Email Etiquette

When is it OK to say “WTF” or “lolz” to your calculus professor in an email? Never, according to Dr. Vince Brewton, associate professor of English and director of the UNA Honors Program. Bad email etiquette with professors or bosses can hurt a student’s professional image, said UNA Career Development Coordinator Jennifer Smith.

“Some potential employers wouldn’t interview you based on bad emails,” she said. “It’s all about first impressions.”

And, in an Internet-driven world, emails are often the first impression students have a chance to make. Starting any professional relationship off with bad email etiquette makes the rest of the professional relationship difficult, according to Brewton.

“From that point on, it’s like sledding uphill,” he said. “And poor first impressions can affect potential job opportunities.”

Having grown up with technology like email and online social media outlets readily available, some students might have trouble identifying the boundaries that define good or bad email etiquette, according to Dr. Bob Garfrerick, chair of the UNA Department of Entertainment Industry.

“Students may be more inclined to send an email that will require several responses over an extended amount of time when the question could be answered with a 20-second phone call,” he said. “Sometimes the old-school way is just more efficient.”

Before engaging in an email conversation with a professor or potential boss, students should already have an established relationship with that person, social or professional-a relationship that can be initiated with an introductory phone call-according to Garfrerick.

Emails should be as specific as possible, Garfrerick said.

“My biggest frustration with (student emails) is a partly generational tendency to ask general, open-ended questions,” he said. “Be more specific; ask specific questions.”

And if students want to be taken seriously, their emails should be professional, according to Smith.

“A lot of professors want students to be professional outside of college, so they want students to be professional in their exchanges with them,” she said. “People will either think students (who send bad emails) are not intelligent or they do not care enough to proofread and use good grammar.”

Using good email etiquette isn’t just the necessary way to communicate; it can give students an edge, according to Smith.

“A lot of students think it’s OK to be informal, but the students with good email etiquette rise to the top,” she said. “They’re the ones employers will call first.”

So, if your email to your potential boss starts out with a “Sup, bossman,” you’re doing something wrong.