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Email etiquette for the Instant Message generation

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By Denise Nickerson
Asst. Opinions Editor
[email protected]

There once was a student who
had no idea how formulating
an email could affect his entire
career. No matter how hard the
student tried, no employer ever
had the desire to reply. The
student was puzzled and couldn’t
understand, so he sought the career
services for a helping hand.
They explained to the student
that “yo’s,” “what’s up’s,” and
“LOL’s” weren’t acceptable, but
the student believed their advice
could be a bit flexible. So the student
continued to write his way,
believing eventually an employer
would give him the time of day.
The student stood by his writing
believing it was fine- and
today the student stands on the
unemployment line. The moral
of the story: your emails reveal
a good deal about you- as they
play a significant role in how
employers, professors, and other
professionals perceive you; if
you want a good job (or a job at
all), learning the proper email
etiquette is crucial.
So what is email etiquette? In
modest terms, it’s demonstrating
professionalism and/or conveying
a professional image, by
applying: proper email language,
effective to-the-point words, and
responding in a timely fashion.
So how can email etiquette be
implemented? Well for starters,
let’s begin with the most crucial-
a proper, professional email
There’s nothing that’s more of
a dead giveaway about a person’s
professional standpoint than their
email address. No employer, professor,
or any other professional
is going to take anyone seriously
with a ridiculous and/or obscene
email address; so keep it clean
and simple!
A straightforward first and last
name followed by the host name
will work wonders and gives a
great first impression. Likewise,
make sure to properly and appropriately
identify what you’ll be
discussing in the subject line.
Again, this line is a first
impression line, as it shows that
you actually care and took the
time to inform the recipient of an
important issue, question, or concern
you have. Do not leave this
line blank, as it signals you’re
either spam and/or a virus (and in
that case your message will more
than likely go straight to the
trash bin), or the message has the
possibility of being inappropriate
(again probably going straight to
the trash can). So, properly identify
what you’ll be discussing.
If you want to ask your
professor a question about your
midterm grade, state that in your
subject line. If you want to ask
an employer if they’re currently
hiring, a subject line that reads
“Interested in employment,”
or “Employment Inquiry,” will
work beautifully.
Next to the email address,
perhaps the second most crucial
aspect of demonstrating professional
email etiquette is by properly
greeting the email recipient.
“Heyy” is for horses-so don’t
use it! “Yo Prof,” is not going to
make your professor interested in
talking to you, let alone take you
By addressing the email
recipient with a simple “Hello,”
“Dear,” or even “Hi.”
It shows that not only are you
polite, but that you’re actually
some sort of interesting person
to talk to. Even if you’re unsure
how to address someone such
as a TA, it’s better to be polite
and make some kind of effort
in properly addressing someone
than to make no effort at all.
And speaking of effort, let’s chat
about putting an effort into the
body of an email.
Always start an email by briefly
introducing yourself. Do not
assume people know who you
are, or better yet, if they do know
you, don’t assume you have such
a great relationship with them
that it’s acceptable to be easygoing.
Just because you’ve had
the same professor for the last
four years (for whatever strange
reason), doesn’t mean you should
slack on properly addressing
Always begin by briefly stating
who you are, and if you are
addressing someone who you’ve
encountered before, kindly
remind them the relation you to
share. Next, briefly state your
purpose for writing the email.
For some reason, the blankwhite
page of an email causes
people to want to tell their whole
life’s story, and if this is you,
you need to step away from the
computer for a second and take a
moment to recap on what exactly
you’re doing.
Emails should never be this
lengthy tell-all. If the recipient
wanted to read a book, he/she
would’ve gone to Barnes and
Noble. So keep the messages
brief and to the point, and try to
concentrate on one subject.
Use proper language, and
again remember to begin by
briefly stating your name and
your purpose. Properly punctuate,
and refrain from using all
and no one wants to hire a
Also, use exclamation points
sparingly. The maximum number
of exclamation points in any given
email should be about one or
two, any more than that and you
look like an excitable maniac.
Lastly, properly bring your
email to a close. Sincerely, is getting
tired and old, so spice it up a
bit! Something brief and friendly
such as “Best,” “Thanks,” or
“Regards” is always welcomed,
but if you’re too cynical for that,
then simply closing with a name,
will work for most people.
Remember, your emails are
a reflection of who you are. If
you want employers, professors,
or other professionals to
believe that you are an immature,
inappropriate, and uneducated
person, than continue on with
your “Yo’s,” “Heys,” and your
But those of you who take your
future seriously, your relationships
with professionals seriously,
and more importantly those of
you who take yourself seriously,
than follow these simple email
etiquette guidelines, and watch
how differently the professional
world treats you.

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