Email Etiquette

One of the most significant takeaways I have acquired from my four years of college – especially in the last two years where I have spent countless moments emailing my professors and others – is email etiquette.

I’ll be honest: I started off pretty much the same way as everyone else. I had no idea how to properly address others in my emails or how to sign off on them. I didn’t know the difference between formal and informal emails, or when to use which one. But after some extensive online research and some advice from my peers, I realized, incorporated, and developed feelings about a lot of things to do with sending and receiving emails.

When in doubt, write formally

It’s the same idea as when you’re writing a paper for class. With professors, prospective schools, supervisors, or any other superior, use formal speech, not anything informal or anything colloquial unless it’s a close friend. I always begin my emails with ‘Dear [Title] [Last Name]’ and end them with ‘Sincerely, [My Name]’. I have recently moved more into using a less formal ‘Best’ or ‘All the best’ in my salutation, but I’ll address that in the next section.

Mirror the tone that the recipient of your email uses when they respond

While you always want to start off formally, sometimes you will get a response from a professor or other correspondent that is more casual, so in this case you may change your tone to match the mood of their email. For example, if you start off with ‘Dear So-And-So,’ but they respond with just your name, feel free to drop the ‘Dear’ part when you respond. However, it is your discretion. If you’re totally intimidated by your professors and want to keep being formal, by all means, go ahead.

But you really shouldn’t be intimidated by them (especially if they are helping you A Lot and are in your field of interest – one day they may be your colleague!).

Always RESPOND

This is one of my biggest pet peeves, especially when I am emailing someone about something important. Have you ever had a deadline for a paper or a take home exam that needed to be emailed to your professor, but when you do, they never respond to tell you if they received it? Does it leave you lying awake at night in a panic because your whole course grade is at stake? Well, you have two options. One, you could email them again. However, don’t be rude – just kindly inquire about whether or not they received your attachment and don’t email again. Sometimes emails get buried under other emails. Professors are swamped. Or Two, you could visit their office. Same effect, less naggy than a second email.

Professors aren’t the only ones who can suck at responding to emails, though. I recently was emailed about a job interview, and when I responded with my availability for the interview, I never got a response back confirming the date and time. Like the first example, a simple ‘Yes, that date and time work’ or ‘See you then’ could go a long way.

In short: respond to your emails, even if it’s just a boring ‘Ok’ at least the person on the other end won’t be tearing their hair out over not knowing.

I’m sure there are plenty of other email rules out there but I feel like this are the most important ones by far, especially once you get to a point in your college career where you are emailing not only your professors, but future schools and employers too.

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