Semester time can be very busy, so making our email correspondence as effective as possible can be helpful. Writing effective emails to students which get the message across in an approachable and respectful way can help a digital dialogue go smoothly, and encourage them to seek support when they need it.
Here are some top tips about how to get information across to students through your emails. A student version is also available.
In this article
- It’s usually reasonable to reply to students within three working days
- If you are part-time, if you haven’t already, add your normal working pattern to your email signature and use your Out of Office when you’re not working to manage expectations of when you’re likely to respond
- If you’re out of the office – please use your Out of Office message in Gmail to let students and colleagues know that you won’t be picking up emails, who to contact in your absence and to let them know (if you can) when you’ll be back (see below for more on Out of Office messages)
- If you really need to write an email to a student outside of teaching hours, consider using the Schedule Send function in Gmail (opens in new tab) to select a day and time that fits in with the working week
- It is appropriate to send urgent emails immediately.
Students emailing from personal email accounts
- We’ve asked students to email staff from their Gmail account so we can verify it’s them
- You shouldn’t send personal information to a non-Brookes email account
- If they can’t access their Brookes Gmail, they should contact IT Services
- If they can’t access their account and the matter is urgent, to prove they are who they claim to be they should provide you with:
- their student number
- the full name of their programme
- their date of birth
- and, if possible, the name of their Academic Adviser.
- Students often read emails on their phones, so shorter emails are better – consider linking to webpages to share more information if possible
- Including hyperlinks can be a helpful tool to keep the content of the email short by linking to more detailed information. Ensure you use descriptive link text (instead of click here, say ‘Come to an Open Day‘
- Make sure your message is clear – what are you asking students to do or what do you want them to do
- Try to limit the number of sentences in each paragraph and use headings to break up content / make it clear what you’re talking about. Keep sentences as concise and clear as possible. Again, less text, better spaced out makes an email easier to read on a phone screen
- Bullet points and numbered lists are another way to ensure the content is accessible
- Avoid jargon and abbreviations which can be confusing and expand acronyms on their first use
- Students have told us that emails from staff sometimes lack empathy – be mindful of how a student might be feeling and how your words may come across. Consider if an email is the best channel to use, or if an alternative would be better. Including your office hours on your email signature can help to offer an alternative way of contacting you. Make it clear how students can follow up or respond if they need to, and where they can go for additional support if they need to
- Keep some formality in your tone and language – we’ve suggested that students keep their language respectful and appropriate, please help to encourage an appropriate tone of language
- Think about inclusivity in your language and terminology – avoid references that may reinforce stereotypes or assumptions
- Avoid ambiguity and metaphor – make sure your language expresses exactly what you mean.
Out of Office messages
- Make them clear – give precise instructions on who to contact in your absence if it’s urgent (and check that it’s up to date each time you use it)
- Keep it updated – remember to check the subject line
- Avoid lists of links – they create confusion for students.