Logo
Forums
Forums
UniSearch
UniSearch
UniSuggest
UniSuggest
AdmitTrend
AdmitTrend
CourseLiX
CourseLiX
RoommateFinder
RoommateFinder
EduTravel
EduTravel
EdulixExpress
EdulixExpress
Chat
Chat
Blog
Grad Studies
About Us
About Edulix

Post Reply  Post Thread 
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Communication is important: Learn to write proper emails to professors and others
Author Message
Electronvolts Offline
Super Moderator Emeritus
********

Electronvolts Offline
Super Moderator Emeritus
********


Posts: 794
Likes Given: 39
Likes Received: 108 in 32 posts
Joined: Sep 2009
Unisearch: Link
Reputation: 101
Post: #1
Communication is important: Learn to write proper emails to professors and others
0
0
Communication is important: Learn to write proper emails to professors and others by taro_curly


At the risk of having to bounce this often, I am posting this here. The exact same post is in Academia as well. It is along a similar theme as two other posts of mine about PM'ing etiquette and the consequences of indiscriminate prof-letting. It expands on what has been said in both of those threads, in part because although those threads have been viewed a fair number of times, it seems that people do not seem to realize how truly relevant they are.

Try and appreciate that as a foreign student, apart from email, you aren't really going to have any other contact with anyone at the university - faculty, staff or even other students - by any other means. This means that your only way of making a favourable first impression is with a well-crafted email. You don't really need to have the literary skills of Shakespeare to write a good email. All you really need to do is remember what your high school English teacher tried to drill into your head all those years ago while you stubbornly refused to listen. Honestly, when I see emails from other Indian students - people from other countries don't usually tend to write to me - I am very disappointed at the complete lack of etiquette in their writing. I am not looking for flowery prose or verbose expressions of gratitude at taking the time to read their emails. But what I often see is an absence of even basic courtesies and this can be very annoying.

Some generic tips when writing to people (these apply to everyone, staff, faculty and students):

>Keep the message concise and to the point. Few people have the time or inclination to read wordy emails, especially when their value is as yet unknown.

>Include all information that you think will be relevant, but try not to blindly include a whole lot. Take some time to think of what could be important and/or useful to the person you are writing to. For instance, if you have a question about the application packet that you have sent, the admissions staff probably don't care about your GRE score, but they might want to know your applicant number.

>Avoid including attachments with email. Write in plain text if you can.

When writing to staff

Often, you don't know exactly to whom you are writing these emails. The email address tends to be a generic alias which internally gets routed to the appropriate person. In that case, you can't really write a proper salutation so a generic Dear Sir/Ma'am might be appropriate. Remember that they don't have a lot of time and they have a lot of email to deal with so try and make their job as easy as possible. Also, before writing to them, make sure that your question has not already been answered elsewhere on the university website. Most of the time, it has been. If you are looking for a clarification of something on the website, mention this explicitly. Anytime you can demonstrate that you have done your homework first, your standing will go up in the eyes of the reader and their willingness to help goes up. This holds for everyone.

When writing to other graduate students

For the most part, you are going to be writing to them asking for advice/information. They don't know you from Adam, and your hope is that they will take time out of their day to help you. In that case, the least that you can do is take the effort to write to them individually. Writing generic emails titled, "Hello sir" is guaranteed to piss them off big time. People in this country are very individualistic and they get very irritated if it seems like you are wasting their time. By writing generic emails like that, you are giving the impression that you are taking them for granted and they will not appreciate it. The same goes for Indian graduate students as well. Just because they are from your country, does not mean that they should condone your lack of decency. People will take time out to help someone they don't know (the fact that you are reading this on this forum should tell you as much), but only if it looks like you have done your homework and appreciate their efforts. By just including their names in the salutation, it shows that you have at least gone to the trouble of customizing the email to them and they will be more willing to help you. Like I said earlier, verbose expressions of gratitude are not necessary - little things will go a long way.

When writing to professors

This has been discussed to death in these forums time and again and I'll just summarize what is important:
>My rule for writing to professors is "Don't unless you have something interesting to say." Unless you have relevant research experience and to a lesser extent relevant work experience, most professors are not going to be terribly interested. If you have done a good project during your undergrad and it seems a strong match to his research, you could write, but otherwise, it is both a waste of your time and his.

>Read the professor's webpage completely before writing. and read a few of his research papers as well. Of late, more and more professors often have a section specifically for prospective students and how they should go about contacting them. Read it. And more importantly, do what he tells you.

>If you do decide to write, read his research papers first. Writing generic "I am interested in your research" emails is going to have your email thrown in the trash. Mentioning the title of the paper or quoting the abstract is not going to work either. These people have a PhD. They are not stupid. They can smell a bogus letter from a mile away. The best way to get his interest is to make an intelligent technical comment about some aspect of that paper. Remember the old quip, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt" Don't say something for the sake of saying it.

Degree of formality

This is something which can get a little tricky. In general, Americans are not terribly fond of excessive formality, and often, you will refer to your professors by their first names once you get to know them. But when writing to them initially, it makes sense to be formal. But remember that we in India have a very antiquated way of writing formal letters which is probably not appropriate. Instead of the convoluted, flowery prose that we have in our formal letters, you should use crisp, short, matter-of-fact sentences. One of my junior college English professors would rail about using "Thanking you" at the end of a letter. She insisted that a simple "Thank you" made more sense and I suppose it does. The Americans also hate passive voice and prefer active sentences which is something to keep in mind too.

