A Toolbox for Your Emails: Communicating Effectively Pt. 1

 

 

Since coming to college, I’ve found that a lot of young people are very insecure in their abilities to communicate via email. While this is something that I’ve never found to be particularly hard, I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me to help them draft, proofread, or formulate a response to an email this semester alone. I have no problem helping my friends, but I also believe that being able to write a strong email and being confident in your ability to do so is such an absurdly easy way to open doors. It’s for this reason that I want to share some of my personal tools that I’ve used and polished along the way!

 

  1. Be cheerful! While it may not always be appropriate, whenever possible I open my emails with, “Hello _______!” and close them with “Thanks!” In the body of the email, be careful not to overdo it with exclamation points, but it never hurts to use a couple, especially in the beginning when you’re greeting the person.

  2. When emailing someone to set up a meeting, be sure to include times that you are available to meet. I will usually just include a sentence at the end of the email, after explaining why I’d like to meet, saying, “I’m generally free from ____ to ____. Let me know what time works best for you and I’ll get it in my calendar!”

  3. Take accountability. A few weeks back, my schedule was very hectic, and I completely skipped a team meeting for a group that I work for. That’s ok! Most, if not all, of the people leading these groups understand that students are very busy! However, they are a lot more understanding if you don’t make excuses. When I emailed the leader of this group, I said:

“Hello _____ -

I am SO sorry that I missed the meeting on Thursday. I have been running about a million miles per hour these past few days and it totally slipped my mind. Please let me know if there is absolutely anything I can do to help with the upcoming event!

Thanks, and sorry for the inconvenience!

Zoe”

I took responsibility for my mistake, and she was more than understanding, and this kind of honesty actually helped our relationship grow!

   4. Reply promptly, especially if the other person has replied promptly to you. It’s just a courtesy thing. After you send an important email, you don’t want to be kept waiting for a reply, and neither does the person emailing you. Plus, if you reply promptly enough, you may be able to catch the person while they’re at their computer in their office, and you can have a whole email conversation in 30 minutes instead of 3-4 days!

    5. Make sure that you’re using the right title! This can get tricky with professors because some of them are true professors, while others have earned the title of Doctor. When in doubt, I just say, “Hello Professor ______!” but it’s also usually listed on the syllabus if you want to be sure.

    6. Many people admire a person who takes initiative, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want! For example, in October after getting settled into college, I applied for a job at the bookstore. I really, really wanted this job because I was between the bookstore and the dining service, so I emailed the woman who put up the job advertisement on the student portal and said:

 

“Hello ______!

My name is Zoe and I’m a first-year student. I recently applied for the open position in the bookstore, and I was just emailing to find out what kind of time frame you would be putting on that search. I’m very interested in the position and look forward to hearing from you soon!

Thanks! Zoe”

 

I sent that email and got an interview set up the very next day. Obviously, it won’t happen that easily every single time, but it never hurts to check up on the things you want and express interest! Oftentimes, if two people are going after something, but only one expresses interest, it will usually go to them, so it never hurts to get your name out there!

I hope these tools are able to help people who are struggling with their email skills! Some of these are also just little keys to life that I’ve picked up along the way (number 3 and number 6 especially!), but they translate well to email, and they’re good skills to have in your toolbox!