A deficit of e(mail)tiquette


Email, as we would recognize it today, has been around for less than 30 years. And in that relatively short time, it has become one of the most common methods of professional and academic communication. Gr8 rite?

I fully understand the fact that proper email etiquette is not frequently considered to be a relevant, essential topic for college students.

But the reality is that email is one of the most common ways through which students are able to represent themselves in writing, and it is often the first impression that the professor or other recipient has of the student.

I even believe that on a certain level, the manner in which a student composes an email may be representational, even deceptively, of that student’s educational background.

And as impressive as well-written emails can be, a poorly written email can inflict damage on an even more extensive level. An unsatisfactory email could serve to represent the sender in a negative light, and an email lacking etiquette has the potential to seem rude or rushed. A current professor of mine recently announced to the class that he would not respond to any unprofessional emails. I have had other professors that have warned the class that unprofessional or disrespectful emails are one of their largest sources of irritation.

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So, in my mind, it is in fact relevant that students understand how to convey their competence through email communication, which includes internalizing and practicing proper email etiquette.

There are, of course, components of email etiquette that may be obvious to students. This includes accurate capitalization, checking grammar and spelling and identifying yourself and class section within the body text.

Beyond these prominent concerns are other less apparent considerations for students regarding email writing. The following are suggestions for improving email correspondence.

For all academic email communication, either use your University email account, which is available for use even after graduation, or an appropriate personal account. This mostly so that you don’t email your professor from a more inappropriate account with a name like [email protected].

And if using a personal account, be advised that even email host-sites like Hotmail.com, Gmail.com, Outlook.com and other domains can all be associated with different stereotypes. An article from The Telegraph asserts that using an Outlook address implies a lack of imagination, Gmail is the sensible choice and Yahoo is only used when mandated by an employer. So take both the choice of an email company and more particularly your personal address seriously into consideration, as these associations could reflect on student senders.

In regards to the content of each email, it is highly recommended by almost every email-writing tutorial out there to keep it brief.

This is only to ensure that the reader actually gets to the bottom of the email. Too much text can lead to a lot of skimming on behalf of the recipient, which detracts from the overall purpose of an email.

And, whatever your subject, make sure to explicitly convey your tone.

Email, similar to any other written communication, is subject to possible misinterpretation because it does not allow for facial expressions, voice inflection or emphasis.

Be particularly mindful of tone within your emails since there is no guarantee that only your intended recipient will receive your email. Email communication is a rarely acknowledged component of social media. And, just like any other popular social media account, users must be conscientious of what they post.

Remember that anything written in an email can be forwarded, so do not assume that what you write will forever remain private. Emails can be saved for years and referenced at any point, so only compose emails that you know will represent you well professionally.

Finally, upon receiving a response from a professor or TA, always send them back a quick thank you for their volunteered help, information and time. Represent yourself positively. And all of this is not even to mention that well-written emails can spare countless University professors and TAs a significant amount of annoyance.

In my University experience, email has been the primary form of communication with my TAs and professors. I do not see that situation changing at any point in the immediate future, strengthening the need to develop and utilize these skills.

Alex is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].