#TBT…Email Etiquette: The Art of Writing in the 21st Century

Jairo R. Ledesma, Florida International University

For centuries the art of writing a letter was just that: an art.  Writing was reserved for scribes, whose job it was to draft carefully edited letters and books that would be read by the elite. Over time, with the advent of technology the scribe was replaced and the production of books and letters was accessible to many. That was a good thing I guess. The drawback, we could surmise, has been that we no longer pay attention to detail and the power that the written word has. Take for example the manner in which we communicate today. Electronic mail, or email, is perhaps the number one way we communicate (I do believe this is changing, and how you communicate has to do with the age bracket you fall under) and it is perhaps the only way we have to get our point across in great detail, since the days of actually writing a letter by hand are all but gone.

Email in its purest form is a representation of who we are. It allows the reader to infer our character, mood and overall mental well being. IF I WRITE TO YOU IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, you will assume that I am either very angry at you or that I simply forgot to let go of the Caps Lock button. if i rite to u like this, u may think that i am younger and hip, or maybe you will think I am your friend or something. Or if I write to you like one my students did recently “Yo Ledesma,  I uploaded my resume go ahead and approve it because I needed ASAP” you may think I was a bit rude.

So, where have all the etiquette and manners gone? Over the course of my almost 13 years in higher education, I have noticed that etiquette as it pertains to writing has diminished and seems to be spiraling downwards. Gone are the days of paying attention to detail, to the tone and to our audience.

The internet/information revolution perhaps has made us go a bit faster than we were previously accustomed to. In our haste to keep up, perhaps we have neglected the details, or is it that in our early educational experience, the emphasis on writing and grammar has shifted? Could it be perhaps that these deficiencies were always there, but is it only now when the written word is more important than ever, that we notice this? Whatever the case may be I find myself having an internal battle of whether or not I should take the time to “school” a student on proper email etiquette. I think about whether the student will actually take into consideration what I just wrote to them. I contemplate whether I now will get into a back and forth with a student who may take offense to a “teaching moment.” In the end, the educator in me always wins out. In my line of work, every moment is a teaching moment, an opportunity to share information and/or an opportunity to make students reflect and think.

Alas, there is hope; I think, I hope. Just browsing the Linkedin website, I come across hundreds of professionals who profess knowledge of email decorum. A quick Google search finds a plethora of articles on the subject. But in the end, I am convinced that it will be the educator in all of us to let our students, our future professionals, know how important communication is and how vital email etiquette is to their professional development and future. I usually do my best in the most polite fashion to let the   student know first what the mistakes were, and then next how it can be done better. More importantly, I let them know why it matters so much that they get this figured out before they reach the professional world. I sometimes provide links to articles (such as this one from inc.com) so that students do not just hear it from me. Lastly, remember that as Career Services professionals, if we don’t take the time then someone else may.  BECAUSE if u dont…some1 will,  butt it May be 2 LATE!!!!!!!