Writing Effective E-mails

Communication is an important part of studying with us. We will communicate with you via lectures/tutorials, Learning@Griffith, e-mail, and face-to-face or telephone consultations. We welcome you to get in touch with us should you need help with your studies. If you use e-mail to communicate, you need to know how to write e-mails so that you get the information you need. The information on this page will help you.
General Principles
Stop! First check whether you can answer your question by reading the Course Profile or Learning@Griffith course site. That will be a lot faster than waiting for a response from e-mail. Teaching staff are unable to answer questions for which the information has been already given. Due to the high volume of e-mails received by academic staff, an e-mail that does not need an answer due to information being available elsewhere will not be replied to.

Always send e-mails from your Griffith student e-mail account. Always include the course code in the subject line. Always include your name and student number. If you don’t do any of these things your e-mail may get accidentally sent to “junk mail”.

It can take 24-48 business hours or more to respond to your e-mail. Don’t leave things to the last minute! University staff are not expected to answer e-mails on the weekend.

Standard etiquette applies. Well written and easy to understand e-mails are more likely to get the answer you are after. E-mails written in a university setting should be formal and polite. E-mails are treated seriously and as a means to communicate important information at university. Always err towards writing more formally than informally. In addition, academic and administrative staff have the right to ignore impolite e-mails and those that do not contain a clear message. In more serious cases, e-mails will be used as evidence of misconduct.

Also, remember that people are busy so write concisely and state your reason for writing.
Before You Write
Check your course profile or information on Learning@Griffith in case the information you are searching for is there. If you can’t find what you need, then send an email.

Think clearly about the purpose for writing: Are you:

  • Asking for information?

  • Providing information?

  • Asking for permission to do something?

  • Requesting exemption from something?

  • Requiring a response from the reader?

Check you are using the correct email address.

In a large university it is not uncommon for more than one person to have the same name. Check the recipient’s email address on your course profile or in the “Contact Us” link on the Griffith homepage.
Writing the Email

  • Complete the subject line to make it clear what you are writing about. Don’t use old reply subject lines if you have moved onto a new topic. This is confusing. If the e-mail relates to a course, state the course in the subject line.

  • Do not use ambiguous subject lines like "Help!", "Important" or "Urgent". Such things are used when phishing or spamming and is likely to scare someone from even opening your e-mail.

  • Be formal, polite, and succinct. Unless an academic staff member had made it clear that you can address them by their first name, address them as "Dr Smith" or "Professor Smith" as appropriate.

  • Clearly state the issue you are writing about in the first paragraph. Always put the most important information first.

  • Be factual and present your case without being emotional or demanding.

  • Indicate clearly what you would like the recipient to do next e.g. "please e-mail me", "please phone me", "please forward me the information", etc.

  • Close the email politely. Suitable endings are "Yours sincerely", "Kind regards", and "Best wishes".

  • Check you have included any necessary contact details.

  • Use white space (line spaces) to divide your message into clear sections or paragraphs.

  • Allow time for a reply. If you have not had a response after a few days, it is appropriate to send a friendly reminder. Staff receive numerous emails and sometimes messages can be missed accidentally. A typical response will take 24 to 48 hours during business days.

Additional learning tools / Sources of information
David Tuffley, Griffith University, “Email Etiquette (Netiquette)”: http://www.ict.griffith.edu.au/~davidt/email_etiquette.htm
General components of an e-mail

To: a.lecturer@griffith.edu.au From: Nita.Lee@griffithuni.edu.au   (always use your Griffith email) Subject: 3008PSY Request to enrol in full tutorial 13476 Monday 4pm (always include Course Code & reason for enquiry)

Dear Dr ------ (If you know the person or have had previous correspondence in which they have signed off with their first name, then it is appropriate to use their first name.)

I’m requesting permission to enrol in the above class because --- I have attached relevant documentation including ------ which provides evidence supporting my request to change classes.

Thank you for considering my request.

Yours sincerely


Nita Lee s27654321  

B Psych Science, GC (always include student number, program & campus – GC or MG)

An example requesting an extension for submitting an assignment

To: g.andrews@griffith.edu.au

From: Jonathon.Black@griffithuni.edu.au

Subject: Extension request for laboratory report in 1001PSY for medical reasons.

Dear Dr Andrews,

I am currently enrolled in 1001PSY on the Gold Coast campus. I would like to request a 1 week extension, until the 16th of May, for the laboratory report in 1001PSY. The due date for this report is 9th May.

I have attached the Application for Extension form and supporting documentation (medical certificate) to this e-mail.

Yesterday I fell down some steps at home and seriously sprained my ankle. The doctor has told me to avoid walking for a week and has given me a medical certificate. It is difficult for me to get into the library for the books I require and to see my tutor as I will have to wait until a friend can drive me there this weekend.

Will you please let me know if a one week extension is possible?

Kind regards,

Jonathon Black
s1234567, B Psych Science, GC
Mobile 0419 123 123