Good communication is fundamental to your academic success. In face-to-face interactions with teachers, your words are supported by your expressions and body language and you can gauge the reaction of the person with whom you are communicating.
Communicating online is very different. Emails and chats lend themselves to more rapid exchanges, with truncated words and expressions. However, when communicating with a teacher about school-related topics, you should always remember to be professional and respectful.
Here are a few must-know basics for writing professional emails, that will be of benefit to you in your academic, and professional, careers.
Important Components of an Effective Email
Email subject lines are like newspaper headlines or blog headers. The reader should be able to understand just by looking at the subject line, what the main point of your message is. The subject headline should signal to the reader what you want them to take away from your email, be as specific as possible.
Instead of the subject line:
Try this subject line:
Checking about the status of the XYZ project
Question about tomorrow’s advisory meeting
FYI - I just took the last muffin
Greetings and closings
Starting your email without a greeting is like just walking up to someone and starting to talk without saying “Hi”. Make sure you begin your email with a greeting and that you end it with a polite sign-off. When in doubt, address someone more formally to avoid offending them.
Some common ways to address the recipient:
- Dear Mr. Rynne,
- Hello Ms. Smith,
Closings are extremely important because it lets the reader know who is contacting them. Always sign-off with your name at the end of your message.
Additional Tips for Writing More Effective Emails
Don’t send an email in haste. Decide what the purpose of your message is, and what outcome you expect from it. What does the reader need to understand that?
Be polite, but to the point. You can improve the clarity of your message if you organize your thoughts before you start writing. Don’t say in 30 words, what can be said in 8.
Don’t forget the tone of your message. When you write emails, your words are not supported by gestures, body language or voice inflections, so misunderstandings happen much easier. Reread your email before you send it, to make sure the tone is right.
Questions to ask yourself before sending an email message
- Did I identify myself and make it easy for the reader to respond in an appropriate manner?
- What is my purpose for sending this email?
- If my message is important, will the recipient understand that by what I have written?
- Considering how many emails most people get, how can I make sure they read mine?
- Is my message easy to read? Did I use correct grammar and punctuation?
- Have I divided my thoughts into clear paragraphs?
- Are important items, such as due dates, highlighted in the text?
- Have I provided enough context for the reader to follow the thread of the message? No one likes to scroll back trying to decipher what the context is.