Tips for Constructing an Effective Email


Photo credit: Creative Commons

Bailey Sanders, Staff Writer

“Whassup, doc,” the email said. “Gotta miss 2day cause i gotta work, send notes so i dont fall behind, k? kthx.”

That email, though exaggerated, this is an example of what Veronica Medina, assistant professor of sociology, said she receives sometimes from students. When she gives her first-year students an activity with a made-up, but typical, email like this, they always think it’s a joke. She says it’s not.

In fact, many faculty members receive these emails very often. Whether it’s text-speak or just unprofessional in general,either can have an affect on the teacher’s perception of the student.  Research shows that student-instructor relationships can be very valuable and can creates positive outcomes for the student. Email plays a big part in that relationship.

According to the study, 89 percent  of students say they send less than 1-10 emails per day. While 81 percent  of instructors say they send more than 1-10 emails per day.

Faculty members like Medina, as well as experts in communication, offer suggestions on how students can ensure their digital messages come across professionally. Here are 4 tips to make you an effective emailer:

1: Proper Greeting

The beginning of the email can set the tone, according to Medina, who says that students often use inappropriate greetings.

“The biggest mistake students make when emailing a professor is they either have an
inappropriate greeting or fail to have one at all. Especially if you do not know your professor very well, it is not appropriate to email them with ‘hey’ as the greeting.” Medina said.

Medina suggests students focus on using the proper title from the professor and to ensure you spell their name correctly.

Beth Rueschoff, assistant professor of biology, says having a proper greeting and closing shows the teacher you appreciate them taking their time to communicate with you.

2: Be Professional

Professionalism within an email can be crucial down the road for a student, Rueschoff said.

“I don’t think students realize that. at the end of all this, we will be writing them letters and talking to people to get a job or to go to a professional school. And we are going to be asked about the student’s professionalism and those emails they send reflect upon that,” Rueschoff said.

Medina said the more professional an email is, the easier it is for them as professionals to work with the student.

Research shows professors are much more likely to respond and comply with the student if they address them in a professional manner.

3: Proper Grammar

Research has shown that people who send grammatically correct emails are viewed more positively because recipients believe they took time in editing the message, thus making the sender look like they  care about their recipient.

“We have gotten sloppy, everyone has with our grammar, but when you are speaking with a colleague or some superior to you, it is very important,” Lucinda Woodard, associate professor of psychology, said.

The same study shows 81 percent  of students use texting every day while only 22 percent  of instructors use text every day. There is a big difference between chatting with your peers versus your administrators, Ruechoff said.

4: Be Kind

Woodard said while being professional, it is unacceptable for students to use acronyms such as “LOL” or emoticons in emails, so it is difficult to try and use humor without confusion.

“Students forget to think about how the email will be perceived because you don’t get the nonverbal cues. So you can say something funny but it is not perceived as funny because the facial expression is not there to help… It is really important on how you phrase what you are trying to say,” Woodard said.

Medina added, “It is important to remember the tone. You may have gotten bad news on an assignment and may be upset but first, take a step back before you relay that to us and make sure your tone is right.”