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Conduct: E-mail

E-mail is a primary means of communication in the online environment. Therefore, proper e-mail etiquette is an essential social skill for anyone interacting in an online learning environment. E-mails are similar to other forms of written communication in that they lack the immediacy and nonverbal cues, like facial expressions and voice tone afforded through face-to-face conversations. Hastily written e-mails can result in your meaning being misinterpreted or your intentions misunderstood.

While written messages, including e-mails, present limitations like those mentioned below, the asynchronous nature of this form of communications also provides the advantage of being able to take additional time to communicate more effectively. Drafting your response first in a separate document provides the opportunity to assess the clarity of your message. It also allows you to examine and confirm the accuracy of the information you provide as well as review your professional tone once you have had a chance to collect your thoughts.

Here are some guidelines to consider when sending e-mails within the university.

Tone

Always communicate with others using a respectful tone following the university Code of Conduct. Hastily composed e-mails sent in an emotional state of agitation or frustration are frequently counterproductive if they appear aggressive, accusatory, or otherwise hostile in tone. Extremely hostile e-mails will likely be seen as a violation of the Code of Conduct, which may result in disciplinary warnings or more serious sanctions for repeated violations.  

Keep in mind that using all capital letters in a message is commonly interpreted as the equivalent of shouting and can be perceived as aggression or rudeness. Finally, besides avoiding hostility, it is also a good idea to avoid attempts at humor, to avoid misinterpretation and offending the reader instead of amusing them.

Clarity

Get to the purpose of your e-mail quickly. The subject line of your message should provide a specific sense of the content of the e-mail.

For example, “Question about response to peers’ Week 3 discussion post.”

Then use the body of the message to clearly express what you are asking or pointing out. Include all pertinent information needed to understand your request or perception. Use proper sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and capitalization. Be concise and try to limit the message to one topic if possible.

Appropriate recipient(s)

To facilitate the most timely resolution to your question, be sure to send your message to the appropriate individual or unit e-mail account with the responsibility of addressing your issue.

Some individuals believe that “going straight to the top” will result in a quicker response or guarantee a positive outcome. However, these e-mails usually take longer to address as they eventually are forwarded to the appropriate parties for resolution following the same processes afforded to everyone.

Mass mailing to multiple individuals and/or units in hope of making the right connection also doesn’t work as well as precisely targeting the correct recipient. If you are unsure to whom to address a concern or request, first contact your academic advisor for guidance.

What to avoid

  • Vague or volatile subject lines
  • Irrelevant information
  • Inadequate information
  • Nonprofessional tone
  • Not targeting the proper recipient 
  • Mass mailings
  • Using other personal e-mails accounts instead of your Walden e-mail account
  • Giving out Walden e-mail credentials
  • Violating the University’s policies on electronic communications and internet use