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How to write good emails

Here are some tips on how to write effective emails from Collegewise:

Today’s university applicant is likely to communicate over email as often, if not more so, than face-to-face. Just as people size you up when you talk face-to-face, the person on the receiving end of your email is going to make judgments about you based on what you write and how you write it. Here’s a checklist to review before you email anything to an admissions officer, teacher, counselor or anyone else with whom you want to make a good impression.

1. Make the subject line something descriptive.

“Question” isn’t descriptive. “Question about how to get involved at your center” is.

2. Address the person by name at the beginning of the email i.e. “Hi, Ms Harrington:”

Imagine if someone walked up to you and just started asking you a question without even first saying, “Hi.” Wouldn’t it be rude (and a little weird)?

3. If the person doesn’t know you or may not remember you, identify yourself in the first paragraph.

“I met you last weekend at your son’s baseball game (my brother David is on the same team). You mentioned that you might need some summer help at your office and asked me to email you.”

4. Keep your email to one screen.

Don’t write something so long they have to scroll through it.

5. Observe the laws of punctuation, capitalization and good grammar.

Nobody ever looked stupid for sending a properly capitalized and punctuated email, but they have looked that way for ignoring the rules. This is not a text message.

6. Don’t ever type in all caps.

When you write “PLEASE RESPOND TO ME ASAP,” it reads like you’re yelling at the person (or hopped up on espresso).

7. Be careful with exclamation points for the same reason.

“I really hope you can write my letter!” sounds like you’re yelling.

8. It’s OK to write like you talk as long as you’re respectful.

“The purpose of my email is to request your assistance with my college applications” is too formal.

“I’m writing to ask you if you might be able to help me with my college applications” gets the job done.

9. Use a normal font.

Think black type and normal size. No bright colors, cursive, blinking lights or animated creatures of any kind.

10. If you’re asking for something, say “please.”

11. At the end, always say, “thank you.”

12. Proofread carefully.

13. Type your full name at the end of the message.

If you need a reply back, leave a phone number, too, so the person has the option of calling.

14. Use cc sparingly.

Especially if the person you email doesn’t know the people you cc. Imagine if you walked into this person’s office and didn’t introduce the two people you brought in tow.

15. Are you angry?

Be careful sending an email to someone who’s made you angry. “You can always tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow,” said Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the richest people in the world. “You don’t give up that opportunity.”

Once you put your anger out there, it’s there. You can’t take it back. So write it, but don’t send it. Come back tomorrow and read it again. If you’re still comfortable with what the email says, then send it.