The digital double standard

“Hello! I hope this email finds you well,” I type. I proceed to write a nicely composed message, double-checking for spelling and grammar before concluding with a friendly “I hope to hear back from you soon.” Finally, I close the email with a delightful “My best” or “Thank you.” A few hours later I hear a familiar ding on my laptop indicating I have a new email. I open it up to find a response similar to this: “ok sounds great,” and the subsequent line “sent from my iPhone.”

Like many, I receive and send dozens of emails every day. Whether it be classes, extracurriculars or job opportunities, email is the main form of communication both on college campuses and the workplace. As such, everyone needs to know how to use email effectively. Naturally, understanding how to properly compose an email became a part of my education by middle school, lessons I am fairly confident are taught across the United States.

According to my former teachers, you begin with a professional greeting and end with an appropriate closer, signing your name at the bottom. I also like to include a short sentence that softens the message at the beginning of an email so as to avoid being abrupt. I was always taught that something as simple as “I hope you have been enjoying this lovely weather”  can go a long way, especially if you do not know the person very well. I often find myself spending significant amounts of time composing these messages so that it features all these necessary components. The question I ask myself and all of you is: Why do we have to go through all of these formalities if I am going to receive a three-word fragment of a sentence for a response? Perhaps I am wrong to be spending 10 to 15 minutes writing an email in the way I have been taught is proper, but I do so because I want to leave a good impression on anyone I am emailing.

As a young adult soon to be entering the workplace, networking is something that I keep in the back of my mind. I view every professor, administrator and classmate as someone who could potentially be a contact in the future and connect me to bigger and better things.

Therefore, I want to present myself in the best light, as equal parts professional and approachable, to make a lasting impression. Part of this comes in how I address these people online. So why wouldn’t I be considerate in writing an email?

But if I am going to take the time to write a nicely composed message, I believe that I should receive the same treatment in return, meaning a response with at least some obvious care.

Now, I understand that we are all busy people and there are people at this school who receive far more emails than I do, particularly professors and administration. Hence, I do not expect an elaborate, life-changing message by any means. But I also feel it is polite to have a greeting and a closing with some personalization (i.e., including my name in the email).

I also want to acknowledge that the majority of emails I receive are not indecorous and are rather mannerly, especially those from fellow students. In most cases, those few who do send me a text-like response are capable of sending a well-written email but are just neglecting to do so. Just because an individual holds an authority position over me does not mean that they have the authority to be rude, both in person and online.

Furthermore, I am confident that such etiquette is not always practiced by students, and this laziness might be a contributing factor to the double standard. If a fellow student is going to be obviously uncaring in their emailing, then I would argue they do deserve an ill-mannered response. But if someone evidently takes time to think through their email, then they should receive a reply of equal merit. 

All I ask is the next time you write an email, take a moment to consider how this email will be received and what you can do to make this the best presentation of yourself, no matter who you are.

Sincerely yours,

Alex Budzynski

Alex Budzynski is a staff writer for the Newswire. He is a first-year public relations major from Washington, D.C.