Centre for Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching and Learning
Centre for Teaching and Learning

Professionalism and Communication

Being a Teaching assistant (TA), graduate student or post doc requires consistent emailing across the board. It is therefore important to pause! And rethink your drafted message prior to clicking the “send” button. Remember, e-mail behavior has the potential to sabotage your reputation both personally and professionally. The tips below from various experts will help you to perfect your email etiquette and communication.The first section is about general email etiquette and how you, as a TA or Teaching Fellow (TF) can communicate more effectively with your students.The second section contains tips about setting a precedent for communication from your students.

Section I: General email and communication etiquette

  1. Focus on public matters. Consider if the matter you will be discussing in the email is a public one, or something that should be talked about behind closed doors. Ask yourself if the topic being discussed is something you will write on a company letterhead or post on a bulletin board for all to see before pressing "send”. ---Judith Kallos, author of E-Mail Etiquette Made Easy, E-Mail: The Manual, and E-Mail: A Write It Well Guide.
  2. Briefly introduce yourself. It is important to avoid the assumption that the recipient of your email knows who you are, or can easily remember meeting you. In cases where you are uncertain if your recipient recognizes your e-mail address or name, include a simple reminder of who you are and be sure to avoid lengthy biographies.---Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007.
  3. Avoid emailing angry. Always remember that email correspondence lasts forever! That said, avoid expressing anger, or reprimanding someone, disparaging other people via emails. Since emails seem informal sometimes, many people can fall into the trap of emailing when angry.---Lindsey Pollak, career and workplace expert, e-mail etiquette consultant, and author of Getting from College to Career.
  4. Use exclamation points sparingly. The maximum number of exclamation points in a business e-mail? One. Otherwise, you risk looking childish and unprofessional.---Lindsey Pollak, career and workplace expert, e-mail etiquette consultant, and author of Getting from College to Career.
  5. Respond in a timely fashion. Unless it requires an urgent response, you can respond to an email within 24 to 48 hours. You do not need to provide instant responses to emails -– Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007.
  6. Refrain from sending one-liners and using short cuts. "Thanks," and "Oh, OK" do not advance the conversation in any way. Feel free to put "No Reply Necessary" at the top of the e-mail when you don't anticipate a response. Also, avoid using shortcuts to real words, emoticons, jargon, or slang. Any of the above has the potential to make you look less than professional---Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007.
  7. Keep it short, clean and simple. Be clear, and up front in your emails. State the purpose of the e-mail within the first two sentences. Do not leave your messages messy, for example, remove excessive carets (>>>), from your email chain. You can get rid of carets by selecting the text, Ctrl+F to use the Find and Replace command to find a caret and replace all of them with nothing. You can get rid of all the e-mail addresses just by deleting. Clean it up, then send it-Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007.
  8. Be clear in your subject line. With inboxes being clogged by hundreds of e-mails a day, it's crucial that your subject line gets to the point. It should be reasonably simple and descriptive of what you have written about. Expect that any e-mail with a cute, vague, or obscure subject will get trashed. Also, proof your subject line as carefully as you would proof the rest of the e-mail.
  9. Evaluate the importance of your e-mail. Don't overuse the high priority option. If you overuse this feature, few people will take it seriously. A better solution is to use descriptive subject lines that explain exactly what a message is about-Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007.
  10. Send or copy others only on a need to know basis. Prior to clicking the “Reply All”    button, be sure that all your recipients need the information in your message. If not, why send it to all? Be sure to send your messages to the right people-Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007.
  11. Be clear in your subject line. It is important that your email has a crucial subject line (i.e. descriptive of what your message, simple subject line) that gets to the point. E-mails with vague subject lines may be trashed. Also, be sure to proof read your subject line as   you would the rest of your e-mail.
  12. Pick up the phone. When a topic has lots of parameters that need to be explained or negotiated and will generate too many questions and confusion, don't handle it via e-mail. Also, do not use e-mails for last minute cancellations of meetings, interviews etc-Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007.
  13. Your e-mail is a reflection of you. Every e-mail you send adds to, or detracts from your reputation. If your e-mail is scattered, disorganized, and filled with mistakes, the recipient may be inclined to think of you as a scattered, careless, and disorganized person. Bear in mind that the opinion of others matter in the professional world, and their perceptions critical to your success - Peter Post, director of the Burlington, Vermont-based Emily Post Institute

Section II: Setting a precedent for communication from your students

Here are some suggestions about things to include on your syllabus or in OnQ, in order to facilitate effective communication with your students. You can also address these in class or tutorial, especially at the beginning of term. Below, find a list of tips you may want to share with your students.

1. Please address your TA or TF with “Hi” or “Hello” followed by their preferred name. Beginning an email with “hey” or “yo” is unacceptable.

 2. Be clear in your questions or concerns, but keep your messages brief and to the point.

3. When sending email queries to your TAs or TFs, please indicate the course code in the subject line.

4. Please read the syllabus and onQ first. Note that instructors will not respond to queries for which the answer is available in onQ.

5. Email response time:Your instructors will normally respond to your email within 2 working days. This means that you cannot normally expect email responses on the weekend. If you have not heard back from your instructor within 2 working days, please send another email.

6. For more tips and tricks,visit Wikihow: Email a Professor

7. “Netiquette” Guidelines

8. Five Things to Remember when Emailing a Professor

References

[Inc.com] https://www.inc.com/guides/2010/06/email-etiquette.html

Other useful sites

https://www.lifewire.com/fundamental-email-etiquette-1171187

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/694/01/

https://www.e-education.psu.edu/styleforstudents/c7_p2.html