Effective Email Communication

Chances are good that you’ve had an email address since middle school or high school and can’t imagine life without a cell phone. Maybe you write dozens of emails and text messages a day, and group all digital communication together.

But did you know that chances are good your professors do not view email as an informal medium for communication? In fact, professors even post (redacted) student emails to forums in order to laugh about a student’s glib tone or unreasonable demands. (You’ll find over one thousand pages of posts at http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,29894.0.html )

Here are a few tips to keep your emails professional:

  1. The subject line should be descriptive. “Question” does not accurately define your email; “Question on last Math 212 homework assignment” is far more helpful.
  2. Emails should consist of three parts: a salutation, the body, and a signature.
  3. Begin the email with the proper address. Not “hey”, not “yo”. Start with “Hi”, “Hello”, or even “Dear”, followed by the appropriate title (“Professor” or “Dr.”, possibly a “Ms.” or “Mr.”) and the person’s last name, spelled correctly.*
  4. Keep your message short. If you have an elaborate message, consider speaking in person.
  5. Don’t ask questions that you can find out from another student, the syllabus, or on Blackboard.
  6. Don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you”. Manners matter.
  7. Proofread, and correct any mistakes or adjust your tone.
  8. Consider a new email address. Does your current email address include a silly nickname? Set up an account with gmail or another reputable email provider (or simply use your university provided email!) that uses your name only.

* You may use a first name, but only if you’ve been explicitly invited to use it.

See http://mleddy.blogspot.com/2005/01/how-to-e-mail-professor.html for more tips for effective email communications with your professors.

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