Imagine the case of two upcoming high school graduates seeking summer internships before entering college in the fall. The students notice a poster in the library advertising an available internship position, which contains a contact name and email address, but no application instructions. One student sends the following email:
Hi, my name is Pat Pupil and I am writing to you to ask if it is possible to get more information on the internship that the library is and if it would be possible to join the program as well. Thank you.
The second student sends the following email:
Good Morning Ms. Livre,
My name is Sidney Student and I am an upcoming graduate of Hastings High School. I learned of the library’s summer internship program from a poster during my recent visit to the library.
I am emailing to find more information about how to apply for the internship program. I have attached my resume, and I am happy to provide any additional required information.
I hope to hear from you soon about internship opportunities at the library. Thank you for your time and consideration.
555-555-5555 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully, both students will receive further information about the library internship program, but the librarian may feel considerably more excited to reply to Sidney Student due to the professional, respectful, and enthusiastic tone conveyed in the second message. Composing an effective email is an under-appreciated art. Many young adults move from high school to college or careers with little knowledge about how to craft messages that are compelling and professional, yet simple.
An Argument for Etiquette
In a 2017 New York Times opinion piece, Molly Worthen, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, describes becoming exasperated with poorly written emails from students. Worthen resorted to attaching a page to her syllabus which contained guidelines for polite and grammatically correct emails (Worthen, 2017). Career professionals can help youth avoid these early missteps in their college and career journey by giving them email etiquette tools for their level of development.
Communication has been identified as one of the most critical soft skills that enables youth ages 15-29 to be successful in the workplace (Lippman et al., 2015). Career professionals striving to prepare young adults with communication skills often focus on elements such as tone of voice and body language. These elements of communication are crucial, of course, but efforts to equip young adults with tools to express themselves effectively when visual and vocal communication are unavailable are equally imperative.
Seven Email Elements
An effective email goes far beyond proper grammar and spelling. Capturing the nuances of professional email communication is a challenge, but career professionals may begin with defining seven important elements of an effective email:
Once career professionals have equipped students with knowledge of email elements, they may consider covering additional factors of email etiquette such as having a professional email address, acceptable response times, and when and when not to use email. In high school career development programs, email prompt assignments, offers to proofread particularly crucial email messages, and email templates can all be helpful.
Common Sense Curriculum
Some less formal work and college environments may not require honed email skills. Regardless, youth participating in high school career development program will benefit from learning how to express themselves professionally through email. These email basics may seem like simple common sense, but youth without a good grasp on this medium of print communication, such as Pat Pupil, are likely to opt for casual, one-line messages. Career professionals, don’t neglect to “attach” or incorporate email etiquette to your youth career readiness curriculum!
Lippman, L., Ryberg, R., Carney, R., & Moore, K. A. (2015, June). Key “soft skills” that foster youth workforce success: Toward a consensus across fields. Child Trends. https://www.childtrends.org/publications/key-soft-skills-that-foster-youth-workforce-success-toward-a-consensus-across-fields
Worthen, M. (2017, May 13). U can't talk to ur professor like this. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/opinion/sunday/u-cant-talk-to-ur-professor-like-this.html
Camille Elmore is a Job Developer for the AAMA Work and Learn Center in Houston, Texas. In this role, Camille works with opportunity youth ages 16-24 and connects them with educational, employment, and internship opportunities. She is passionate about eliminating the opportunity gap and giving young adults the tools to achieve their goals. In her spare time, Camille is a runner, reader, and wannabe world traveler. Camille can be reached via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/camilleelmore