Writing strong emails matters for academics, employment

Here’s a fun fact about me: I geek out about professional, well-composed emails.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and texting tend to be the way most college students communicate. However, email is an important form of communication that is often overlooked.

Social media and texting are usually for more casual exchanges. In contrast, email is often more professional, both in terms of recipient and content.

The importance of email, and the proper etiquette for using it, is often forgotten.

As college students, our primary form of communication with professors outside of the classroom is through email. Applications for potential employment opportunities can happen over the Internet. Email can help set up appointments, build relationships and cement opportunities.

In short, email is the medium through which a lot of important exchanges occur – a medium which, if used properly, can go a long way to boost your professionalism and connections.

In cases like the ones mentioned above, professional emails can do a lot to alter the way someone, whether it be a professor, possible employer or other professional, views you. A concise, formal note leaves a much better impression than a hastily scribbled message sent from your phone as you’re running out the door.

My roommate mentioned that recently, the exercise science department has begun providing an email protocol to its students. This protocol requires every email sent to a professor to have a salutation, a concise explanation of the problem and a signature that clearly identifies the student.

The bottom line is: Being deliberate about the entirety of an email can dramatically influence situational outcomes.

To begin, be mindful of the subject lines of email. The subject of an email is often what makes people decide whether or not the message is worth reading, and is also usually how someone can find the message later if he or she needs to refer to it.

Salutations or greetings are crucial, as they are the first things the recipient of an email sees.

When addressing professors, always include “professor” before their name. If you know that they have a doctoral degree, include “Dr.”; at the very least, include Mr. or Ms. Doing so automatically shows respect for both authority and age, if applicable.

The body of an email changes based on the content, but a good rule of thumb is to be as clear and concise as possible. Put important items, particularly those requiring actions, near the top. If you have lots of information in the email, consider using bullet points, numbered lists or bolded headings to provide clarity for the reader.

A quick Google search turns up a good example of a bad email: “can u tell me how to do number 4 on the problem set. i no u went over it in class but i have had a VERY LONG week lol tests ha ha ha and i lost my notes. pleeease help.”

Clearly, grammar is also important for how an email comes across. Full, grammatically correct sentences read a lot better than short, choppy ones with misplaced commas and unformed thoughts. Use proper capitalization and spacing so that the email looks formal and uniform.

Including words like “ha ha” or “lol” in emails takes away from the professionalism of the content.

The last part of a good email is the signature. A word like “sincerely” or “best” is usually a safe bet. After that, put any pertinent contact information. In terms of professors, your name, class name and any extra contact information is sufficient. For job prospects or other professional communication, possible options include your e-mail address, phone number or address.

Also, it’s often a good idea to remove “sent from my iPhone” or similar closing terms from the settings on your phone. While sometimes having that on an email can indicate that you were responding on the go, for the most part it’s more professional to not use it.

Taking the time to craft respectful, effective emails may seem like a waste, particularly when communicating with professors teaching classes that aren’t in your field or regarding matters that don’t seem to be important for the long run.

The truth, however, is that you really never know how you’ll end up being connected to someone. You never know when someone is in a position to offer you a job, write you a letter of recommendation or match you with an opportunity.

The connections you make with people are important, and taking a few extra moments to write good emails is just one more tool at your disposal.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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