How formal are your work emails?

I’m a pretty friendly person, and my email correspondence often reflects this aspect of my personality. I (potentially over-) use smileys with family and friends. With coworkers and mentors, I keep things more formal, but I still like to convey a sense of warmth – for lack of a better word – with colleagues. For first time correspondence with a potential collaborator, I try to keep things somewhat more formal.

As a new faculty participating in a vastly increased amount of email correspondence, however, I’m struggling with just how friendly I need to/should be in my emails, while not wasting too much time crafting each individual email message. Lots of people are doing me favors, the kind of favors that good mentors and wonderful staff LIKE to do for n00bie profs. I want to show my appreciation, but I don’t want to come across sounding like a teenager chatting with their BFF. (OMG, Dr. Mentor, thx bunches for sending my CV to Dr. Hot Shot at nearby Kewl University! 🙂 I SO can’t wait to collaborate with her on her awesome SCIENCCCCCZZZZEEEE!! 😛 You totally ROCK! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

One way I show appreciation is via use of the exclamation mark. While this can become just as annoying as the smiley, I think there are appropriate times and instances for its use. I also find certain email recipients to be more amenable to the exclamation point, while others generally receive more reserved correspondence. And then there are times when I just can’t decide: without an exclamation point, the email seems too dry or impersonal or ungrateful, while the addition of just one little line makes the email feel like I’m trying to hard. Maybe because I’m trying to hard. Hmmm…

I’ve also gone back and forth quite a bit on how to open and close my emails. If I don’t know the person, I often use “Dear” as the salutation. If I do know them, I use “Hi”. But how to close? I’ve tried “cheers”, “best”, “take care”, but none of these really work for me. Sometimes I just close with my name, and other times I follow the lead of the individual with whom I’m corresponding. I’ve also noticed a lot of people I email with using just the first initial of their first name at the closing. Should I start signing off with simply a “D”?

How do you write work emails? Short and to the point? Lots of smileys and exclamation points? Salutations and closings?


5 thoughts on “How formal are your work emails?

  1. This was of those unexpected goofy things about being a n00bie prof that nobody ever really talks about….because 1. you want to be taken seriously, 2. you want to see like a kewl colleague (because you are), 3. you’re still learning what the hell is going on, without trying to let on that you don’t know a damn thing.

    I am a user of exclamation points. Not like !!111!!!!, but: ‘Your help on this project has lead us into very exciting -omical studies. Thank you so much!’

    In the last 2 days, I’ve been hunting (more like stalking) an antibody. These are my following sign-offs: Many thanks; All the best and Sincerely. In the case when I was writing to my PO about an upcoming phone pow-wow, I ended the e-mail with a ‘Talk to you soon,’

  2. As a n00b professor, I struggle with this, too. Also, how to sign emails to students. I’ve resorted to first and last initials for that for now. Looking forward to seeing what others say!

  3. I struggle with these things as a postdoc and with various interactions with search chairs during my searchs and interviews this year.
    It’s such a silly thing to worry about, but I am glad to see others thinking about it too. I try to start formal and follow the lead of the other person as far as how casual to take it. I don’t use smiles much, but I do use exclimation points on a regular basis.

  4. I never use similes for work emails. Some times an ! mark but very sporadically. I have my automatic signature “on” so that I dont have to worry on each email if I should send in my signature or not ( It goes out with every one of them) and always end my email with a Best 😀

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