When writing to other graduate students, you needn't start the email with Dear Mr./Ms. LastName and it's almost always ok to use their first names. But don't for God's sake start an email with "Hi dude" or "Hey Buddy" or something stupid like that. Not only would you deserve to have such an email ignored, you would also richly merit a swift kick in your pants for it.

Textese

If you are stupid enough to actually use stuff like u, ma and plz in an email, then you are beyond redemption. Stop reading this right here, right now. It is very, very bad form to write like this - especially when you are writing to faculty or staff. It might be tolerated by some graduate students, but no one else. Even many graduate students - and I am one of them - hate textese and you are better off not using it. I know that you are addicted to it on SMS/chat/wherever, but it's time to break the habit. Textese is like body art - it might be tolerated by some but is repulsive to others, and you don't really want to unnecessarily get off on the wrong foot with someone, especially when it is not particularly difficult to avoid.

Speaking skills

This is hugely important once you come here. I have seen a few students who, although they are intelligent and know what they are talking about, find it very difficult to even find an advisor simply because their spoken English is poor. I have heard of others who literally let job opportunities at places like Microsoft slip because of their poor communication skills. This is true even in India, I have seen many of my classmates who were quite skilled find it difficult to get a job during campus placements because they could not speak English very well and were not confident when using that language. On the other hand, there were guys who couldn't write code to save their life but who could talk an Eskimo into buying an ice-cube who were among the first to get placed. And it makes sense. If you cannot communicate with your team members, whether in a company or in a research group, the team on a whole is going to suffer which is why recruiters and professors are a little skeptical about accepting you. It becomes even more important in this country where English is the pre-dominant language. Having an extensive vocabulary of obscure words is not the point here. It is important to be able to clearly express your thoughts in English. If you are in your final/pre-final year, it makes sense to talk in English as much as possible, not just if you plan to travel to the US/UK/Australia for your Masters, but even to give yourself an edge during job interviews and later on, in the workplace.

After being on Edulix for some time, I have also noticed that often, the posts that get more responses tend to be those that are written well and clearly. Very often, these also happen to be the people who don't really need nearly as much help as others do. It might strike you as being unfair, but you can't really help it. That's the way the world works. Effective communication is vital these days, and it makes sense for you to hone those skills. If you are in research, you need very good writing ability (papers, grant proposals), presentation skills (for conferences and even lectures) apart from other things. If you are in industry, you need to be able to communicate quickly by email, over the phone and on a teleconference with both team members and clients. Depending on your job profile, you might need to make convincing presentations as well.

Bottomline, if you have a Communication Skills class (I know Bombay University does, and ironically, in my college, I learned the most in that class (PCT) in all my 4 years of engineering), take it seriously. And learn to write proper emails



__________________________________________________________________________
Note :
I have kept Missing link in red colour and we will update it afterwards.

Regards,
Vivek.

(This post was last modified: 06-21-2010 10:55 PM by Electronvolts.)
06-21-2010 10:54 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Electronvolts Offline
Super Moderator Emeritus
********

Electronvolts Offline
Super Moderator Emeritus
********


Posts: 794
Likes Given: 39
Likes Received: 108 in 32 posts
Joined: Sep 2009
Unisearch: Link
Reputation: 101
Post: #2
RE: Communication is important: Learn to write proper emails to professors and others
0
0
~~~~~~Bounce~~~~~~

10-31-2010 07:25 AM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
taro_curly Offline
Lifetime Achievement Award
*********
Edulix MVP

taro_curly Offline
Lifetime Achievement Award
*********
Edulix MVP


Posts: 1,523
Likes Given: 5
Likes Received: 219 in 86 posts
Joined: Nov 2006
Unisearch: Link
Reputation: 118
Post: #3
RE: Communication is important: Learn to write proper emails to professors and others
0
0
I think it's ok to remove this from the sticky list on this forum because it's already stickied in Academia. Plus, the one in Academia has been expanded a little as well. If it's possible, you could have both posts refer to the same thing or move the one in Academia here. I wouldn't recommend copying it because I update the post every now and again depending on some comment that I receive or a discussion with someone else on this subject. Making a copy would just make it more annoying to synchronize both versions.

I am not very active on this forum any longer. Most PM's will not receive a response.
10-31-2010 08:43 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
theou huios Away
ρ◎ʟḯℨεї
*********

theou huios Away
ρ◎ʟḯℨεї
*********


Posts: 2,520
Likes Given: 9
Likes Received: 30 in 25 posts
Joined: Sep 2009
Unisearch: Link
Reputation: 105
Post: #4
RE: Communication is important: Learn to write proper emails to professors and others
0
0
Ok Tarun. I will unsticky it. We will use the one in Academia when we refer it to someone. Thanks SmileSmile

Back \m/
10-31-2010 08:56 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
« Next Oldest | Next Newest »
Post Reply  Post Thread 


View a Printable Version
Send this Thread to a Friend
Subscribe to this thread