Email Etiquette Tips for Online College Students
Professors at traditional campus-based colleges have long reported incidents of students' sending inappropriate emails. What is good email etiquette for students at online colleges?
First, there are some basic formatting principles that apply to both distance learning and traditional college students who want to ensure that their email is easy to read.
- Follow the rules of grammar and punctuation as you would in a formal letter. That means not writing in all caps or all lower-case letters.
- Always begin your letter by addressing it to the person to whom you are writing. You don't need to use formal salutations such as "dear." "Prof. So-and-so" followed by a comma is appropriate, unless your professors indicate a preference for being addressed by their first name.
Email Content and Tone
That brings us to another important topic: the tone and content of your email. How informal can you be and what types of topics are appropriate to discuss in an email to a professor? A New York Times article reported that some professors are lamenting a trend on college campuses of students' sending emails that are irrelevant or just plain rude.
How can you avoid offending a professor, a person whose kindness you may rely upon for job, graduate school, and scholarship recommendations? Both online and campus-based students should try to avoid letters that take on a demanding tone. Avoid asking professors to do you favors that are inappropriate, such as sending you notes from a class you missed for no good reason.
Additionally, avoid writing a professor if you're feeling angry about a grade or some other aspect of the class. Write it after you've cooled off. Always be professional, no matter the topic.
Finally, a good way for campus-based students to determine if their question merits an email is to ask themselves, "Is this question important enough to make a trip to my professor's office?" If you decide it isn't worth the effort, you probably shouldn't bother sending it in an email.
For Distance-Learning Students
This is where email etiquette for distance-learning students and traditional students differs. Since online college students don't have an opportunity each class to interact in person with their professor, they naturally will have a greater need to communicate more often via email.
The New York Times, "To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me"
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