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Abstract

Many university faculty value email as an important tool for communicating with colleagues, but express frustration with a high incidence of unprofessional email correspondence from students. The goals of this study were to document the frequency of specific formatting mistakes that contribute to faculty’s unfavorable perception of student emails and to determine if training could reduce these errors. We analyzed emails from students to three instructors of different rank and gender co-teaching two sections of a large introductory biology class: one section received two minutes of basic email etiquette training, the second section served as the control. We report a significant increase in overall professional quality of student emails in the trained class due to more frequent use of proper salutations, appropriate capitalization, and a class-specific subject line. These data suggest that most students do not send intentionally disrespectful messages and respond to guidance in constructing professionally formatted emails.

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