Professional Communication Series: 7 Tips for Emailing Professors and Professionals

Posted: September 12, 2018 1:00:00 PM CDT

7 Tips for sending effective emailsWhether you’re in college, the professional workplace, or both, chances are you need to use email as a primary form of communication. Students who email professors, along with new and seasoned professionals who email supervisors and colleagues, can all benefit from best practice tips. Not only can you build up your professional communication skills, but you also ensure your emails are as effective as possible for what you need to accomplish.

Follow these email tips from the University of Nebraska at Kearney eCampus:

Use an appropriate greeting. The worst way to start a professional email, whether to your professors or other professionals, is with the word “hey”—or without a greeting at all. If you know the recipient well enough to address them by first name, or if you know their preferred title (Dr. or Professor, followed by their last name), always take that option. “Good Morning,” or “Good Afternoon,” are smart choices for greetings if you aren’t sure how to address the recipient.

Keep your audience in mind. If your email has more than one recipient or involves a task to complete, always address who should complete the task. Use the “To” line for the primary recipient you are emailing and the “CC” function for secondary recipients who also need to know you sent the email as a courtesy. Before hitting send, check if your response to an email is going to one person or the whole group. Company listservs often send replies to the entire email list unless you hit “forward” instead.    

Be concise. Many professionals struggle to keep up with the volume of emails they receive. Keep your messages as short as you can, while remaining cordial and clear about what you are trying to communicate.

Avoid the pitfall of “TMI.” Offering too much information is often a hazard of justifying the reason behind a certain decision, such as needing to be absent from class or home sick from work. Be sure not to cross a line professionally when communicating your personal or medical situation in emails to professors or colleagues, as they may need to know your general situation but not the specific details. Additionally, keep email content appropriate for professional settings, especially if using your student or employee email account.

Follow up respectfully. Sometimes you just won’t receive a response from the person you emailed, or their response doesn’t provide the information you needed. In that case, send a follow-up email (or give them a call, if appropriate) that is professionally crafted to indicate you need clarification or a response. Using phrases such as “I just wanted to check in about…” or “I’m following up about…” rather than accusatory statements such as “You didn’t provide…” or “Your response wasn’t clear…” are more strategic and effective in getting what you need while maintaining good professional relationships.

Express gratitude. Thanking the recipient of your email for what they provided, or just as a general closing statement, is a necessity. A simple word or phrase such as “Thanks so much” helps people feel appreciated and valued, especially if the subject matter of the email or your relationship with the recipient is difficult. You can go the extra mile by being more specific, such as “Thanks for all your help with…” to acknowledge what they did.

Close it clearly. Use a closing statement, such as “Best regards,” or even “Thanks,” to professionally close your communication. If your email settings do not automatically include your signature block, type your name at the end of your email. Above all else, proofread your email before you send it to minimize errors and ensure you’re giving a clear call to action to the intended recipient and in a professional manner.   

Learn more about UNK’s online programs that can equip you with professional skills to enter and advance in the workplace, or contact us at 1.800.865.6388 or ecampus@unk.edu.  

By: Rosanna Vail

Category: eCampus, General

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