Email Etiquette to Start the Semester Right

Transitioning back to college from break isn’t always easy, and one of the biggest differences between school and break is social habits. During break, email goes by the wayside and texting, FaceTime and Snapchat take over, but when classes start up again, contact through email with professors can be just as frequent as with your peers. Keep the below tips in mind to start the semester right with new professors.

DO: Respond quickly. Students appreciate when professors respond to questions quickly or confirm they received an assignment, and students should try their best to reciprocate. A good tip is to try to respond to emails within the same time frame you would respond to a phone call. Bonus: responding quickly helps increase efficiency and get to inbox zero.

DON’T: Write emails when angry. Sending angry emails after seeing a test score or paper grade won’t help your case. Professors appreciate feedback, but not being attacked. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours after seeing a test grade before writing any emails to professors.

DO: Send one-liners. Students often see email as a formal platform where each message needs at least 3 or 4 sentences to be appropriate to send. That is not the case. It’s ok to send a simple “Got it.” or “That time works for me. Look forward to seeing you next week.” A simple confirmation of the latest update in an email confirmation helps keep everyone on the same page and reduces confusion.

DON’T: Use BCC. More often than not, the BCC feature is used to hide something. If your’e going to use that feature, be transparent about the other person on the thread, why they are there and why they are being blind copied. Transparency is key.

DO: Be concise. Successful emails take time. Professors appreciate a well-thought out email that omits unnecessary words and gets to the point. It may be easiest to write the email the way you’re thinking first, and then read it aloud to catch any phrases or sentences that could confuse the receiver. The clearer your email is, the quicker the question or problem will be resolved.

DON’T: Use email as office hours. If the question or concern being addressed via email requires a response longer than one paragraph, try to make arrangements to see the professor during office hours or make an appointment for a time that is convenient for both of you.

Above tips attributed to Eric Schmidt’s TIME interview with Jonathan Rosenberg and a Purdue OWL Guide.

Sarah Graham