When Do I Hit Send? How Do I Communicate Professionally as a Student?

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April 8, 2021 by

Everyone has been there: hitting ‘send’ only to realize moments later that there was an error in your email or instant message. Sometimes that ‘undo’ prompt is just seconds too late, sending any self-respecting college student to a state of ‘shame-shock’ (that “I can’t believe I just sent that to my [insert professor, boss, class advisors’ name here]?!” moment that has you in cold sweats and wanting to crawl under the table is what I like to call the ‘shame-shock’ effect of sent-too-early messages). An embarrassing email can happen at any time but is usually the result of a failure to communicate professionally. 

(Here’s a Photo of Freshman Me, 2018!)

It was the summer before my freshman year at Cedarville. My daily inbox was constantly flooded with reminders, admissions messages, and spam as far as the eye could see. I was in a rush preparing to leave New York for Cedarville, Ohio, when I received an email from admissions. I made a decision that will forever be marked as what led to the biggest cringe of my college career: I sent an extremely important email from my cell phone while I was walking out the door! I’m wincing while typing this as I recall the half-typed, half-‘voice typed’ message that I sent while driving on I-90. At my first rest stop, I looked back in horror of the message I sent, which was riddled with spelling errors, formatting issues, and I even addressed my admissions counselor by the wrong name. To say I was mortified was an understatement, and I will never forget the “sent from my iPhone message of 2018.” 

I’m here to help you understand the importance of communicating professionally while attending Cedarville University with tips that you can take far beyond your Yellow Jacket years! 

 

(If it wasn’t obvious enough) PLEASE PROOFREAD

Proofreading your email or other form of messaging service will save you a world of embarrassment. You will catch simple mistakes that could have resulted in a professor or boss viewing you as unprofessional or even misinformed. I personally write all my email in a Google or Microsoft Word document to utilize their built-in spelling and grammar suggestion tools. You could also use web browsers such as Grammarly, which offer subscriptions that can check your document for plagiarism, grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. 

 

Format for Formality

Greeting, body, closing, and signature. You’re taught how to format a letter in elementary school. You should view your formal emails and letters in a very similar way. Greetings should be respectful, address the recipient’s title (Dr., Ms., Prof. etc.), and  also maintain a level of formality that would mirror how you would conduct yourself in person. 

 

Respect the Relationship 

(Photo taken 2019)

Unless you are sending an email in jest to a close friend containing information that is not really important, remember that respect is key when you are communicating professionally. Remember these three things:

WHO: Who is the recipient of your message? Are they a person who demands your respect (they should), and have you received any indication of their professionalism level? 

WHAT/WHY: What is your request and why are you writing this message? Remember; you probably aren’t texting your roommate to unlock the dorm or your mom that you forgot your soccer cleats at home. Requests should be made with humility, not expectation.

WHEN: Sending an email that is of utmost importance at 1 a.m. to a professor is not the wisest decision. Aside from the sleep-deprived spelling and grammatical mistakes that are inevitable, there is also a good chance that other emails in that prof’s inbox will have your urgent message buried by the morning. To ensure your message is read, schedule it to be sent (after proofreading, that is) at a decent hour when you are certain your prospective prof checks his/her email. 

 

Everyone Makes Mistakes

No one is perfect! We all make mistakes when sending mediated messages. It’s important to slow down, take your time, and respond as if you are actually talking to the recipient of your message face to face, showing them the respect they deserve! My lesson was hard learned when I began my college career, but Cedarville’s faculty and staff want nothing more than to see us succeed. My admission counselor’s response was beyond gracious. I took some level of comfort knowing that 1) I was going to Cedarville to improve my communication abilities, which included virtual communication, and 2) I saw his email was sent from his iPhone!

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