Emailing folks can be a situation fraught with anxiety. Written exchanges are intrinsically more challenging than verbal; written words do not convey the inflections of speech and facial expressions that are critical to face-to-face communication. So your favorite D-List Monktress is here to drop some knowledge on your n00b asses.
If this is your first time emailing an elder monk, always err on the side of caution and use their proper title (e.g. Hello Prof. So & So, Dear Dr. Bigwig). If they later tell you to call them by their first name, obviously you should comply. However, don’t make the automatic assumption that because they sign their reply email with their first name that you can become more casual. In the age of the internetz automatic signatures are all the rage, and 99% of their emails will be to their fellow peers, not peons like you. Hence, most will not bother to edit their shit for the 1%. If you can’t take the easy way out of addressing a woman as Doctor, Professor, etc do not just assume they are Mrs. That shit’s fucking annoying.
Don’t be too casual
Just because you’ve taken a class with a professor for two semesters in a row doesn’t make you buddies. Just because you have borrowed Secretary Johnson’s stapler every Thursday before orthopedic biomechanics doesn’t mean you can email ‘hey, can you do this thing by Friday? Thanks Janey!’ Asking people to do shit for you in a respectful manner can make things 100x easier than they would be otherwise. And for those of you mewling ‘but that’s their job, why do I need to kiss their ass?’ stfu. I know you’ve spent several times in your life bitching that someone ordered you around like a peon without so much as a please or thank you, so pay that shit forward.
Write every email for elder monk eyes
Why? You may ask, why can’t I jet off a quick email to my boss saying ‘yo, collaborator Y’s samples ran SUPER AWESOME with my Epicsauce Technique’? Because oftentimes, rather than rewrite your info more eloquently so you don’t look like a hippy nerd, your boss or co-worker will forward that shit out to relevant folks with nothing more than an ‘FYI’ slapped on it. Moral of the story: write every email as if it were going to be forwarded to a Relatively Important Person. Consistently sounding sharp over email makes more of a difference than you’d think.
Figure 1: Some people don't speak fluent LOLCats, mmkay?
Watch yourself when emailing women
Yes, I’m about to put my feminist cape on, QQ moar. Ensure that you are being respectful when emailing a woman, go a step beyond the norm, even. There is something about talking to women that compels some people to think 1) they can be addressed more casually than men and 2) that women’s uteruses somehow make them give more shits than men. Pam from True Blood perfectly summarizes my feelings on this phenomenon.
“I don't know what it is about me that makes people think I want to hear their problems. Maybe I smile too much. Maybe I wear too much pink. But please remember I can rip your throat out if I need to.”
So try a little harder, if anything you will help balance out the karma of all the other fuckers who order women around like they’re Cinderella.
Get to the fucking point
While some folks can be so casual in their emails that you almost expect them to give you a high five and pass a joint, others veer to the other extreme. This can strike especially hard when emailing someone who you think is Science Jesus. You feel compelled to spend three paragraphs describing how awesome they are and how much you love them, and can they please sign your pipetaid that you have enclosed. This is SUPER ANNOYING.
I’m not saying don’t be polite, I’m not saying to state your demands and sign off. I’m saying spend, at max, two sentences being polite (one would really be optimal). Then say what the fuck it is you want, nicely, of course. Then make yourself available to answer any of their questions and stfu. Don’t write your emails like a fucking grant application, no one has time to figure out where your specific aims are.
Make actionable items clear
Few things are more annoying than getting an email from someone and having no idea at the end of it what is was they actually wanted. This requires re-reading the email, emailing back to ask for clarification, or, most easily, just ignoring it. If you need a copy of their paper, state that clearly. If you need permission to buy something and need to know where to charge it, say that. If you want some of reagent SuperFantastic, request it specifically, don’t email ‘hi, I was wondering if I could have some reagents from your lab.’ No, dumbfuck, because then you might ask for the on that cures cancer and I’m submitting a patent application for that. Oh, you wanted the one that makes mice sneeze, too bad you didn’t say that at first, because I’ve already forgotten about you.
That’s what I can think of while I’m on my chocolate break, what say you fellow monks? You know how I love the comments.
FYI, you guys should still be submitting topics for the reader takeover of the Hermitage blog for a MONTH.