How to address writer's block

Email tips for students

E-mails are often written very carelessly, even by students. What is often overlooked: An e-mail is by no means just used to transmit a message, it always says something about the sender. So it doesn't matter how the email is worded and how it looks.

So today here are a few tips on what to look out for when writing an email to a lecturer at a university or college.

10 tips for your next mail

If you are just starting your studies and your e-mail address is up to now [email protected] reads, get a new (second) address. It is ideal if your e-mail address includes your first and last name. Some universities, for example the University of Vienna, offer students the option of using their own university email address. If your university offers something like this, take advantage of it.

Choose a subject, and a meaningful one. The recipient must immediately see what it is about.

Do not have to leave your e-mail. Emails with a purple or light green background or even flowers have no place in a university context.

The same applies to the font: Use a common, straightforward font, for example Calibri, Times Roman or Arial.

Pay attention to the salutation. Even in Austria today it is perfectly fine if you address a teacher with "Dear Ms. plus surname" or "Dear Mr. plus surname".

If you decide to address yourself with a title, find out beforehand what title your recipient has. I myself keep getting emails in which I am addressed as "Dear Professor Weigl". Since I have not completed my habilitation and do not have a professorship, this address is simply wrong. Personally, I am also uncomfortable when someone speaks to me like that.

It is up to you whether you choose "Dear" or "Dear". If you already know the teacher personally, I personally think "Dear" is perfectly fine. It is not appropriate, at least in Austria, to address it with "Hello". This is how you only address someone you are with. Even the first name has no place in the salutation. So, you'd better refrain from salutations like these: "Hello Fritz Müller", "Hello Professor Meier", "Hello Ms. Huber". The salutation ends with a comma, then the next line continues in lower case.

6. Content: Short and informative

Be brief in the email and always think of your reader and his or her previous knowledge as you write. Formulations like "Unfortunately I cannot find any literature on my topic. Can you help me, please?" mean that the recipient must first ask, for example how you have researched so far which OPACs you have used. And that starts an unnecessarily long e-mail ping-pong. So think about what information your supervisor needs in order to be able to answer your e-mail as quickly and easily as possible, and include it.

Pay attention to the spelling. Don't just hack your e-mail into your PC and send it off in no time, but proofread it a few times. If you have spelling weaknesses, you can also dictate your email in Word and then run the spell checker over it. That way, you can at least get rid of some mistakes.

Your e-mail can be close to the spoken language, but do not use colloquial formulations. Sometimes I get e-mails that sound pretty harsh, but there are also e-mails that are worded very submissively (out of sheer respect?) (For example with a lot of subjunctive tones). Neither is good. Just choose a friendly, sympathetic tone. If this is difficult for you, think about how you would like them to talk to you.

Close your email with a friendly greeting. Take the time to spell it out. For example, do not write "MfG", but rather "Sincerely". Also "best regards", "best regards" or something similar is perfectly fine. You can confidently do without spread greetings such as "With the best of respect". We live in the 21st century!

Don't forget that Your email is your appearance or your business card! Well worth it if you put a little effort into writing.

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