Why older people hate reading our emails, and what to do about it


Ben Bleikamp at CollegeStartup wrote a great post about young people and their tone in email.  While we have grown up on hundreds of hours of instant messaging, the older crowd isn’t as inclined to the casualness of the web.

“Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be long winded or sound scripted. Just talk. Be natural. When I write an email I always whisper it to myself as I type, I want to make sure it’s something I would actually say out loud.”

Keep Ben’s advice in mind when e-mailing potential bosses and when scouting internships this summer.  When I email anyone over 25 I try to abide by the following “rules”.  I’m no email guru but these are just some of my observations from my experiences.

1.  Avoid any attempts at sarcasm

Sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes we neglect to flip off the instant messaging switch.  There are many business studies that show that e-mail tone is often misunderstood.  Be clear and direct, and don’t crack any jokes your grandmother wouldn’t get.

2. As Mr. Bleikamp warns: keep it short.

Surprisingly the book The Elements of Style (buy it…now!) can apply wonderfully to email.  Any email longer than a paragraph or two should be a phone call.  If you have a phobia about calling strangers…get over it.  Think about if you were an employer.  Would you rather hire a candidate that’s just a series of faceless, voiceless e-mails? Or the candidate that you can connect a voice (a therefore a personality) to?

3. Using a listserv?  Dont hit reply.

I don’t know about other colleges but Temple University has a series of interdepartmental listservs that allow mass emails.  Problem is, some people respond to those mass emails by hitting “reply” so their reply gets sent to the whole department.  The journalism listserv at Temple is full of people shelling out their private info and then getting yelled at by six or seven disgruntled students who hate their inboxes being clogged.

4. Omit unnecessary e-mails.

I’m pretty sure professors and employers get bombarded with hundreds of e-mails a week from students.  Make sure when you e-mail someone for business or academic reasons that it’s a must.  If you ever belonged to a forum community you should know all about this.

[tags]email, e-mail, College Startup, elements of style[/tags]

3 Responses to “Why older people hate reading our emails, and what to do about it”

  1. Michael Ono Says:

    Hmmm another blogger with an actual background in Journalism. Very cool. I will keep an eye on your site.

  2. Vincci Says:

    I totally know what you mean about tip #2. I’ve been sending my cover letters as emails and after following up with calls, I got the impression that only one of my potential employers received/read the email. So the phone is good, but if anyone still wants to send a cover letter/resumé before calling, use the fax machine!

  3. College V2 - tips, tricks, and advice for college students. Says:

    […] Brendon Mendelson of The Brandon Show offers some tips on emailing your professors.  I had a similiar (not as funny) entry a while back.  Enjoy, and be sure to head on over to The Brendon Show for a daily dose of hilarity. College Survival Top Ten: Emailing Your Professors […]