In our increasingly digital world, email has become the primary medium for professional communication. Making a good impression and using proper email etiquette can make a marked difference for all of us, especially for Early Career professionals.
With the return of a robust in-person conference, chances are you’ll be making new contacts with whom you’ll want to keep in touch. Follow these tips from the Early Career Program to help your emails sound professional and garner faster, more informative responses.
Use these tips from to keep in touch with those you meet at SC22.
Make the Subject Clear
The subject line is one of the first items a correspondent will notice. If you make your subject line short, concise, and clear, your email will more likely be given appropriate attention. Let’s look at an example:
Title 1: “Quick question”
Title 2: “Software Quality Process Question”
You might be tempted to go with the first title – it’s short and claims that the question is quick. The receiver, however, has no concept of the topic. Is it a subject in which they have sufficient knowledge? Will answering that question right now require context switching? The more descriptive you can be with the fewest words is the right way to get your reader’s attention.
Address and Sign-off Respectfully
How should you address your correspondent? Unless you are already familiar with them, it is always best practice to be more formal as a way to show your respect. Use their proper title and name (e.g., “Dr. Smith”) and make sure to spell it correctly. Additionally, make sure your salutation is sufficiently formal. Good examples are: “Good morning/afternoon”, “Dear (name)”, and “Hello, (name).”
Similarly, be professional and formal in your own sign-off and signature. End gracefully by using a phrase such as, “Please let me know if you have any questions” or “Thank you for your time.” You may then amend these with a professional farewell such as “Best” or “Sincerely”. We also highly recommend creating a standard signature block that includes your name, professional title, company or institution name, and your contact information. For example:
Dr. Janet Smith
Institute of Science
Keep It Short
Much like your own, your reader’s time is precious. If you can say it in fewer words, do. Start your email with one sentence that gives a high-level summary of the rest of the content. Use formatting to your advantage to bring attention to important information (e.g., bullet points, bold, italics). Make sure the questions, action items, and deadlines are explicit and easy to find. As an example:
I am writing this email to request a review of my presentation for the workshop next week. If you could please do the following:
Review the attached file
Send feedback by Friday at 12 pm
Avoid Informal Language
Tone and meaning are frequently lost in text-based media. This is especially true when taking cultural or language differences into account. Miscommunication can easily occur when cultural differences aren’t taken into consideration. It may be common for you to “hammer out details” with your colleagues, but to one who speaks English as a second language, they may not immediately understand what that means. To ensure clarity and accessibility, strive to use proper language with correct grammar and avoid slang/colloquialisms, excessive humor, and undefined acronyms.
Don’t Wait Too Long
Responding to emails quickly is an important factor in building a reputation as a reliable colleague. It can be difficult to reply to every email sent to you, but you should try. If a correspondent has taken the time to reply to you or reached out to you with a question of their own, it is a sign of respect to respond accordingly – and will make them more likely to do the same for you in return. If you can’t reply to the whole email now, that’s fine – send back a quick reply to let them know when you will get back to them (e.g., “I appreciate you sending this email and will reply in full next week.”).
Review Before Sending
Before hitting the send button, take a few minutes to review your email once again. If you are responding to an email, be sure you answered all the questions asked of you and be sure you are not asking questions already answered in the original message. Proofread to correct misspelled words. Are you confident your email is as professional as it can be? Then send it on its way!