Email is a very handy vehicle for talking with
people around the world — professors, experts, businesses, family,
friends, lovers, and so on. While in some circles and for some recipients
email is not as formal as paper mail, in other circles there are some expectations
of protocol. However, because email use has literally sprung up on
its own and relatively recently, people often do not realize that there might
be some ways to use it that are better than other ways — ways
that communicate better, and/or ways that might better produce the desired
result of the message.
To prepare students for situations beyond the classroom and the university in
which greater formality is useful, and because I myself find it difficult and
frustrating to read certain forms of email, I would like those of you who communicate
with me to observe the following guidelines when you email me:
- Always include something in the subject line that tells me the nature
and topic of the email. For example, one of the following subject
headings is right and one is wrong. Guess which is which!
Use capital letters when (and only when) the text calls for capital letters,
such as at the beginning of sentences and proper names. Spell
correctly. Use appropriate punctuation.
Emphasize words or phrases by bracketing them between asterisks, as it,
"I *knew* he was going to get the award." Words in all capital
letters are generally considered to represent shouting, so don't use
them unless you really mean to be shouting at me.
End your email with some sort of final salutation ("Sincerely"
or whatever) and your name — the salutation to be
polite, and your name so that I know who you are. "Stonerphiz001@aol.com"
tells me little. Even signing it (say) "Dave" or "Jess" isn't
enough, since I know a number of Daves and Jesses. If your signature
box has your name, you can possibly omit typing your name.
Acceptable form of address: "Dr. Chilton" or "Prof.
Chilton". Unacceptable forms of address: "Mr.
Chilton" or "Chilton". Students with whom I have
a less formal relationship can call me "Steve".
- SUBJECT: Yo, Chilton!
- SUBJECT: Request for term paper extension
I hope you will benefit from practicing this more formal style, since you will
surely be using it in other settings, but in any case I really appreciate
your using it. I correspond with dozens of students in the course of
a week, and your use of this style really helps me be more efficient.
The original idea (and most of the content) is from Prof. Denise Bussa's article
in [UMD's] Instructional Development XIX (1, Fall 2002), p.5.
Chilton [email] Last
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