It is important in college to learn and begin to practice the professional skills that will be required in the workforce. A college writing course is the perfect place to begin practicing these essential skills. E-mail is often the only impression others will ever have of us in this a very electronic world and your e-mails are your professional representation of yourself.
Being aware of your audience when dealing with colleagues, employers and employees will be important to getting the job done well. Achieving the right tone is important and can be a challenge. Writing in all caps, using excessive exclamation points and question marks for declarative sentences can be read as insulting and demanding; however, this awareness goes beyond grammar and format issues.
The best way to avoid misunderstandings of tone in professional e-mails is to be acutely aware of your audience. How can this be done? First, know your audience and your topic. Your recipient will likely expect the same courtesy and respect in your e-mails as he practices in his own e-mail. If you do not know what level of professionalism the recipient expects, step up your professionalism to the highest level and you can’t go wrong. If you are writing in regards to a classroom policy, be sure you have read that policy. If you are writing in regards to an assignment be sure to have read the assignment and any supporting materials carefully. If you are writing to your instructor regarding a grade, an understanding of course policies, the assignment and related rubrics and any supporting materials is key to letting your instructor know that you care about your success in his course. Lastly, when in the midst of a professional e-mail exchange, or conversation, be sure to read carefully. If your immediate thought is to shoot off an emotional rant in response, it might be good to step away from the e-mail and come back to it later when you can think about creating a constructive and professional response.