How to write an e-mail?
When is it useful to send an e-mail?
The full-inbox-syndrome is a disease of our time. Yet, it requires much time and effort to eradicate this disease, which is why you should start with yourself first. Apply the tips below to avoid sending and receiving an overflow of emails in the future.
Limit the emails you send
Ask yourself whether the email you were about to write and send is really necessary. Can’t you find the information you are looking for somewhere else?
Limit yourself to one email
Ask all your unanswered questions in the same email so that your lecturer can answer all your questions at once. Emails are not chatrooms.
Be explicit about your expectations
If you don’t ask a clear question, don’t expect a clear answer. Make sure to ask an explicit question so that the person who receives your email knows what your problem is and vice versa. If you receive an email without an explicit question, don’t feel obliged to answer or confirm.
Dear professor Steegmans
For the assignment we were supposed to make for your course, I have a small problem. I found different approaches in the syllabus and I would like to work in a specific manner. I would like to integrate the third exercise into my answer on the fifth question.
Dear professor Steegmans
I have a small question about the assignment that we have to make for the course Linear Algebra. In chapter 4 of the coursebook, it is explained that the methodologies for exercise 3 and exercise 5 are the same. For this reason, I would like to integrate the third exercise into my answer to the fifth question. Am I allowed to do this or is it necessary to repeat the complete calculations in both exercises?
BACH 1 – Bioengineering
What is a good e-mail?
Write a clear subject line
Make sure that your addressee immediately knows what your email is about. Clarity is key in this situation and creativity is totally out of place. An ideal subject line is a short title that starts with the course for which you are sending the email and also mentions the topic of your question.
Use an appropriate beginning and ending
You don’t write an email to your friends but not to the queen either. Make sure to use an appropriate and respectful beginning and ending. Don’t start an e-mail with ‘hey’ or ‘to whom it may concern’ and don’t end it by writing ‘bye’ or ‘respectfully’ either. A simple ‘dear Mr./Ms. X’ or ‘dear professor X’ and ‘kind regards’ is usually more than enough. Don’t use unnecessary abbreviations and make sure to always include the name of your addressee. Avoid impersonal emails that start with ‘Dear’ at all times.
Keep it short and concise
Long emails are really dreadful. Your addressee usually wants to help you out but everybody is always busy which is why you need to make sure that your addressee can reply to your email very easily. Try to make your message as short as possible. You don’t need an extensive and eloquent introduction and conclusion to your email. A short introductory sentence and your specific question are usually more than enough. This way, you will also receive an answer much faster. If you have a nuanced problem that you would like to discuss in detail, it might be a better idea to make an appointment.
Use a formal register
Avoid dialect and spoken language in your emails as they are written documents and not a quick whatsapp message. Write everything in full (no contractions!) and make complete sentences. Always make sure to use a respectful tone. Even if you are upset, you need to show respect for your addressee.