girl sitting at computer practicing email etiquette
Illustration by Shannon Czerpak, University of the Arts
College /// Thoughts x
girl sitting at computer practicing email etiquette
Illustration by Shannon Czerpak, University of the Arts

Being polite is easy, but being polite in an email is a challenge.

There are unspoken social contracts at school and in the workplace that we all follow. A major part of being a student and an employee is managing your email. Email etiquette isn’t taught in school or at work, leaving many people feeling confused about how to write a good email. Speaking from the perspective of a college student, I have always felt the need to write a proper greeting and a respectful conclusion to every email. However, what’s considered socially appropriate in an email is subjective.

When emailing a professor or a potential employer for the first time, I write “dear” and then the person’s name. My first line in an email is “Hope you’re well.” If I don’t do these things, I get paranoid that the person on the other end thinks I lack proper email etiquette. It’s important to keep an email concise and clear: You want to get straight to the point. Keep in mind manners are a good idea when writing to someone you’ve never met.

In my linguistics class, we discussed email etiquette, and my professor shared an interesting experience she had with another scholar. She said that someone emailed her and started the email with “howdy.” My professor was a bit surprised by this and said she couldn’t take the other scholar seriously. She thought the email was rude and clearly, the other person was unaware of any email etiquette.

Besides writing a respectful email, another element of email etiquette is the response time. People are exhausted from work, school, family life and other social obligations. With responding to texts or emails, I think many Americans find it more of a burden than a pleasant task. If people have tasks they find annoying, they tend to put them off. Adam Grant, a professor and organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that abandoning one’s email and choosing to not reply at all is rude. Grant explains that people aren’t required to respond to every single email they receive, but a brief reply is better than nothing.

As a college student and future employee, I do value email etiquette and I hope people are willing to learn about it and incorporate it into their lives when applicable. Regarding professors, my experiences with email etiquette have been positive. Sometimes, I feel as though students are more formal than professors, but I’d rather be respectful than risk creating a negative impression of myself with someone I’ve never met.

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