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Email Etiquette

How to Write to Adults!

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There will be many times when you'll need or want to write to a college professor, a recruiter, a coach, a potential reference writer, or a potential employer. Since it is easy and accessible to nearly everybody, email is the first choice for many letter writers.

The first rule of email etiquette is:

1). Make sure that email is appropriate for the occasion.

Some people simply prefer official letters that arrive in the mailbox, and they may not feel that email is an appropriate way to do business - especially when they receive unsolicited emails from members of a younger generation.

It is up to you to figure out whether your professor, clergyman, teacher, future gymnastic coach, or potential mentor accepts email queries. One good way to find out is to see if this person has a web site with an email account attached. If that fails, make a simple phone call and ask.

2). Be mindful of your email address!

This is a mistake that so many teens make - and they don’t have a clue! Does your email name look something like hotfoxychick@partyanimal.net or Ihatepeople@allaboutme.com? And to whom are you sending this?

It’s fine to use that address when writing your friends. If you want to conduct business by email, simply create a new address.

3). Do not use texting language!

no u didnt rite ur tchr like this. U r asking fr trubl. And DON’T USE ALL CAPS.

4). Use letter format.

Most email accounts give you formatting options. Go ahead and format your letter using a proper greeting, paragraphs, bullets, closings, or other features that give your letter a professional look. This shows that you are serious, mature, and savvy.

5.) Be respectful.

Many of us tend to get a little too familiar or get a little too comfortable in emails, and this may cause us to make costly assumptions. For example, you should always use an appropriate title when addressing a professional, even if that person signs his correspondence with his/her first name. If in doubt, use a title.

  • If you are writing to a college professor and you don’t know whether the person is a Ph.D., use "Dear Professor."
  • If you don’t know the gender of the person you are writing, you could use the first and last name, like "Dear Jo Baker," or you could use the role of the person as your title, like "Dear Search Committee Chair." If it is possible, you could also make a phone call to the department or office and ask how to address the person you’re writing.
  • When in doubt, be formal in your address. It may seem stuffy, but it won’t offend anybody! When influential people are the laid-back types and they want you to relax, they tell you so.

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