Reaching Out: Professional Writing and Email

Hello GradFund readers! This post will discuss the etiquette involved in professional communication.

If you are anything like me, you obsess over every little detail within the simplest communications. Email drafts sit in my inbox for days, weeks, or even months and make it through several rounds of revision before being sent. What? Nobody else? Maybe it’s just me, then.

Even if you aren’t as obsessive as I am, there is still a degree of etiquette that must be maintained in professional communication. Even something as seemingly innocuous as an email must be professional and tactful. Remember, email servers aren’t very secure to begin with. Recently, several high profile email dumps were made public that landed several companies and their employees in some pretty hot water. In this post, we provide some tips on keeping it classy so that you may better avoid any compromising scenarios. Most of the time, these tips just result in better communication, too.

Tip 1: Know your audience.

We really can’t say this enough around here. It’s the central dogma of any writing project. From a text message to a children’s book to a fellowship proposal, a good piece of writing speaks to its intended audience. In general, address your superiors (professors, deans, etc.) as such. Use their titles and surnames until you are explicitly told to do otherwise. Even then, formality is still the safer option. You never know who else may accidentally be privy to your correspondence through replies or forwards.

Tip 2: Use proper language.

In the professional setting, whether it be a formal letter or an informal email, there is a certain etiquette involved. The last thing you want to do is come off as unprofessional. If you are sending an email to or from your workplace, use proper English. Don’t use text message abbreviations. It creates confusion, and Google doesn’t charge you by the character, anyway. And please, PLEASE, don’t use profanity even if it may be spoken casually. Writing, especially electronic, is permanent. You never know who may end up reading it.

Tip 3: Stay on point.

Whether you are writing an email or a proposal, respect the reader’s time. Peers, superiors, and even reviewers are not obligated to show patience for long, rambling, and unfocused communication. They generally have things to do. Reviewers may simply reject your application. And the last thing you want to do is alienate your peers and superiors. If you are communicating to a subordinate, bear in mind that they can be more productive if your instructions and advice are clear and concise as well.

So there you have it. Three easy-to-remember tips for professional communication. These are by no means the only components that go into a well-written memo, but they are good places to start. Most of the time, using your better judgement will serve you just fine.

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