Most of us send several emails a day, and it can feel too tempting to not think twice before typing a reply or question and sending it in a matter of a few seconds.
Yet as a soon-to-be college student, it’s probably time to step up your email game. Learning proper networking and email etiquette is even more important as you enter the next phase of your education and then embark on your future career path.
Start by following these basics of email etiquette to help you communicate clearly, appropriately, and respectfully.
1. Start With a Clear Subject Line
Let the recipient of your email know what exactly to expect before opening the email. Start with a clear, concise, and to-the-point subject line. For example, if you’re writing to one of your professors, you may want to include your class department and number. Or if you have a question about an exam or assignment, include something such as “Exam Question” in the subject line.
2. Key Information
When emailing a professor you should always include your full name, class period, or department in the body of your email. Then reread the email to ensure you made your point or question very clear without any ambiguity.
3. Use a Professional Email Address
Witty screen names abound and are often good for laughs, but if you want your emails to be taken seriously – and not end up in your professor’s spam folder – use your official university email address to communicate with others on campus. In your senior year and beyond, use a professional email similar to “firstname.lastname@example.org” to make it easy to communicate with prospective employers and former classmates.
4. Use a Formal Greeting
Don’t begin the body of your email with an informal salutation such as “Hey” or “Howdy!” Instead, begin with a greeting such as “Hello” or “Good Afternoon” and then address your recipient with the appropriate title and last name, such as “Dr. Smith.”
5. Use Standard Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation
It’s easy to continue using the same sentence structure and vernacular from writing texts to friends. Avoid the temptation to shorten phrases throughout your email through the use of slang, such as “idk,” “lol,” “yo,” and so on. Likewise, it’s best to avoid emojis, excessive exclamations, and similar distracting additives in your email. Show that you want to be taken seriously and use standard punctuation, spelling, grammar, and capitalization throughout every email interaction.
6. Understand What You Can and Cannot Solve
Don’t ask for information about things that you can look up for yourself. Be resourceful and respect the recipient’s time – are you sure that this person is who you need to contact, and are you sure you don’t already have access to the information you need? For example, before shooting an email over to your professor about an upcoming assignment, first confirm that the information isn’t already available in the class syllabus, known by classmates, or detailed in previous emails from the professor.
7. Use a Proper Signature
Don’t leave the bottom of your email blank or with a message such as “Sent from my iPhone.” Instead, include a proper signature such as “Sincerely” or “Best” followed by your full name and any other relevant information such as “Vice President of the Pre-Health Professionals Club.”
8. Be Succinct
Professors and campus staff probably receive dozens – if not more – emails per day. Keep in mind that your reader doesn’t have a lot of time to wade through lengthy emails, so keep your message short and to the point while respectfully asking your question or making your request.
9. Don’t Argue or Send an Email When You’re Angry
After receiving bad news through a returned assignment or final grades, it is tempting to fire off an email to your professor in the heat of the moment. But maintaining a professional demeanor will serve you well in college and beyond. Instead of arguing with your professor by email, think through the situation calmly and stop in to talk with your professor in person to address the issue or assignment. If stopping into their office isn’t an option, have a trusted friend help you write a non-confrontational email that addresses your concerns and has clear and reasonable requests.
Your email etiquette communicates a lot about who you are as a student and a soon-to-be professional. Take these tips with you throughout college and into the workplace for the best success!
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