Online Communication Skills Handout SDSU STEM Mentor Program


Formal email structure:


  • Importance of professional email
  • Name and institution if possible


  • Descriptive and concise
  • Summarizes main point of email in a few words
  • Avoid ‘No subject’ to avoid Spam


  • Appropriate for context
  • Formal v informal
  • “Dear ” is standard for formal correspondence

Title/ Name of recipient

  • Do your research
  • Honor their title or role (Dr. Jones, Professor Jones)
  • For formal interactions use last or full name
  • Gender neutral option: Dear Kim Jones


  • Descriptive sentence
  • Summarizes main point of email
  • Clear over creative


  • Keep it concise and focused
  • Use attachments/links for supporting information
  • Provide necessary context
  • Complete sentences, formal language
  • Avoid blocks of text; include white space for easy reading
  • Proofread!


  • Thank the receiver and summarize
  • Invitation to follow up and next step

Sign off

  • Provide appropriate sign off
  • Formal v informal
  • “Sincerely” and “Best regards” are standard for formal correspondence


Tips for successful email correspondence:

When can I break from a formal tone or structure?

  • Person in higher power position sets the tone
  • When in doubt, maintain formal structure
  • Continue email structure for new correspondences; may sub for informal language as communication continues

What should I do if I don’t hear back?

  • Follow up in one week
  • If you don’t hear back after two follow ups, let go of the interaction

When is the best time to send an email?

  • Weekdays may be more attentive
  • Can utilize schedule send option to send during work hours


Requesting a STEM Program Mentor

  • Provide context about the program
  • Provide information about your research interests and plans
  • Specify why you chose this professor
  • How do your research interests overlap?
  • Provide evidence (academic CV, links to your work)


Video 1.1: Culture and Communication


Video 1.2: Email Structure  


Video 1.3: Email Correspondence 


Video 2.1: Requesting a STEM Mentor 


Video 2.2: Academic CV