Is Your Written Communication Harming You?

“Tell me what time my appointment is.” This is an entire email sent to me from a first-year college student in Fall 2014. As someone who works in the professional world, but also as a millennial who existed in the world before email and texting became mainstream, I am concerned by these types of emails. At the risk of sounding like the elderly man from “Up,” I just have to give some advice on professional emailing writing to our young generation. It is our love of quick texts, Snapchat, and Facebook messenger that has gotten us into trouble, and before we continue on this dangerous pattern, we need to focus on improving our habits now.

  • Let’s start with a subject line. This is highly necessary, as many people you will be emailing receive dozens of emails a day. Make the subject line concise and informative. If you are emailing about an upcoming meeting, you can write something like, “Meeting on February 11.”
  • After you’ve done that, start your email off with a professional salutation, such as “Dr. Smith” or “Professor.” You should only refer to someone with their first name if you have been told this is okay. If you are worried about not knowing how to address an individual, something as simple “Hello” or “Good morning” is alright, too.
  • The body of the email should be informative, as well. Give some context and reminder about what you are writing about, but make sure and get to the point as quick as you can. Also, separate what you’re talking about into different paragraphs. The last thing someone wants to read is a huge block of text.
  • End your email with a professional closing remark. Something like, “Best regards” or “Thank you” works well. If you are feeling especially ambitious, you can also craft a signature to attach on all your emails. A signature should have your name, but can also include what you are studying, what you are involved in, and your phone number if you feel safe about giving that information out.

So to wrap up…no emails are perfect. This is especially true, as written communication is difficult. However, always think to yourself if what you’re writing is clear, concise, informative, and, most importantly, professional. If your email does not have a subject line and follow a professional format, you have not accomplished the qualities needed for a successful message. It’s tempting of our generation to do things quickly over electronics, but just remember that professional writing isn’t just cover letters, résumés, and thank you cards anymore. Everything you write and send has a bearing on how you will be perceived by others.

Good luck!


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By Ty McNamee
Ty McNamee Outreach and Programming Graduate Assistant Ty McNamee