21 Things Students Shouldn’t Do When Sending A Professional Email

As a graduate student, I coordinated an internship program from my university. I was lucky enough to work with amazing students who gave me hope for humanity and the next generation of young people. The kids might be alright, after all. However, not all of them are precious snowflakes, and I got some interesting emails from students, many of whom have no idea how to communicate professionally — or have a conversation with another human being at all.

To the student who called me “dude” while inquiring about an internship position, this one’s for you.

1. Never use Comic Sans for anything ever.

Are you on lithium or something? If not, then the only fonts you should know are Georgia, Times New Roman or Garamond. Don’t overthink it. It’s a font, not a space shuttle launch.

2. Never list your accomplishments from Elementary or Middle School on your resume.

No one gives a crap that you won your 6th grade spelling bee. And if that’s the case, why can you still not figure out which “your” to use?

3. Never list your Mom as a reference.

Raising you was probably work in itself, but you are not her employee. Being inside her vagina is not job experience.

4. Never ask me what a cover letter is.

If you don’t know, look it up. Because if you have to inquire as to basic job hunting skills, I’m going to assume you aren’t ready for this position.

5. Never leave your subject line blank.

The only people who do that are serial killers, spammers and African princes who want you to deposit their magical millions.

6. Never leave off your last name on the email signature.

I’m not your friend. I don’t know who you are, and otherwise, I’m just going to assume that you are Cher and you do not have a last name.

7. Never write in any typeface that isn’t black.

This isn’t pen. It should not be in blue. If it’s in any color that’s not black, I’m tempted to email you back a virus that will destroy your computer and never allow you to email anyone else ever again. Green is snot, not a proper message.

8. Never refer to me by my first name only.

Acceptable permutations are “Mr. Lang,” “Mr. Nico Lang” or “Nico Lang,” should you want to go gender neutral. Don’t call me “Ms. Lang,” either. It doesn’t offend me to be called a woman, because there’s nothing shameful about being female; it’s just bad research.

9. Never list excuses about why something wasn’t turned in on time.

If it’s late and I want to accept it, I will anyway, whether or not your grandfather, mother, brother and sister have all died. You don’t have to appeal to my sympathies. Just be honest, forthright and take responsibility for your shit.

10. Never ask me questions that have already been answered by a “Frequently Asked Questions” sheet or the syllabus.

That’s why people have them, so they don’t have to repeatedly field the same question. I’m likely to just copy and paste the answer from the document, if I’m feeling really passive aggressive or haven’t had my coffee.

11. Never ask me to do the work for you.

There’s a difference between asking for help and asking me to finish your homework. You are an adult, and you’ve gotten into this university for some reason. Show me why.

12. Never refer to me by anything that isn’t my name, my job title or “Sir.”

My name is not “dude,” “friend,” “man,” “compadre,” “comrade,” “bro,” “broseph,” “brosephilus,” “The Holy Broman Empire” or whatever other things the kids are saying these days. One day, they will have a filter that automatically deletes all emails I get that say “dude” in them, but until then, I’m happy to do it for you.

13. Never talk to me like I’m your peer.

If you are a student I know well and are on good terms with, we can have fun — and still be professional. But we’re not hanging out, so you shouldn’t use text language when talking to me. Speak to me like an adult and save the swear words for the bar.

14. Never treat me like you know more than I do.

You might know a lot more than I do about many things, particularly if that subject is the Kardashians. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t behave with respect and decorum. If you’re really all that smart, you’ll refrain from being a smart ass.

15. Never use 8th grade capitalization.

Your lettering should not alternate between upper- and lower-case letters. This will not get my attention. This will stab my eyes.

16. Never send me an email that doesn’t make any fucking grammatical sense.

If English isn’t your first language, that’s okay — because you’re trying. (Trust me. I would be much worse at speaking your language. But if you are a native English speaker, there’s no reason you shouldn’t sound like it.)

17. Never leave off the periods.

It doesn’t look like a cute mistake. It looks like you were in too much of a hurry to finish your thought.

18. Never attach a picture if I don’t need it.

This isn’t American Apparel. You wouldn’t be denied entry if you do not meet a pre-requisite standard of stubble. Save your headshots for your porn career.

19. Never quote anything you could find on a bumper sticker in your email signature.

I don’t care if Gandhi wants you to “be the change you want to see in the world.” You can be the change by coming up with something more original.

20. Never let them tell you that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

There are plenty of stupid questions. I will answer them anyway, because that’s my job, and you can ask them if you want. You wouldn’t believe just how many stupid questions there are.

21. Never be a douche.

You might think that faculty and staff see so many students that we won’t remember you. But trust me: We remember everything. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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