Email Etiquette


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  • This presentation was designed in response to the growing popularity of email and the subsequent need for information on how to craft appropriate email messages, send resumes and cover letters via email, and communicate with teachers / professors.
    A single mouse click will advance the slides.
    Author: Purdue Writing Lab
    Updated by: H. Allen Brizee, 2007.
    © Copyright Purdue University, 2000, 2006, 2007.
  • Explanation: Email has become very prevalent in most people’s lives and many use it to cheaply and quickly communicate with friends, family, and co-workers. Although this technology is available to everyone, and most people are accustomed to using email, people still are not very savvy when it comes to understanding how email functions in a relationship both personally and professionally.
    How we interpret email: While most people are aware that the computer is not a person and that emails do not have a character of their own, many people still react to them as though they do. Readers assign meaning to everything that people write and tend to perceive it as concrete because it is in black and white (or whatever color you may choose). This response, coupled with a lack of nonverbal cues, poses a serious challenge for email writers. It is easy for emails to be misinterpreted because people write as though they are having a conversation; however, the receiver does not read that way.
  • This slide provides an overview of the entire workshop.
  • Length: A number of experts have a wide range of opinions on how lengthy an email should be. Some say that it does not matter and others say that an email should be as long as the text box without scrolling. Both perspectives appear to be correct. In general emails should be short and to the point.
    Time: It is considered rude not to respond to an email as soon as possible. Writers should strive to respond to emails as quickly as they would a phone message, which tends to be immediately. If the email requires a longer message than the writer is able to provide at that moment, it is considered proper etiquette to let the sender know that the message was received and that the writer is planning to respond as soon as time permits.
    Grammar and Punctuation: For the professional work world it is imperative that writers use capitalization, grammar, and other traditional ways of writing to include neutral fonts.
  • Explanation: The main point of this slide is to help participates understand the importance of tone. These are ways to create a document that sounds friendly and “nonverbally” open. While it is important to follow rules of punctuation and grammar in email, using contractions can create a conversational style that isn’t intimidating.
  • Explanation: Attachments can sometimes cause more headaches than help, and it can be difficult for the recipient(s) to figure out why they are unable to download an attachment. One way to help is to provide all of the important information about the file so that the recipient can trouble shoot to something more serious if there is a problem other than incompatibility.
    Also, due to viruses that spread via e-mail attachments, it’s important that the recipient know that the sender meant for an attachment to be included with the message, and what kind of attachment it is, since opening unknown attachments could cause serious damage to the recipient’s system and spread viruses further. Always check any attachments you are going to send for viruses, and never open unknown attachments!
  • Explanation: When writing a complaint via email the writer should provide a very clear picture for the recipient mainly because there is a tremendous amount of room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding. It is important that the writer provide a context and state clearly what the problem is and how he or she would like to see the problem resolved.
  • Explanation: It is important for the writer to provide a context for his or her audience and to show the audience that he or she has taken all the necessary and required steps to resolve it. When a person takes the time to show that she or he is contributing to the solution the message takes on a positive tone that is generally received with greater ease and optimism by the audience.
    Everyone does not agrees on what is considered to be a “problem.” When writers clearly state what they perceive to be troublesome it reduces the possibility of disagreement between them and their audience. Labeling something as a “problem” is not sufficient enough to motivate others to act. The problem must be clearly defined in a way that can foster solutions.
    Most often when people receive complaints the natural reaction is to ask “so how does this involve me?” It is vital that writers prescribe courses of action to motivate their audience. First, writers should concede that they may have overlooked an option; perhaps there are other ways to resolve the problem without calling meetings and sending out intimidating memos. Second, writers should show how they are willing to participate in the solution by suggesting their willingness to meet with a third party, the party in question, or others. This shows that writers have good will toward the organization.
  • If you have a simple question that is easier to email to your teacher than talk directly during his/her office hours, then go right ahead and send the email. Keep in mind that asking long questions can be irritating to answer, especially if you were not clear and the reader does not understand exactly what you are asking. If you want to discuss a complicated matter, it’s best to speak to your teacher outside of email.
  • If you have a simple question that is easier to email to your teacher than talk directly during his/her office hours, then go right ahead and send the email. Keep in mind that asking long questions can be irritating to answer, especially if you were not clear and the reader does not understand exactly what you are asking. If you want to discuss a complicated matter, it’s best to speak to your teacher outside of email.
  • Purdue’s Writing Lab offers a variety of professional writing services. Purdue students can schedule one-on-one tutoring sessions to work with specially trained tutors for any of their professional writing concerns. The Lab staff can also be reached via the Grammar Hotline or through email to answer brief questions.
    It is also a good idea to check out the Writing Lab web site, which offers a variety of online handouts and workshops related to audience, tone, and organization.
    Reminder: The tutors at the Writing Lab are not able to help with technical problems students have with their email preferences and accounts. They should contact their email service provider for further assistance.
  • Email Etiquette

    1. 1. Email Etiquette for Students
    2. 2. Why is Email Etiquette Important? • We interact more and more with the written word all the time • With large, impersonal lectures it becomes harder to discuss questions or problems with teachers • Without immediate feedback from the reader, it’s easy to be misunderstood
    3. 3. Elements of Email Etiquette • • • • • • Basics Tone Attachments Complaints Good topics for email Bad topics for email
    4. 4. The Basics • When mailing a teacher, ALWAYS include your full name, class period or division • Include your class and what the email is specifically regarding in the subject Example Janie Daniels, MWF 8:30-9:20 a.m. Division 0006 Subject: CPT 141: Project 3 Proposal
    5. 5. The Basics • Think twice about whether or not the content of your email is appropriate for virtual correspondence - once you hit Send, anyone might be able to read it • Try to keep the email brief (one screen length) • Respond to emails within the same time span you would a phone call • Check for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors before clicking Send • Use a professional font, not decorative
    6. 6. Tone • Write in a positive tone – When I complete the assignment versus If I complete the assignment • Avoid using negative words – Words that begin with “un, non, or ex” or end with “less” • Use smiles , winks ;-) and other graphical symbols only when appropriate • Use contractions to add a friendly tone
    7. 7. Attachments • When you are sending attachments, include in the email the filename, what format it is in, and the version of the program – Attached: “Project3Proposal.doc” This file is in Microsoft Word 2007. • Consider sending files in rich text format (rtf) or portable document format (pdf) to ensure compatibility
    8. 8. Complaints • You should briefly state the history of the problem to provide context for the problem • Explain the attempts you made previously to resolve the problem • Show why it is critical for the problem to be resolved by your reader • Offer suggestions on ways you think it can be resolved or how you are willing to help in the matter
    9. 9. Complaints • Example Dr. Lambert: The review that we had the period before the final was not accurate. As a result, the grades we received could have been incorrect. The T.A.s who led the review gave incorrect information. I would like to suggest that you ask students who were at the review which information the T.A.s gave incorrectly and account for those errors in our grades. There have been a number of complaints from fellow classmates who feel the same way. Please take this into consideration. Thank you.
    10. 10. Good Topics for Email • You should email your teacher if: – You have an easy question that can be answered in a paragraph or less – You have an assignment that you are allowed to submit via email
    11. 11. Bad Topics for Email • There are some rules that it’s best to follow, such as: – Don’t try to turn in an assignment through email if your teacher has specified against it – If you have to get an extension for an assignment, do it in person – Don’t bring up any topic that will require continuous conversation – If things become heated, there is a large risk for misunderstanding, so it’s best to talk faceto-face
    12. 12. For More Information • Purdue Writing Lab – Heavilon 226 – (765) 494-3723 • Online Writing Lab –
    13. 13. The End