Correspondence Code: A College Student’s Guide to Email Etiquette

typingThroughout your college career, it’s essential to correspond with professors and prospective employers through the convenient and easily accessible wonders of email. With the popularity of text messaging and social media like Twitter and Facebook, email messages with shorthand expressions have managed to infiltrate in-boxes. Slow down! Think of email as a chance for you to showcase your communication skills. For incoming freshmen especially, it’s essential to learn the importance of a polished email. If you send your professor or boss vague, typo-ridden emails, do you think they’d be likely to write you a good reference in the future? Unlike on Twitter, you don’t have a limited amount of characters to get your message across in an email, so get it right by following these tips.

Greeting. “Dear/Hi/Hello [insert name here]” are all appropriate salutations. Avoid “Hey,” as it can come off as a bit informal.

Identify yourself. This should be a no-brainer, but be sure to identify your first and last name. If you’re emailing a professor, let him or her know which class of theirs you are a student of, including its name and the time of day it normally meets.

Be professional. When corresponding with a professor or working professional, it’s best to use your school email account rather than “” Not only will it be less likely that it will go straight to the junk mail, but you’re inquiry will be taken more seriously. If you haven’t already, set up a professional email for all school and business matters.

Create a signature. You also might want to create a basic signature with your contact information to appear at the end of each of your emails – it should include your first and last name, phone number, and email address.

Stay concise. As you are aware, life can be fast-paced, so get to the point of your email as quickly as possible. The email should be clear and thorough, yet not novel-length.

Always use the subject line. Don’t make the rookie mistake of overlooking the subject line. It’s the first thing the recipient sees, so make sure it’s brief but accurately alludes to the contents of the email.

Double check before hitting Send. When you’re done writing your message, don’t just rely on spell check. Read it out loud to ensure that it makes sense. It will allow you to catch any spelling errors and assess if the tone is right: it should be respectful and friendly, never demanding. Extra Tip: Don’t fill in the “To” field until you are finished proofreading.

Respond in a timely fashion. If you receive an email that requires a response, be attentive and reply as soon as possible. A simple “Thank you, this information is helpful!” will acknowledge that you received the email. Also don’t be afraid to be honest and admit “I’m still not clear on…” if you need further explanation about the matter.

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