Email Communication Tips

Writing an effective email doesn’t have to be a mystery. Even though the lines between professional and informal emails are easily blurred, it is important to train yourself to choose the appropriate tone for your audience, whether it’s faculty, staff, or fellow students. Here are some tips for effective email communication.

Use your NMU email account.

Activate and start using your NMU email as early as possible. As a condition of enrollment, all NMU students are required to use their assigned NMU email accounts to receive communication from the university. If your account is active, you can login to gmail using your NMU credentials to get started.

Include a clear subject line.

The subject is the likely the first thing your sender will read in your email. It’s an important indicator for the purpose of the message. For example, a subject line reading “Graduation Planning” in an email to your adviser gives a clear indication of what you need. Avoid subjects like “HELP” or “URGENT” unless it is indeed an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Another common blunder is a blank subject. Don’t make this mistake – it is off-putting and unprofessional. Take the time to prepare your reader with a clear subject line.

Start with a greeting.

Begin with a greeting like “Hello” or “Good Morning” and address your recipient by the appropriate title and name. If you have previously received an email from them, see how they sign off and follow suit. When addressing a professor, it’s always better to be formal. If you know they have a doctorate or PhD, you should address them as doctor (i.e. Dr. Prus). If you’re unsure, you can default to addressing anyone teaching a college-level course as professor (i.e. Professor Hansen) or ask them how they prefer to be addressed. Some professors will suggest that you call them by their first name, and if you’re comfortable it is appropriate to oblige.

Finish with a complimentary close.

Just as your email should open with a greeting, it also needs a closing salutation. Instead of concluding an email with “Sent from my iPhone” or nothing at all, sign off with “Thank you” or “Best” and follow with your name. Consider going into the email settings and programming a signature that will appear on every email you send.

Write grammatically correct, spell check, and avoid silly mistakes.

To be taken seriously in an email, use a professional tone. Always write in full sentences and take the time to proofread your draft for spelling and grammar errors before sending it. Avoid smiley faces, emojis, abbreviations, and shortened spellings (e.g. LOL, IMO, or “u” rather than “you”). Keep your emails concise and use paragraph breaks to organize your message. It can be difficult to read a long unbroken stream of words on a screen.

Do your part in solving what you need to solve.

If you send an email ask something you could look up yourself, you risk being perceived as lazy or not resourceful. If you mention that you already checked the syllabus, asked classmates, and looked through old emails from the professor then you present yourself as a responsible student. Instead of asking, “What’s our homework for tonight?” you might write, “I looked through the syllabus and EduCat for this weekend’s homework assignment, but I am unable to find it.”

Don’t expect an immediate response.

Although we have all become accustomed to the instantaneous quality of electronic communication, please keep in mind that you won’t always get an immediate response. Allow the recipient a few days to respond. If something is urgent or time-sensitive, consider following up with a phone call or schedule an appointment. However, keep in mind that if you wait until the last minute and encounter a problem your window of opportunity for assistance is reduced.

We hope that these tips help you feel confident in your email writing. Also, be kind to yourself if you make an electronic faux pas. Learn from your mistakes and you’ll be a confident communicator in no time. For more tips to prepare you for online courses check out this tutorial.