What this handout is about
This handout is intended to help students, faculty, and University professionals learn to use email more effectively. It can help you determine whether email is the best mode of communication in a particular situation and write messages that successfully convey your meaning to your intended audience.
Although email is a valuable tool, it creates some challenges for writers. Miscommunication can easily occur when people have different expectations about the messages that they send and receive. Email is used for many different purposes, including contacting friends, communicating with professors and supervisors, requesting information, and applying for jobs, internships, and scholarships. Depending on your purposes, the messages you send will differ in their formality, intended audience, and desired outcomes.
So-how do you know when sending an email is the most effective way of accomplishing your communication goals? When is a brief message OK, and when it is more appropriate to send a longer, more professional-sounding email? How should you decide what style of writing is appropriate for each task? Keep reading for answers to these questions!
- You need to get in touch with a person who is hard to reach via telephone, does not come to campus regularly, or is not located in the same part of the country or world (for instance, someone who lives in a different time zone).
- The information you want to share is not time-sensitive. The act of sending an email is instantaneous, but that does not mean the writer can expect an instantaneous response. For many people, keeping up with their email correspondence is a part of their job, and they only do it during regular business hours. Unless your reader has promised otherwise, assume that it may take a few days for them to respond to your message.
- You need to send someone an electronic file, such as a document for a course, a spreadsheet full of data, or a rough draft of your paper.
- You need to distribute information to a large number of people quickly (for example, a memo that needs to be sent to the entire office staff).
- You need a written record of the communication. Saving important emails can be helpful if you need to refer back to what someone said in an earlier message, provide some kind of proof (for example, proof that you have paid for a service or product), or review the content of an important meeting or memo.
When is email NOT an appropriate form of communication to use?
- Your message is long and complicated or requires additional discussion that would best be accomplished face-to-face. For example, if you want feedback from your supervisor on your work or if you are asking your professor a question that requires more than a yes/no answer or simple explanation, you should schedule a meeting instead.
- The information is highly confidential. Email is NEVER private! Keep in mind that your message could be forwarded on to other people without your knowledge. A backup copy of your email is always stored on a server where it can be easily retrieved by interested parties, even when you have deleted the message and think it is gone forever.
- Your message is emotionally charged or the tone of the message could be easily misconstrued. If you would hesitate to say something to someone’s face, do not write it in an email.
Who is your audience?
People have different opinions what email should look like, so it is always helpful to be aware of the expectations of your audience. For example, some people regard email as a rapid and informal form of communication-a way to say “hello” or to ask a quick question. However, others view email as www.anotherdating.com/de/zoosk-test simply a more convenient way to transmit a formal letter. Such people may consider an informal email rude or unprofessional.