I Chose Science so That I Don’t Have to Write

Written communication is a topic we hear about all the time and I’m with you, it’s pretty boring and kind of stressful to talk about. The thing is though, it doesn’t matter what you end up doing for your career, writing is going to play a role in your work and in your success.

Good writers tend to be good communicators, and you don’t need to work in a field like Journalism to end up writing all the time. For many professionals, email communication is an absolute necessity and there are a few things to keep in mind if you don’t want to look like someone new to email.

Proper use of To, CC, BCC, Reply All: There’s a method to how to use these fields:

  • To: You expect a response from this person
  • CC: You don’t expect a response from this person but they need to be kept in the loop
  • BCC: You want to send the same message to a group of people but don’t need everyone to see all of the email addresses
  • Reply All: Used when all parties need to respond. If you have doubts that you need to Reply All, then you probably shouldn’t.

Subject line:  People get a LOT of emails, so make your subject short and informative.

Professional salutation: Most of the time you will simply use the recipient’s first name when composing an email, but if this person is a professor, doctor, etc., you should write your first email with Dear Prof. Soandso, or Dr. Soandso. And ALWAYS double check that you are spelling the person’s name correctly. When you receive a response and that response is signed “Gabby” instead of “Gabriela”, you can now address future emails to “Gabby”. Prefacing the name with “Good morning Gabby,” or “Hello Gabby,” is also fine. Don’t assume the recipient’s gender identity either. You can avoid Mr., Ms., Mrs., these are outdated.

Sign it: You also have to put your name at the bottom of the email. You can create a signature if you wish, but at a minimum, your first name at the end will suffice. Phrases like “Thank you,” are cool too.

The length: When composing an email, brevity is your friend. Make sure what you are saying is clear, the content is grammatically correct, and there are NO spelling errors. Proofread.

Word choice: Email is not texting. pls don’t use text words in your email, never use “i” instead of “I”, kk? Take the time to make sure you are using the correct “there, their, or they’re”. Errors like these will make you stand out, and not in a good way.

Response time and length: You should not expect to receive responses to your emails with the same immediacy as you would a text message. It may take a couple of days to hear back from someone. If you can tell that someone put a lot of time and effort into composing an email to you, make sure you take some time and craft a response that is long enough to demonstrate that you read the email and you plan to take action. If this email is from your boss or is time-sensitive but may take you some time to respond, you should respond quickly letting them know that you received the email but it might take you some time to respond fully.

Mastering email etiquette can take some time but as you observe how other professionals utilize this form of communication it might just become second nature. For other tips on written communication do’s and don’ts, schedule an appointment with a Career Coach at the Center for Career Development.

By Eran Peterson
Eran Peterson Career Consultant, School of Engineering Eran Peterson