Netiquette: a simple way to make sure you sound as sophisticated online as you do in person.
In the age of Facebook and iPhones, we have become far too accustomed to casual language and expressions when communicating. Using abbreviations and colored fonts is fine when typing a Facebook message to your friend, but what about when you’re constructing an e-mail to your professor?
The way a message is constructed is extremely important, and different from sending a casual text to your friend. In order to be effective, these e-mails need to be formal and professional. Deciding what to say and how to say it can be difficult, but fortunately, there are a few simple guidelines to ensure that your emails reflect the smart, sophisticated person that you are.
First, never write an entire message in caps lock. This looks like you are yelling and makes your message sound much more negative than you meant for it to be.
Second, double and triple-check your spelling and grammar. Nothing looks more unprofessional than misspelling simple words or constructing sentences wrong. Not only does this make your email look sloppy, but it also shows that you didn’t put enough time and effort in to double-check your work.
Third, don’t use acronyms unless they are specific to the class and you are 100% sure your professor will recognize them. It’s better to be safe and spell out the entire word rather than confuse them by using an acronym they don’t understand (especially if it’s an acronym you made up yourself).
Lastly, do not forget the subject line! This is arguably the most important part of your message. These few words decide whether your email gets read or not. Make it short and direct and include specific information about what your message is about. Don’t be hesitant to include names, dates or times that may be important to the message.
When constructing the body of your e-mail, be sure to address your professor specifically. Always use a prefix such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Dr., unless you have been specifically instructed not to. Keep your message short and to the point. Busy professors don’t have time to read through a lengthy message, so if you write one, they are more likely to be annoyed and not as willing to help.
Conclude your message by thanking them and letting them know you appreciate them taking the time to read your message. Include a phrase such as “I look forward to hearing back from you” to politely indicate you would like a response.
Kappa Alpha Theta’s Scholarship Director, sophomore Jasmine Marshall, sums up the importance of email etiquette perfectly when she says it is, “the main way we communicate with other people and, especially, professionals. When I email professors I make sure to address them by their proper name so that I don’t offend them and after I finish writing the email I make sure to proofread.”
Photo by Brittany Trappe