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Student Success Guide

Professional Communication

Professionalism is often overlooked, ignored, and misunderstood when students send and reply to emails, but professional communication can prevent problems, misunderstandings, and allow for communication to be effectively conveyed.  Many issues and complications develop due to poor communication, especially between students and instructors, coworkers, and managers/supervisors.  

Professional communication is rooted in every profession and is expected of employees no matter what your position is.  Businesses and companies commonly train employees on how their organization does certain professional procedures, but they will have the expectation that new employees will be able to communicate professionally.  It's important to start now, while in college, to practice and perfect your professional communication abilities.  

Professional communication should be maintained within interviews, emails, office memos/notes, presentations, and any other communication between you and internal/external stakeholders of the company you work for.   Since unprofessional communication reflects poorly on you, it is vital to maintain best practices in all your professional communication.  

It is essential to understand the components of professional communication, especially in an email or written format.  Depending on the reference source, these components may have different names, the concepts and ideas are the same.  

See below for the components to a professional email.  

Here are some general recommendations to think about before you create your communication:

1. Make sure the body of your message is clear and understood.

2. Be concise and to the point. 

3. Utilize the same form of communication as the sender (if applicable).

4. Use appropriate punctuation and grammar.  Make sure you perform a spell check prior to submitting. 

5. Provide an expected timeline for follow-up: Standard expectation is at least 48 hours.

6. Use appropriate language:  No profanity or text abbreviations.

7. Remember, anyone can read your communication once it has been sent.

8. Do not bold, underline or type in all caps. 

Having the correct components to your professional communication email is essential, but setting the tone of the message is just as important, if not the most crucial aspect to your communication.  Some references refer to tone as your "voice" within the message.  Since the receiver of the message cannot see your facial expressions or hear your voice, the tone of your message must be crafted very carefully.  The receiver of your message can perceive your message as if you are yelling, perceive anger or frustration, or even be offended by the tone of your message, even if that wasn't your intention.  If the receiver of your message has this perception, it can lead to poor communication outcomes and unwanted complications.

Does your communication message come across as if you are       or      

What do you think will have better communication outcomes? 

 

Review these concepts and ideas to help with crafting the appropriate tone in your message:

  • Each instructor has their communication expectation, it is acceptable to ask the instructor’s preference.

  • Attempt to detach emotion from the message.  
    • Consider waiting to send the message once feelings have settled.
  • Pause and imagine the receiver’s perspective of the message. 
    • Would your message instigate an adverse reaction?
  • Read the message out loud to uncover any residual feelings.
  • Recommend plausible solutions if you have any.
  • Utilize course resources such as the syllabus, announcements and assignment instructions to help clarify the message.
  • Remember learning is a shared accountability between the instructor and learner.
  • Have a friend or classmate read the email to see how they perceive your tone. 
  • Read twice, send once.

Your communication message starts with a professional greeting that starts to set the tone of your message.  Would you start a message to a job supervisor/manager with "Hey you" or "What's up, Nancy?"  Of course you wouldn't, nor would you not include a professional greeting.  For example, Just typing the message "I need help.  Please help me." will set a poor tone for professionalism and communication efforts.  


EXAMPLES OF PROFESSIONAL GREETINGS

A professional greeting is essential to start your message and some examples of a professional greeting are:

  • Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. <last name>. 
    • For example:  Dear Dr. Smith,
       
  • Good morning (afternoon, day, or evening) Mr./Ms./Dr. <last name>. 
    • For example:  Good afternoon Mrs. Jones,
       
  • Hello Mr./Ms./Dr. <last name>. 
    • For example:  Hello Mr. Berezin,
       

UNPROFESSIONAL GREETINGS

Using an unprofessional greeting can set the wrong tone, even upset or offend the receiver of your message.  This is not a good way to start your message.  Some examples of poor, inappropriate, and unprofessional greetings are:

  • Use of instructor’s first name unless given prior approval.
  • Hey or Yo
  • Having no greeting at all


TEXTING AN INSTRUCTOR

When texting an instructor, it is a best practice to:

  1. Start with a professional greeting
  2. Introduce yourself and the course you are enrolled in with the instructor
  3. Identify your concern, question, or issue
  4. Finish with a professional closing

Below is an example of a professional text:

"Hello Dr. Popham, This is Shanika Anniger from your HSC1531 course.  I have a question regarding the module 02 assignment.  Do you have a moment to discuss this?  Thank you- Shanika"  

The opening remarks of your message are important because it provides a welcome and connection between you and the receiver of your message.  It is a bridge between your professional greeting and the main body (content) of your message providing the sender an ability to acknowledge a concept or theme from a previous communication and offer a positive message to the receiver of the message.   

