During a conversation with my dad about careers the other day, the conversation landed on the topic of writing a quality professional email. He emphasized the fact that writing a good email is an art, and he is definitely not wrong. There are literally tutorials and classes on this stuff – I’m not kidding!
I remember the first time I tried to write a professional email so clearly simply because it was so hard. I sent it to multiple people for revisions, and I think it took me a few days to get the courage to send it out. A few days, can you believe it?
Now, I am a pro at email-writing (at least I like to think so!), but there are definitely a ton of tips I wish I knew back in the day. I’m here to share with you my tidbits of wisdom, and hopefully this will help reduce the stress of writing professional emails!
Keep your professional email short and sweet…
When I had little to no experience writing emails, I thought that professionals and professors appreciated long, well-thought-out emails…that is, until I came to college. I cannot tell you how many times a professor has responded with “ok” or simply ignored the email that I put so much effort into. Your girl knows better now – the shorter the email, the better!
As a rule of thumb, I like to keep emails at 3 to 5 sentences max. Now, I know what you’re thinking – how can you possibly put all of your information into 3 sentences? Three words: schedule a meeting.
…and schedule a meeting!
So much is lost in the world of words; even the most perfect professional email can lead to confusion! As a result, I learned that 9 times out of ten scheduling a meeting in person is the best way to get my point across.
Whether you are communicating with your academic advisor or a HR recruiter, close your email with a suggestion to meet up and discuss the topic at hand in person. This method might not be for everyone, but I like it because I have time to prepare my discussion points as well as ensure that nothing is lost in translation.
It is so much easier to ask for clarification during a face-to-face interaction, and you also have the opportunity to network and build your relationship with this person! That’s a win-win in my book.
Check. Your. Work.
Okay, so maybe this header is not the best example of my point, but I promise it’s a valid one! It is my biggest pet peeve to see an email with improper grammar, even if it’s from another student. I mean, how hard is it to click the “spell check” button in your browser?
Does that make me crazy? Maybe. But does it also make me careful? Absolutely!
During our conversation, my dad handed me a pretty important tidbit of information: never send out an email that you aren’t comfortable with your whole company [or school] seeing. The reasoning for this is simple – there is no way to know exactly who is going to see your email, and on the off chance that the CEO of your dream company reads it, you want to be prepared.
In conclusion, check your work, guys. It’s not that hard.
Finally, don’t forget your signature.
The first time I made an email signature, I was in 3rd grade and it went something like this:
***kAtRiNa WuZ hErE*** xoxox
Rule #1: Do NOT use this example.
Okay, for real, signatures are important. Not just the “Sincerely, insert-your-name-here” signature, but rather the signature that tells the person you’re emailing who you are and how to contact you. As a college student you might not think it’s important, but I promise you it is!
My email signature has my contact information as well as the different executive board positions I hold next to the appropriate club. Even though it might sound like I’m bragging about my positions, I think of it as a courtesy thing. In a sea of emails, it can be hard for a professor or a recruiter to know who you are and why you are contacting him/her. My signature eliminates that guesswork – all of the information is right there, and it can save a bunch of time and confusion.
I know this because it’s happened to me before – if I need to contact someone that I just emailed, their email signature is the first place I go to find their alternative contact information. The signature also helps me to know exactly how to address the person I am emailing (Dr.? Mr.? Mrs.? Ms.?) as well as sometimes even see when they are free.
Signatures are important, guys. Don’t neglect them!
In a world of tweets and texts, emails might not seem that important, but they really are. From campus to the workplace, everyone appreciates a quality email, and hopefully these tips will help you become a pro!
What was your first professional email like? Do you have any tips?