In defense of proper emails

Opinion & Editorial Editor

In high school, my history class was abuzz with nerves before a test. The next day, frustrated with our behavior, our teacher gave us a lecture that really stuck with me: “You do not email a teacher without addressing him or her, without signing the email, and simply demanding the answers to a question,” she explained, disappointed in the abundance of terse emails.

Similarly, the other day when I glanced at an email that I sent quickly to a professor earlier in the day, I cursed myself for my terse speech. I only stated that I forgot to print out my assignment and that it was attached in the email. When I sent the email, I was tired, stressed out, and just wanted to get the assignment to my professor as quickly as possible. I can list a whole range of excuses but the truth of the matter is that there was no excuse for any type of rudeness (intentional or otherwise) toward a professor in my email. I was very embarrassed.

It came as a surprise to me, then, that these types of occurrences are apparently not so uncommon. Recently, I have heard several professors say they are perturbed by their students’ lack of email etiquette, showing complete neglect for manners. There are certain stylistic modes that are important to maintain, and recently there seems to be a consensus that there is some serious degradation in regards to emails.

Though emails with people we get to know better might become more casual over time, it is always important to start off on the right foot, demonstrating respect and courtesy. Despite any rapport a student may have with a professor, it is always important and necessary to maintain politeness and respect in any media; it is always best to err on the side of caution. Regardless of how well I know someone, I usually make my first email in a chain quite formal, until the person of authority sets a different standard.

We have all probably accidentally written something and had it come across wrong, but with emails to members of our own community, I think it’s important we all take the time to make sure our respect for one another is fully expressed. I hope to get a chance to apologize to my professor for sending such a thoughtless email, but in the meantime, I hope we can all take consider how our words come across sans context and inflection.

Questions? Email Sara at

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