By Caroline Powers
A sloppy email can convey a message that you did not mean to send.
In the age of social media, many students approach emailing similar to texting and other forms of digital communication. The lines between professional emails and more informal modes of writing have become blurred.
When those relaxed habits make their way into your academic or professional communication—such as an email accompanying a job application or a request for an informational interview—then you may not look serious or intelligent.
Here is a list of clarifications for better email behavior:
1. Use a clear subject line
When you know the person receiving your email is already busy, it’s important to make your inquiry obvious and deliver exactly what your message is about.
Instead of “I neeed help!” the subject line, “Art History Essay Question” would be much better.
2. Use a greeting and signature.
Think of an email as a digital letter. Your greeting and signature tie your whole message together and make it professional.
Instead of starting the message with “hey,” begin with a greeting like “Hello” or “Good morning,” then address your professor by the appropriate title and surname, such as “Prof. Smith” or “Dr. Rodriguez.”
This can be hard to nail down, depending on your teachers’ gender, or level of education, but Professor is usually best if you are unsure if they have an alternative title.
Similarly, instead of concluding with “Sent from my iPhone” or nothing at all, include a signature, such as “Best” or “Sincerely,” followed by your name.
3. Use standard punctuation, capitalization, spelling and grammar.
Emails are not the same as texting. Leave the shorthand language such as acronyms and emojis for your friends. “Lol” and even “Haha” have no place in professional emails.
Instead use complete phrases: “That made my day!” and even a simple, “Woah!” to express excitement and in a way that’s far more polished and professional.
Be sure to limit this type of enthusiasm to keep the message from sounding obnoxious.
We all know how to form basic sentences and use proper English.
Instead of writing “idk what sources 2 use for my paper??” Say, “Do you have any suggestions for sources I could use for my research paper?”
4. Be brief and get to the point
After you have opened the dialogue, do not expect a professor to know what class you are in or what essay you are needing help on. Although they are obvious to you, clearly state these facts to avoid confusion.
Instead of asking for answers, start by saying, “My names is Johnny Lewis and I am in your ARHS 1432 course.
Then, you might write, and “How many sources do I need for the second research paper? I already checked the syllabus and course documents, but unfortunately I am unable to locate it.”
If you email to ask something you could look up yourself, you risk presenting yourself as lazy or not resourceful.
5. Use spell check and proofread
An email filled with typos and errors looks rushed and can appear disrespectful. It should go without saying, but it’s imperative you proofread your emails before sending. Check for grammar errors and typos, and make sure that you’ve correctly spelled any proper nouns.
6. Respond Promptly
Just because someone doesn’t ask for a response doesn’t mean you should ignore him or her. Acknowledge emails in a timely manner. Try to respond within one business day so it does not leave that person wondering if the conversation has dropped or if you did not receive his or her message.
This goes without saying; don’t sacrifice quality for speed.