Eric Schaeffer, School of Music Mentor
For many students, email as a form of professional communication is entirely new. But it is a necessity in college none-the-less, and emailing a professor not only helps to convey information, but to show your professionalism. A well-worded and formatted email not only helps for readability purposes, but also shows your integrity as an academic scholar. Here are some tips on how to write a professional email:
- Always include something in the subject line. This tells your recipient at a glance what the email is about. Subject lines should be formatted the same way as a title of a book or essay. They should be short and right to the point. Personally, I find that a statement or phrase in a subject line looks more professional than a question, but either is fine if punctuated correctly. Periods at the end of phrases or sentences, however are optional. Don’t over punctuate on questions or exclamatory subjects. And as always, checking spelling and grammar!
o Change of Lesson Time.
o Question about Theory IV Project.
o Thank you for the Recommendation!
o How many Recitals have I been to?
o Aurals I Extra Credit & Question about Office Hours
o [no subject]
o i didnt no the paper was due
o To nicole kemp
o make up lesson?????????
- Know the difference between To, CC, and BCC. The “To” field is the most obvious: who are you sending the message to? This name goes here. If you need a response from multiple people, then each person’s email address will go in this field. “CC” stands for “Carbon Copy”, and will send the email to whoever’s email address is in the field. The main difference between “CC” and “To” is the connotation: “To” recipients are directly involved in the subject matter of the email and are usually expected to respond, while “CC” recipients are not directly involved. Think of it as a “Just a heads up” sort of deal. “BCC” simply means “Blind Carbon Copy”: It is the same as CC, but no one in the CC or To field will know that the person(s) in the BCC field was sent the email.
- The body of the email should always start with the recipient or recipients’ name. You may wish to prepend their name with something along the lines of “Dear” or “Hello”, but don’t get too informal (“Yo” and “Sup” should not but used). Again, be sure to use good spelling and grammar (capitalization is key!). After the recipient’s name, place a comma. Include a line break, and then start to type out what the email is pertaining to.
- The entirety of your email should be in complete sentences with good punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and grammar. Include line breaks if needed between different subject matters of the email (but don’t go crazy). If the purpose of the email is only to send an attached file, the body only needs to include “attached is the ________”, or something along those lines. As long as you follow the basic rules of grammar, you should have no problems. Don’t over punctuate, USE ALL CAPS, overuse bold, italic, or underlined text, or try to overcompensate in any other way, shape, or form. Emails in a professional setting are simply used to convey information or inquire about something. They should not be used for venting or over-expressing any emotion (Obviously, it’s okay to mention that you’re upset, angry, happy, etc., but “OMG IM SO HAPPY!!!” or “I’M SO F@%ING MAD!!! >:(“ is not acceptable).
- After a line break, the email should end simply with your name (Usually first and last). Depending on context, it can be nice to prepend something along the lines of “Thank You,” or “Regards,” before your name. If you choose this route, your name will be one line below the sign-off.
- Alternatively, you may wish to make a custom signature that will appear at the bottom of all your emails. These usually consist of your name, contact information, and any other relevant information you may wish to include (such as your instrument, organizations you’re part of, work information, etc.). In example:
o Eric Schaeffer
Composer | Guitarist
Vice President of NOW Music Society
Generally, a good rule of thumb when writing an email to a professor or other figure of importance is to use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax. Be polite and respectful, keep focus with your email, respond and send emails in a timely manner, and be sure to attach any documents needed. While it’s not a life-or-death situation, a good email still goes a long way in the professor’s eyes.
[Note from the Undergraduate Program Counselor: Eric’s article here hits on so many great points for sending emails. Be sure to use these tips when sending email from your mobile devices as well; no matter your medium, you want your communication to be understood and interpreted correctly. Lastly, PLEASE make an email signature both on your computer and on your mobile device. Signatures should include Name, Major, Instrument, Email, ID number, and any “extras”. Signatures make it much easier for faculty and staff to be able to help you quickly and efficiently.]