How to Write an Email

I think your emails might be flying under the radar because of the way you’re composing them. You use a lot of punctuation, but not a lot of capitalization. You shorten words. You’re not including a relevant salutation or subject line.

i snd emails 2 my professors & my boss w/ questions??? bt dey nevr respond. wot gives??!!

I personally like to communicate in grammatical, complete sentences at all times. But I’m an uptight grammar-phile. And horrible at Twitter.

I get that some people relax their attention to grammar when they’re communicating with friends. Heck, I even enjoy the carefree tone of completely un-capitalized textual communication. But the only people who get to see me at my most grammatically bare state are those who already know me and understand the informal tone I’m trying to communicate.

For people who I’ve just initiated contact with? For people who are in positions of authority over me? They get the most polished version of me I can possibly present. Not just textually, either. It’s important to show decorum around authority figures, and I try to do that in the way I speak, act, and write.

You may not be trying to seem flippant and informal when you shorten “to” to “2” or “with” to “w/” (as you did in your question to me). Maybe you’re just trying to get through the task of typing your message as quickly as possible so you can move on. Maybe typing is a pain. Maybe you have more important things to do than type those extra three or four characters.

The thing is, your professor and your boss don’t want to be addressed as if correspondence with them is a chore. They don’t want to feel like you rushed through typing their email, thoughtlessly hitting “send” without even a cursory read-through. They want to feel like they merit the time it takes to write every letter in every word. They want to feel like you care what they think of you and your writing skills. By sending an informal, text-speaky message, you’re telling your readers that they are the unimportant recipient of an unimportant message. You’re telling them your message was a throwaway, and implicitly giving them permission to ignore (and even trash) that message.

You should, at the very least, use spell check. A good piece of advice I tend to take when writing important emails is to compose the email in a word document. Don’t have the internet open at all, and just draft your message like it’s a piece of non-digital mail. Consider the nuances of what you want to communicate, and draft that message like you would any other piece of formal writing. Heck, it might even be worth your time to have someone else look over your message and tell you how you might better communicate what you want so you can get that response.

Once you’ve drafted a coherent message, you can copy and paste it into an email. Give that email a relevant and concise subject name. Enter the recipient’s name after the word “Dear” (or “Hello” if “Dear” feels too formal) on its own line above the text of your message.

And if, after sending this thoughtful and well-revised version to an authority figure you still don’t get a response? You might consider the possibility that you’re sending things to the wrong email address.


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