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The agonies of email etiquette and prof dudes

Laughing Matters/Opinion by

Dear Professor Buddle,

You recently shared a rather condescending blurb about how McGill students should learn email etiquette, insinuating that most students do not put the correct amount of effort into the vital student-professor communication medium. I challenge this assumption. I’m not sure who originally wrote, “Hey Prof Dude,” but I can tell you from experience that the process of emailing a professor is anything but casual. It is a highly-involved inner struggle of self-loathing versus self-worth, of knowledge of basic grammar versus knowledge of email conventions—requiring pure mental fortitude. For me, that battle usually goes something like this.

First comes the agony of choosing an appropriate salutation:

“Hi Prof –“

Then I ask myself if they are even a professor. I Google them; their LinkedIn says, “Course Lecturer.”  This means a simple “Dr.” will suffice. A tinge of sadness washes over me, as I lament that this person is not yet able to put a simple “Associate Professor” title on their LinkedIn Profile, despite having spent the entirety of their 20s—and a good portion of their 30s—torturing themselves to become an expert on a topic so specific that they only have three peer references on JStor. I quickly remember that my own LinkedIn profile not only has an endorsement from my mom for my Microsoft Office skills, but also paragraphs of bullshit about how being a camp counsellor helps me “work as a member of a team” and prepares me to “multitask in a fast-paced environment.” My pity for this “Dr.” fades, and rapidly I return to self-loathing.

“Hi Dr. –”

Now comes the friendly greeting:

It’s Thursday, so I can’t say, “I hope you had a good week,” because that implies I don’t count Friday as a part of the week, and I can’t have Dr. _____, parent of two beautiful children, —“Gabby” and “Frederic” (I also find the “About Me” section of their academic site)—thinking that I don’t do work on Fridays.

“I hope you are doing well, and enjoying the nice weather we’ve been having.”

No good—it’s -20 degrees, and the snow resembles the set of a Tim Burton movie.

“I hope you are doing well.”

Next, the informational content of the email must be tasteful and not too forthright:

“I am writing to inform you that I will not be able to attend the lecture tomorrow as I have fallen ill.”

God, no one has said “fallen ill” since the Spanish flu. Why does typing in Outlook automatically make me write like I’m in an episode of The Crown? Screw it, I’m allowed to let my hair down every now and then.

“I am writing to inform you that I will not be able to attend the lecture tomorrow because I am sick.”

A wave of panic rushes over me as I realize that I didn’t have my privacy settings turned on when I stalked my course lecturer on LinkedIn. They will see that I stalked them, will judge me fiercely and aggressively, and will never respond to my future email asking for a grad school reference. Never mind the fact that the probable reason they won’t respond is because my entitled ass never once talked to them in person during their lecture of 30 students.

“Thank you in advance for your understanding, and please let me know if there is anything I can do to make up for the content that I will be missing.”

Thanking in advance is pretty presumptuous—who am I to assume that they will understand? Maybe they won’t understand at all and will promptly deduct a percentage point from my participation grade. Scratch the “thank you.”

Finally, the closing is the final note, so it must be perfect:

“Cheers,  – “

Too casual.

“Sincerely, —”

Too formal.

“Best regards, —”

Just right. I feel like Goldilocks.

After enduring this entire painstaking process, my email is later reciprocated by the course lecturer with a simple:

“K.

Sent from my iPhone.”

So, I ask you Professor Buddle, not to judge all students on the one simpleton who wrote “Hey Prof Dude.” Based on my own enduring struggles, I can only assume that the entire McGill student population is already a neurotic, over-analyzing mess when it comes to using electronic mail with our professors. Most of us wouldn’t be caught dead writing, “Hey Prof Dude.”

Best regards,

 

Isaac Berman

 

Isaac Berman is a U3 Computer Engineering Student. His childhood crush was Jane Goodall and his favourite pastime is filling out online resume forms for job applications.

 

  • Anon

    /.n

    • Scribe

      What a bunch of crap!
      You McGill students… None of which are ready for the real world… Think you know it all but you know nothing. I worked security there for two years and I got to watch you chugalug a ton of beer at your OAPs till you acted like stupid morons and eat cheap samosas and speak with every second word as “like” while treating us like garbage. Hint: Holding a door open for you will not get you raped, nor will being nice to a another human being wearing a uniform who has never been mean to you. Guards are there to help you, idiots. You think the experience is fun for any of us? Being gone from there is such a pleasure….

  • Anon

    C’mon SPT. Is this really publish worthy?

    In my opinion his email was far from condescending. He described the email as ‘interesting’. Frankly, I would have used a much harsher word. Perhaps ‘Disrespectful’.
    Also… Tip: reserve “Dr.” for the PhD’s. Often Course Lecturer’s are Masters Students.

    Ironically, you recognize that it is presumptuous of you to assume a professors understanding in advance… Yet at the end of your letter you assume that the entire McGill student population is a “neurotic, over-analyzing mess” simply because you are? Bold.

    Professors receive a plethora of emails every day. I likely would not have responded to such an email. Like really? If anyone knows whether students need to brush up on their email etiquette it’s Buddle- not you.

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