Email is an AMAZING tool – I cannot imagine my life without it!! My dad send pics of his new artwork, my sis sends links to her kids most recent photos, and my patients get to reach out to me with non-urgent issues without the hoops of going through my clinic. And HOW did people get research projects accomplished without email?!?! I cannot even imagine!!
That being said – there are many ways where email can end up being your downfall in academics. Especially if you don’t respect it! Therefore, view all of your emails as professional exchanges.
Here are a few rules to follow:
- The first time you email someone, address them formally. They can always correct you later, but you never know if you may offend them by addressing them by their first name before you are friendly.
- Include your formal signature on your first email to someone new. They will take you more seriously.
- Don’t waste the recipient’s time – don’t ask them questions that you could find the answer to yourself.
- If you CC someone, then you should explain why you have done this. Don’t make people wonder why you included “So-and-so” on the email – be transparent.
- Ex) I CC’ed Dr. “Senior-important-person” on this email so she remains updated on our current progress.
- Do NOT BCC others onto an email chain – EVER! This can totally backfire on you later and will not turn out pretty. If someone “Reply All”s to an email with a BCC it is possible for that name to end up on the record.
- Instead, you could forward the email you sent to the person you think should see it and explain why you are doing so.
- If you are emailing at an off-time (evening/weekend) or know someone is out of town – – you can use the subject line to indicate your intent. Aka) if it is non-urgent then start your subject with just that “Non-urgent: Update on whatever you are working on”
- Conversely, if it IS urgent – you should reach out to the recipient in another way also. Call them/page them/etc to make sure they are aware of the email. Not everyone checks their emails constantly (like me…)
- Be timely with your reply! I think 24 hours is the max amount of time to reply. BUT – if the response is going to be very complex – it is okay to email back and say that you are working on it and then say WHEN you will get back to them by.
Some people wonder whether they should CC their senior mentor on all of the emails related to their projects/etc. This is sooo individualized that it is best to JUST ASK them what their preference is. And that preference may change over time as you build their trust. Remember: some senior folks get 300 plus emails a day!!
Above all else -remember that emails are permanent documentation!! It can be forward to anyone, at any time! Be thoughtful, be professional, and be aware!