of correspondence, have the same general format regardless of the email program you choose. Below is an image of an email message from Zimbra, the St. Edward’s University Webmail. There is a header, a subject line, body of the message, and the signature line.

Email Message


The To: field is required in all email messages to alert the mail server to the message's destination.

The From: field will give the recipient of the email an idea whom the message is from.

Some other fields that you might see are:

  • The Cc: field allows you to send the same message to multiple recipients. When you send a Cc: message, all recipients are aware of who received copies of the message. Cc: stands for carbon copy and is a holdover from the days when letters were typed with carbon paper between the pages to create identical letters for multiple recipients.
  • The Bcc: field allows you to send an identical message to multiple recipients, however, those recipients whose addresses appear in the BCC: field cannot be seen by the other recipients.

Almost all email messages have a subject line. In most email applications, the only information a recipient will see about a message is whom it is from, when, and what the subject is. Subject lines are a good idea as a courtesy to those reading your messages and also to help the recipient focus on the topic of your message.

At the end of a message, you may see a block of information such as name, title, business address, phone numbers, web addresses, and sometimes even quotes from famous (or infamous) people. This block of information can be inserted in a standardized format (so you do not have to type it every time you mail a message) by using a signature file (also known as a .sig file). The block of information is known as the sig line or signature line. Keep in mind that some email applications do not receive these blocks of text exactly how you formatted them.

It is also a good idea to use a signature file sparingly. If you are sending jokes to your family members, it is not necessary to send them the contents of your business card at the end of the message.