Online Etiquette and Electronic Communication

Both flipped-hybrid and online courses at HSU will have a high degree of online content and interaction. Humboldt State University and the instructor of this course are committed to educational access for everyone. This commitment includes creating a welcoming environment for students from all walks of life. Students are expected to maintain a respectful and professional level of discourse when communicating on discussion boards, email, and through assignments. Students should also use caution and good judgment when choosing to disclose any personal information with persons they do not know.

How to Write an Email to Your Professor

Understanding how to write an email to your professor may sound obvious. However, with the prevalence of social media and text messaging, many students are unaware of the shift in etiquette that becomes necessary when communicating in a professional manner. When writing an email to professors, it can be disrespectful to send short, cryptic messages that you might use while texting or on social media.

Emails to your professors should include the following:

  1. A descriptive subject line that includes your name and your class
  2. A proper greeting
  3. A detailed explanation of your needs
  4. Use appropriate punctuation, capitalization, and grammar (for example: never use a lower case “i” as a personal pronoun).
  5. A proper sign-off
  6. Suitable self-identification (Your full name).

If you are using a mobile device, such as an iPhone, be sure to change the default settings on your signature line. Remove default signatures such as, “sent from my iPhone,” and replace it with your name and major or something more meaningful. To many instructors who see this signature line, coupled with a very terse message, it might give the impression that you are sending them a text message rather than composing a thoughtful email.

Please take the time to read the following article to understand what is and what is not appropriate:

HSU Online Communication and Etiquette Expectations

The following are the guidelines modeled after the Humboldt State University Online Communication and Etiquette Expectations.

Be Professional, Clear and Respectful

Clean and efficient writing translate to clear and useful communication. Writing the way you would speak is a good rule of thumb. Use a positive tone and adhere to the same rules you would follow in face-to-face communications. Use proper grammar, spelling, and formatting – checking all communications before sending. Check messages and respond in a prompt manner.

Your professional image is an important part of credibility and all of your communications will factor into the big picture.

Read and Formulate Communications Carefully

Take the time to think about the information contained in all of your online communications. This time will allow you to consider all points thoughtfully, reduces confusion and prepares you for a valid response. You can in return, research your facts and provide citations for information stated within your communications. This practice promotes a robust academic environment and adds credibility to any course. Re-read all communications before sending to avoid emotional statements and or “all capital letter” text and keep communications meaningful and to the point.

Be Tolerant and Cooperative

Bear in mind that every student is participating in learning. Anyone can make a simple mistake in research, knowledge or communication. Address the idea/concept, not the person. Keep an open mind and focus on the task at hand – learning. When adverse conditions arise, and communications get strained – try to help rather than hinder. Real cooperation means working together to the same end – everyone wants to be successful in any given course.

Keep it PG-13 and Confidential

Unless the subject matter calls for the use of topics/language that would otherwise override this tip, all online communications should be transmitted with the intent to inform, inspire, etc. – not to offend or breach personal privacy. Keeping your content PG-13 and confidential will ensure that this is the case. Never use private information about other individuals and be sensitive to the information you share about yourself. Avoid the use of slang, jargon or sarcasm – as they can confuse your recipient.

Remember This Course is Hybrid or Online

If you are taking an online course, your instructor and fellow students may be located around the world or have very different schedules than you do. If you are taking a hybrid course, there may be times when you are required to complete activities outside of class. You may not always receive an immediate response, especially on weekends. Make sure you plan for this and don’t put things off until the last moment.

Use Proper Headings and Subject Lines

Emails and Discussion Forum topics should have subject lines that reflect the content of your message.

“My Week 1 Reflections” is better than “submission” and “Week 3 Reading is Missing” is better than “Help!”

Provide context for your responses. If you are sending a reply to a message or a posting, be sure you summarize the original at the top of the message. Include just enough text of the original to give a context. This practice will make sure readers understand when they start to read your response. Giving context helps everyone.

Provide Enough Detail in Your Messages

When asking for help, either from your instructor or technical support, be sure to provide as much information as possible to help resolve the issue. Make sure to include the course name and activity name, what you were attempting to do, the full text of error messages and your browser/version information (if a technical issue), a screenshot displaying the problem, and any other relevant information. It may take a little more time up-front to compose your question, but it can help to eliminate some of the back and forth communication.