This was my most popular post in 2012 with more than 600 views. Of all my posts, I didn’t expect that this was the one, but I don’t imagine that the metrics at Word Press are wrong! I have taken the liberty of revising some of this.
I haven’t taken a Netiquette 101 course recently, so I think it’s time to give some tips about sending emails to your instructors. Of course, I assume that my colleagues send concise, well-written, and respectful emails to students. Frankly, that is a given. (Fingers crossed)
1. Always assume that you should be more formal. Each department will vary; however, going with formal is easier than the reverse and then hearing: I expect to be referred to as…
2. Address the person in the email with a hello or even a “dear.” Avoid, “hey. And, use your full name, as your instructor might have many students who share your first name.
Dear Instructor: I am emailing to find out information about your Fall class. Do you suggest any prerequisites for the class? I’d also like to talk with you about a paper topic that I have. Do you have any time to meet this Summer?
Hey, I’m going to enroll in you class. Should I be worried about your feminist bias?
3. Never send an email that is incoherent. This is email and not a text to your best-friend. Type out all words, use punctuation, and proper spelling. What I mean is that even if you’re using your smart phone, be smart and use real words and avoid abbreviations. You could even wait to compose the email on your tablet or laptop!
4. Never send an email when you are mad. This goes for all emails. Send yourself the email and then wait a few hours or overnight, and then send the email that you won’t later regret. When you send an angry email, it is very hard to do un-do. I know that I won’t respond and I’ll call a meeting with you to chat about your problematic email.
5. Be honest. Understand that your instructor might say that this conversation needs to take place face to face. Some conversations really need that human interaction. This really goes for talking about an assignment, reviewing a draft, talking about grad school, and other important conversations.
6. Do not be offended if the instructor corrects your use of their first name or some policy. Most of us will be kind and say–we have a 24 hour policy with emails after work is handed back and it’s in the syllabus or I expect students to call me Prof. Schmitdkins. (Apologies to my colleague who I used for part of this last name!)
7. Read the syllabus before sending the email. Perhaps the syll answers your question or notes that you should take the time to write a coherent email noting who you are and why you are emailing. And, some of my friends won’t even respond to an email if the question is answered in the syllabus. Avoid saying something like, “I don’t have time to read the syllabus, but was wondering…” Read the syllabus and if your question is not answered, then send the email.
Overall, treat email with the same integrity that you would treat an office hour visit. And, yes, I do get lots of emails that start off with “hey” and have been asked about my feminist bias…
The above advice is good for all of us–in and outside of academia.