Please refer back to the "Professional Communication Components" tab for an example of what an opening remark is, and see the examples below for professional opening remarks:

  • I hope this email finds you well. 
  • Thank you for all of your help throughout the quarter thus far. 
  • It has been a pleasure <provide a positive element here>.
  • I have enjoyed <insert a specific item here>.
  • I appreciate the assistance and outreach from your previous email.  

 

The body of your communication serves as the purpose or intent of your message.  The body is the reason why you are reaching out and communicating with an individual.  For example, some common reasons students email their instructor:  Replying to an email your instructor sent, sending your instructor a question, describing a concern or issue you have, or seeking further clarification on something.

The purpose of the email should be concise but contain specific information.  For example, just emailing your instructor, "I'm confused. I need help!" isn't helpful.  This type of message is too generic, and most likely your instructor will ask you to elaborate on what precisely you are confused about, causing further delay to get clarification and help.  You want to identify exactly what the purpose of the email is within 2-4 sentences. 

The tone is also fundamental within the body of the message.  The body of the message is commonly where your tone can often be misinterpreted and come across as accusatory, angry, mean, insulting, or even confusing.  If this happens, it will lead to the receiver being possibly offended, insulted, and feeling attacked leading to poor communication outcomes.

It is understandable that you may become frustrated or upset with a particular situation or grade in a course and there are professional ways to address these concerns with your instructor.  Some examples of a professional, concise and specific body of your message are:

  • Can you clarify the improvement necessary for <module # assignment> in <course name and section #>?
  • I am having difficulty with <specific concept> necessary for <module # assignment> in <course name and section #>.  Can you provide with helpful resources to better understand the material?
  • Are you available <specific date/time during faculty office hours> to connect over WebEx or phone to discuss <module # assignment> in <course name and section #>?
  • I uploaded the wrong document for <module # assignment> in <course name and section #>, will you allow me to resubmit?
  • Currently I am dealing with <specific issues> and am having difficulty meeting the deadline for <module # assignment> in <course name and section #>.  Will you allow me a <# of days> extension past the due date to submit the work?
  • I was disappointed in the <grade> I received on <specific assignment> and am requesting further elaboration of feedback so I can avoid making the same mistakes on future assignments.  

 

 

After you complete the body of your message, you will want to add a closing remark before your signature.  A closing remark will wrap up the email, provide an acknowledgement of gratitude toward the receiver of the message, and ideally would be one sentence.

Some examples of closing remarks are:                                     

  • Thank you for your consideration.
  • I look forward to your response.
  • I appreciate your time and attention on the matter.
  • Your guidance is valued.  Thank you!
  • Please let me know if you have any questions.  Thank you!
  • Thank you for your time.
  • I wish you all the best.                                               

The final aspect of your communication is the professional signature.  A very simple step, but often overlooked and misused.

Examples of a professional signature include:

  • Sincerely, <your first and last name>
  • Respectfully , <your first and last name>
  • Very respectfully, <your first and last name>
  • Best regards (All Best), <your first and last name>
  • Kind regards, <your first and last name>
  • Not appropriate:
    • Truly yours,
    • Love,
    • Providing no signature
 

Before you click that SEND button on your message, make sure you complete these three simple steps:

1. Make sure you have all the components to your professional message.

2. Re-read your message a few times to assess if you have the appropriate tone and if your intent/purpose is clear and concise.

3. Perform a spell check to make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes within your message. 

Professional Communication Examples- Do's and Don't's

Example of Professional Communication #1

Example of Unprofessional Communication #1

Example of Unprofessional Communication #2

Example of Professional Communication #2

Example of Professional Communication #3

Example of Unprofessional Communication #3