By Kathleen Escarcha
In my first job out of college, I sent a lot of emails. I would send notes to industry executives where a misspelled name or confusing term could prematurely end a potential business relationship. Now, as an EAB staff writer, I help send the Daily Briefing to tens of thousands of readers each morning—so the stakes of proofreading for typos are even higher.
Whether you’re sending a project update to your boss or commencement information to the senior class, your emails help shape how your colleagues and students perceive you. And one seemingly innocent typo can hurt your reputation.
You don’t need a half hour to proofread every email; a 10-minute once-over can catch most mistakes. Here’s a list of items you can quickly double-check before you hit send on that email.
Is your request clear?
When you don’t make your request clear, your reader may overlook it. If it’s a question that needs a response, make that apparent right away. If it’s an informative email, be sure to explain to your readers why they should care.
To get a response, include the type of email in the subject line, bold the names of the recipients expected to take action, and state the request at the beginning of the message.
Will the recipient understand your message?
If you send students a course registration reminder email packed with terms like “bursar” or “credit hours,” you may unintentionally confuse and alienate them—especially if they’re first-generation.
Students are more likely to understand and act on emails that are tailored to their communication style. Choose common, everyday words and eliminate jargon. Effective email language is clear and direct, says Lindsay Miars, an EAB expert on advising and student success. When you write an email, use the word “you” and center the content around students and their ambitions, rather than general policies, she adds.
Did you misspell any words—or worse, any names?
Misspelled words and names are among the most common grammar mistakes in email, according to an analysis by Grammarly, a text editing tool. A misspelled name can make your recipient feel unimportant or even invisible.
A few easy tips for avoiding typos: read it backwards, read it aloud, or ask a friend to look it over. To avoid misspelling a person’s name, copy and paste the name from a place where you know it’s spelled correctly, such as the person’s email signature or LinkedIn profile.
Are you using the best subject line?
Emails tend to be more successful when the subject line is catchy, direct, and conversational. Starting your subject line with “How to…” can improve open rates by 7.5 percentage points, according to a study by mobile analytics company Mixpanel. Keeping the entire subject line to fewer than 30 characters and including a question mark can also boost open rates.
Can you shorten it?
Keep your emails about as short as a text message. Research has found that people are most likely to respond to messages between 50 and 125 words long. The wordier your email is, the more likely it is that you’ve included information that can be found elsewhere.
To trim your message, cut out filler words like “I think” and “just.” Another helpful tip is to look for commas and delete any qualifiers that come before them.
Sources: Berglund, EAB, 9/21/18; Grammarly, 12/6/17; Miars, EAB, 2/14/17; Megahan, Mixpanel, 7/12/16
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