Category Archives: 2. Featured Articles

Cheers! How [Not] to Close an E-mail

It’s not uncommon for fingers to freeze over the keyboard at end of composing an e-mail. How to close? Yours? Best? Nothing at all?  Choosing the right close for an e-mail can be dicey, and the task seems to be a moving target—as technology evolves, so do the standards that guide its use, and e-mail is no exception.

The situation has become so fraught that two journalists, Will Schwalbe and David Shipley, have written a guidebook of sorts that discusses everything e-mail: Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better. The authors have dissected the implications of various closings, and below are some important takeaways to share with business communication students.

Pay attention to relationships. If someone sends you an e-mail with a signoff of Sincerely yours, or Regards,and you reply with xxoo, you ignore the status of the relationship. Consider the level of formality you have with the sender, the length of time you’ve known the individual, and whether the relationship is professional or friend based. Those facts should dictate the type of close to choose.

Audience first. Schwalbe and Shipley’s “platinum rule” is to “Do unto others as you’d think they’d want you to do unto them.” In other words, consider how the e-mail can be the most helpful to its reader.

End with your preferred name. Do your reader the favor of using a signature with the name you prefer to be known by and called. For example, if your full name is Benjamin and you want people to call you Ben, use Ben in the e-mail signature.

Use the right signoff. Unless you’re British, Schwalbe and Shipley advise against using Cheersto avoid sounding affected. If you do not know the individual, use Best.

Below are some of the most common signoffs and what they signify.

Best Seamless due to its ubiquity.
Best wishes Safe choice to indicate friendliness and degree of formality.
Regards Staid, professional, unremarkable.
Sincerely Best for formal correspondence; can sound stodgy in casual e-mails.

Here are some signoffs to avoid.

Have a blessed day Keep anything with religious overtones out of professional communication.
Love, Hugs, xo Only for friends and loved ones.
[Name] or [Initial] Okay for brief, informal e-mails, but should be avoided with first time communications because it can be seen as cold.
[Nothing] As an email chain progresses, leaving no signature is acceptable but can be seen as impersonal.
Respectfully For formal letters, not e-mail. Ever.
Sent from my iPhone Common and explains brevity and typos. But also connotes not caring enough to change the default.
Thx or Rgds For tweens only. E-mail is not a messaging app.

The subtleties of closing an e-mail will evolve as the uses and contexts for e-mail change. Keep posted for updates.

Preparing Students for the Job Search

Business communication instructors are in a perfect position to prepare students for the job search when they graduate. Below are ideas to bring into your classroom that will help students feel more able to tackle the onerous task of finding their first job.

Connect with your campus career resource center.Most campuses have dedicated staff to guide students about their future careers, offering testing services and other valuable resources. Ask a career counselor to visit your classroom to discuss finding internships, interviewing techniques, or networking.

Keep apprised of news items related to grads. Many media sources (including our own BizComBuzz) contain timely articles about what employers look for in new-hires, job statistics, or helpful hints for those actively seeking a job. Discussing these items with your students leads to active engagement with timely and relevant news that directly affects them.

Create a group project to clean up students’ social media. The importance of sanitizing social media is well documented, but students may not know how to attack the task. In a session similar to a peer edit, give students a list of items to remove from their social media accounts to guide them through the process. Working in small groups will help students see others’ accounts as models of what to eliminate and what to keep.

Practice networking techniques in class.Assign homework that requires researching the importance of networking. Then in class have students initiate conversations with one another in the “professional environment” of their classroom.

Share your stories. Students love to hear about their instructors’ life stories. Tell them about your job search, terrible interviews, or great work experiences. Then open up the conversation to the class so students can relate their own job search experiences.

Encourage participation in job fairs and professional organizations.Job fairs are a great experience whether or not the student lands a job—or even if the career fair does not focus on the student’s field. Just getting dressed for the part of looking for a job is beneficial. And professional organizations or clubs like Rotary are great spots for students to practice communication skills.

Emphasize the importance of research. Research is essential to the job search. Students should begin by researching fields of interest to them, learning about current and future opportunities in that arena. Once they have homed in on an industry, they should investigate specific companies for which they would like to work and become up-to-date on the firm’s latest developments.

The reality is that today’s students will likely be job searching for much of their lives. Giving them the tools they need to be successful in those searches can start right in your business communication classroom.

Shutting Down Microaggressions in the Classroom

College instructors are duty bound to create classrooms in which all students feel they belong and are respected. But sometimes inadvertent mistakes in the form of microaggressionsmay be doing just the opposite.

Microaggressions are “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

Instructors may be guilty of inadvertent microaggressive behaviors such as:

Mispronouncing students’ names. If a student has corrected an instructor’s mispronunciation of his/her name repeatedly and the instructor has made no effort to learn it, the student may feel slighted.

Ignoring female students. Research shows male students are called on more often than female students. Doing so causes female students to feel snubbed.

Singling out students as representatives of their backgrounds. Just as no one professor is a representative of the entire professoriate, neither is one student a representative of his or her entire ethnicity or background. No individual can speak for an entire group.

Making assumptions about students’ backgrounds. Cultural and social identities may not be visible, so making statements about a particular group could end up offending someone from that very group. 

Expressing racially or politically charged political opinions. When instructors voice their opinions, they run the risk of marginalizing students who disagree and will feel silenced.

Allowing student-to-student microaggressions. Instructors must acknowledge and address microaggressions one students makes toward another.

Actions to Prevent Microaggressions

Instructors inherently are in a position of power and as such can lay the groundwork for creating a microaggression-free classroom. A few tips include the following:

  • Establish ground rules and expectations for classroom behavior with discussions early in the semester. Address these rules and expectations in your syllabus.
  • Avoid looking directly at a student who is a member of a group being talked about (LBGTQ, international students, students of color, and the like.)
  • Set high expectations for all students.
  • Use humor without degrading or targeting any group or specific student.
  • Accept criticism from students who have the courage to notify their instructor about their feelings.

Below are some links for more information about how to create a more inclusive classroom that is microaggression free.

Microaggressions: More than Just Race

Microaggressions in the Classroom

Responding to Microaggressions in the Classroom: Taking ACTION