In the era of social media, most students think of emails as text messages and other forms of digital communication, usually brief and informal. On the contrary, lecturers are still considering emails similar to letters, so as they would like to receive formal messages which are adhered to the conventions of the Standard Written English.
Effective writing requires students to choose and shape words according to their readers, genre and purpose. These three aspects are known as the ‘rhetorical situation’.
At this point, what are the key conventions for the rhetorical situation when you are emailing a lecturer or a tutor?
- Use a clear subject line: writing a concise and relevant subject line helps your tutor to understand the content of your email. As well as this, by writing an engaging subject line, you will have a high possibility that your email will be opened and read quickly.
- Don’t forget to insert a salutation and a signature: before writing the body of your email, it is important to start your message with a salutation. This can be ‘Dear’ or ‘Good Afternoon’ followed by the title and last name of your tutor or lecturer. Furthermore, instead of concluding your message with the pre-set sentence ‘Sent from my iPhone’, include a signature, such as ‘Yours Faithfully’ or ‘Yours Sincerely’.
- Think about the content of your email: it is very easy to start writing in an informal way by email. However, focus on your language and try to avoid colloquialisms. Being too formal is better than being too familiar. Also, try to write concisely.
- Don’t forget to check punctuation, syntax and spelling: before sending the email, have a quick look at your message and check the punctuation, grammar and spelling. Online software such as Grammarly and SpellCheckPlus can help you with this task.
As well as these tips, it is important you bear in mind these common mistakes as to avoid them:
- Don’t send emails to a professor from a personal account
- Keep your subject line relevant
- Remember to attach all the useful files
- Don’t CC more than three people to your email
In conclusion, it is vital that you understand how to write a formal email to your lecturer, as this the main communication channel adopted by the institution staff during your years at university. So before sending an email to your tutor, we recommend you to read the points listed above. Happy writing!