Effective Email CommunicationWhat this handout is aboutThis handout is intended to help students, faculty, and University professionals learn to use email more effectively. It can help you determine whether email is the best mode of communication in a particular situation and write messages that successfully convey your meaning to your intended audience.BackgroundAlthough email is a valuable tool, it creates some challenges for writers. Miscommunication can easily occur when people have different expectations about the messages that they send and receive. Email is used for many different purposes, including contacting friends, communicating with professors and supervisors, requestinginformation, and applying for jobs, internships, and scholarships. Depending on your purposes, the messages you send will differ in their formality, intended audience, and desired outcomes.So—how do you know when sending an email is the most effective way of accomplishing your communication goals? When is a brief message OK, and when it is more appropriate to send a longer, more professional-sounding email? How should you decide what style of writing is appropriate for each task? Keep reading for answers to these questions!When is email the appropriate form of communication to use?Email is a good way to get your message across when:You need to get in touch with a person who is hard to reach via telephone, does not come to campus regularly, or is not located in the same part of the country or world (for instance, someone who lives in a different time zone).The information you want to share is not time-sensitive. The act of sending an email is instantaneous, but that does not mean the writer can expect an instantaneous response. For many people, keeping up with their email
correspondence is a part of their job, and they only do it during regular business hours. Unless your reader has promised otherwise, assume that it maytake a few days for them to respond to your message.You need to send someone an electronic file, such as a document for a course, a spreadsheet full of data, or a rough draft of your paper.You need to distribute information to a large number of people quickly (for example, a memo that needs to be sent to the entire office staff).You need a written record of the communication. Saving important emails can be helpful if you need to refer back to what someone said in an earlier message, provide some kind of proof (for example, proof that you have paid for a service or product), or review the content of an important meeting or memo.When is email NOT an appropriate form of communication to use?Email is not an effective means of communication when:Your message is long and complicated or requires additional discussion that would best be accomplished face-to-face. For example, if you want feedback from your supervisor on your work or if you are asking your professor a question that requires more than a yes/no answer or simple explanation, you should schedule a meeting instead.