Email Etiquette

email-iconThere are four components to a professional email: introduction, connection, explanation of what you’re seeking, and next steps.

Begin by stating who you are and why you are writing to them. Make a connection by mentioning shared interests and goals. If you’ve been referred by someone, you can mention that as well. State what it is you’re seeking, such as a conversation to discuss their research on ________, or to inquire about opportunities to get involved or assist with their work on ________.

End your email with next steps, such as letting them know what days and times you are typically available and asking if they may be able to meet during those times, or asking if it would be alright if you dropped by their office hours to talk with them further. In the case of professionals outside of the University, you can ask if they would be available for a brief, 20-30 minute phone conversation to discuss their work, which is oftentimes referred to as an informational interview.

Tips

  • Keep it concise – Limit your email to essential information only, ideally no more than four to six sentences. Busy faculty members and professionals read emails quickly; a long, detailed email, no matter how well written, will often get ignored. Save the details for follow-up emails and/or conversations.
  • Make your “ask” reasonable – When reaching out to a prospective mentor you do not yet know, asking for a meeting to discuss their research is a reasonable request. Asking whether you can join his/her lab or become his/her research assistant is a big request that should wait until after you’ve had a conversation, which gives both of you the opportunity to assess whether this is a good fit.
  • Maintain formality – Even if you have spoken with this person before, it’s important to always maintain a formal tone and use formal language in an initial email to faculty or professionals. You never know whether your email might be shared or forwarded, so err on the side of formality.
  • Be sincere and genuine – False flattery will not get you far. Only reach out to faculty or other contacts that you have a genuine interest in working with, and never exaggerate or misrepresent your interests.
  • Begin emails with appropriate salutation – This goes back to maintaining formality. Though you may begin your everyday emails with “Hey” or “Hi,” using these informal salutations with faculty or professionals may be off-putting or prevent them from taking you seriously. Always begin with “Dear Dr. [Last Name],” “Dear Professor [Last Name],” or “Dear Mr./Ms. [Last Name].”
  • Professional contact information – At the end of an email, always provide your email address and phone number. The email address you provide should be professional (first.last@uconn.edu instead of soccerfan95@gmail.com). Your voicemail message should also be professional, clearly stating your name and asking callers to please leave a message. Avoid music playing in the background, slang, and informal language in your voicemail message, as these can ruin the professional impression you are trying to make.
  • Referrals – Only give the name of a referral if the person who referred you has instructed you to do so. Providing the name of a referral without their permission is frowned upon. Avoid exaggerating or overstating your connections. For example, stating in your email that “Professor Z recommended I contact you” when in reality Professor Z, in passing, recommended you reach out to faculty members in a particular department to inquire about opportunities, will not get you far in the networking process.
  • Be patient – Don’t expect an instant response. Not everyone maintains a constant connection to their email. If you don’t receive a response within 10 business days (weekends don’t count!) you can send a second email. For the second email, simply resend the same email content, and avoid stating that you’re emailing a second time because you did not receive a response to your first email, as some people may find this offensive. If you don’t receive a response to your second email, either stop in during the faculty member’s office hours to ask your question(s) and begin establishing a relationship, or move on.

 

Sample Emails

ON CAMPUS 1
Dear Dr. Nutmeg,

I’m a freshman at UConn considering the environmental sciences major. I have been reading about the research you’re doing on invasive plant species management techniques in regenerating hardwood forests, and would like to talk with you about your research and possible opportunities to get involved with your work. Can I come by your office hours on Thursday for a brief conversation or is there another time that would be better for us to meet?

Sincerely,

Jonathan Husky
Jonathan.husky@uconn.edu
999-999-9999

 

ON CAMPUS 2
Dear Professor Oakleaf,

I am a sophomore at UConn majoring in Physiology and Neurobiology. I learned on your laboratory website about your research on the ways in which orexin neurons regulate the sleep-wake cycle. This was of particular interest to me because I am curious about how neurotransmitter levels are affected by sleep and intrigued by the connections between sleep and recovery from disease. I hoped we could set up a time to meet to discuss your research and any opportunities that might be available for undergraduates to get involved. I am available on Tuesday and Thursday mornings between 10am and 12pm, or Fridays after 12pm. I would also be happy to stop by during your office hours if that would be more convenient for you.

I look forward to meeting with you soon and learning more about your research.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Husky
Jonathan.husky@uconn.edu
999-999-9999

 

OFF CAMPUS
Dear Mr. Jones,

I’m a junior at the University of Connecticut, double majoring in History and Spanish. Your name was given to me by Professor Nutmeg, who is serving as my mentor on an independent research project I’m completing on ABC.

If possible, I would like to talk with you more about your research on ABC, and am especially curious about the study you conducted to examine XYZ. I would also appreciate learning more about the work that ABC Nonprofit is doing to educate the public on ABC.  Would you be available for a brief phone conversation next Thursday or Friday afternoon? Thank you in advance for your consideration and I hope to speak with you soon.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Husky
Jonathan.husky@uconn.edu
999-999-9999