teachin' school

teaching tip 42. learn email etiquette.


  • be brief and summarize.  no one likes a long email.  your time (and every other teachers’  time) is valuable.  so make your messages short and sweet.  use bulleted lists instead of paragraphs.  emphasize words and phrases with bold and italics.  in short, get to the point.
  • be formal when necessary.  if you’re sending an email to a friend, of course be casual.  if you’re emailing your principal, address it like a letter with “dear ___,” write the message with formal language and good grammar, and end with “thank you, [name]”.
  • choose a subject line that is completely relevant to your message that’s not too long and not too short.  sounds easy?  sometimes it’s not.  but teachers get a lot of emails each day.  make sure your subject line is to the point.
  • learn how to include hyperlinks to your text.  in outlook, this is simple.  highlight and right click on the phrase.  choose “hyperlink” from the menu and paste the web address into open bar.  using hyperlinks makes your message more fluid and simple.
  • be wary of “reply all”.  what if your message isn’t meant for your principal’s eyes?  be very careful when replying, but especially with “reply all”. check the list to make sure that your message is appropriate for every person on that list.
  • remember people read tone to text – read your message and make sure that it does not come off as disrespectful, flippant, whiny, etc.  everyone reads words in their heads.  your message could be taken the wrong way.  be very careful who you use certain humor or sarcasm with.
  • set up an appropriate signature.  in your email options, set up a unique signature that includes your name, subjects, room location, conference period, and any other pertinent information.  (i also put a “ms.” in front of my name so that parents/guardians know that i am in fact a woman since i have a unisex name.  this clears up their confusion.  if you’re in the same boat, you may choose to do this, too.)  i add a quote at the bottom of my signature to give it a little something extra.  right now, my quote is … “What matters isn’t how a person’s inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life. What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of a war or the description of a sunrise–his numbers for the final count at Buchenwald or the specifics of a brand-new bridge.” – Mister Rogers.
  • double check before hitting “send”.  always, always check who you are sending your email to and the subject line.  reread your message to make sure there are not any mistakes.
  • if you’re upset, wait a bit.  an email sent in anger never turns out well.  wait a few hours or even the next day to respond if you feel that your message will be misconstrued or come out sounding insane.
  • every email can be found and brought to the surface.  be careful what you send in an email.  use your personal address for personal matters and your school address for school matters.  every email you send will be saved on your school’s server and can be discovered.  your school email address doesn’t belong to you.  all emails sent through your school email belong to the district.
  • save everyone the need to delete your stupid chain mails or ads or whatever else no one wants to read.
  • talk in person when needed.  sometimes, you just need to get out of your classroom and go talk to people in person.  this action often saves confusion and time.

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