Just because writing emails seems like a basic skill, that doesn’t mean that everyone has mastered it.
We overuse the term “hot take,” but here’s one anyway: email etiquette should be taught in orientation classes.
It seems silly at first glance, because who doesn’t know how to write an email? But chances are, you don’t. And if you do, your friends might not.
I know this because I’ve worked on and off campus, and the difference in email quality is staggering. Students will use emojis in emails to me about serious problems, or not use their names in an email, forgetting that their email address does not include their name, either. And those are only the most frequent problems, not the worst.
A good email can unlock doors for you. It leaves someone with a good impression, and they might be more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt or extra help later on. It gets a message across succinctly so you don’t waste time. That is, by the way, incredibly helpful when you’ve got 50+ emails and you just need to know what’s happening in as few words as possible.
A bad email is a level of hell reserved for the worst kind of snappy, mullish bureaucrat. When the information isn’t there, or it’s confusing, it takes a handful of emails longer to sort out.
It leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth when the first email doesn’t have a greeting or salutation — because, really, you’d say hello and goodbye to someone in person, and it’s just polite to use your greetings when you’re showing up in someone’s inbox.
Students need to know the rules for emails, and more important, they need to know why those rules exist. Orientation classes are the perfect place to explain email etiquette. Students haven’t yet started sending the bulk of the emails they’ll send in college. They’ve got time to learn and ask questions. Best yet, they’re usually too intimidated to skip orientation classes, so they’re a captive audience.
The lesson would ideally go over the parts of an email you should include, the things you shouldn’t and a few extra tips that aren’t taught as often but are just as important: for instance, learning how to summarize what you’re asking for or trying to convey as clearly as possible to someone who has no idea who you are or what you want, or asking for things assertively but not aggressively. There’s a nuance to writing emails, like any other form of communication. It would only take a class period or two to cover the basics, but the lesson will be applicable for years to come.
It’s frustrating to be told you don’t know how to write an email. Worse than that, though, is finding out that you’ve been the bane of email recipients everywhere and lost out on some pretty cool stuff because of it.