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Souza: Email etiquette is dying, but it shouldn’t be

Collegian | Trin Bonner

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

No, you should not include “lol” in that email to your physics professor.


As slang and language continue to adapt over the decades, the ways in which we communicate — within relationships, friendships and classrooms — adapt, too. Proof of this change already exists in multiple forms; classrooms shifted online over the COVID-19 pandemic, which required a whole different approach to communication, and the rise of accessible artificial intelligence programs spurred new lectures about its benefits and dangers, especially in the fields of digital communication and journalism.

Language has transformed and always will transform to fit social standards. We now laugh at the very same slang used in earnest years ago. I doubt anyone uses the word “cheugy” in everyday conversation anymore, but in 2021, it was a contender for the word of the year.

Although a lot of professors teach informally — preferring first-name references and permitting slang or swear-word use — emails follow a different set of rules than those within the classroom.”

As slang develops and language transforms, so does the relationship between professors and students, particularly over email.

From the age of 12 years, teachers have drilled proper email etiquette into my brain like my life depended on it. If I didn’t send an email with the right prepositions, greetings or Mr./Ms./Mrs. usage, the point of my message didn’t matter; it would be regarded as unimportant and practically garbage.

Is email etiquette important? Absolutely. But for a 12-year-old in the sixth grade, I couldn’t even socialize correctly in person. You’d think that because we’re all adults now, our etiquette has subsequently improved. We wouldn’t use slang in emails anymore, right? We’d still communicate with some degree of professionalism, right?

But a lot of us have actually regressed.

I have scrolled on TikTok numerous times to see complaints of college students being supposedly mistreated by professors, whether that’s being denied a grade change, experiencing rude actions or just witnessing overall poor teaching.

While there is nothing wrong with holding professors accountable — in fact, that should be the standard when our education is worth thousands of dollars — these emails use informal language that is not appropriate to our academic hierarchy. 

Although a lot of professors teach informally — preferring first name references and permitting slang or swear word use — emails follow a different set of rules than those within the classroom. We show up to class for the broad purpose of learning, but we email for the specific purpose of a question. If not a question, it’s typically a proposal or a suggestion, like asking for a grade change. No matter the reason, though, an email is always a special request or statement made outside of the classroom. For that reason, emails should require more serious language.


By “serious language,” I don’t mean words like “salutations” or “sincerely,” and I don’t expect you to type out the Declaration of Independence — I think a professor would boot you from the class if you did that. Serious language or proper email etiquette indicates the exclusion of slang and profanity from emails. That’s it. There is no reason we need to be saying “shit” or “fuck” or “lol” or whatever slang is popular at the time in emails to our superiors. 

Using unserious language to communicate serious questions strips the impact from them. So the next time you’re drafting an email to ask for a homework extension, you should probably emit that “lmao” — nobody is laughing their asses off when they have work overdue.

Reach Emma Souza at or on Twitter @_emmasouza.

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About the Contributor
Trin Bonner
Trin Bonner, Illustration Director
Trin Bonner is the illustration director for The Collegian newspaper. This will be her third year in this position, and she loves being a part of the creative and amazing design team at The Collegian. As the illustration director, Bonner provides creative insight and ideas that bring the newspaper the best graphics and illustrations possible. She loves working with artists to develop fun and unique illustrations every week for the readers. Bonner is a fourth-year at Colorado State University studying electronic arts. She loves illustrating and comic making and has recently found enjoyment in experimental video, pottery and graphic design. Outside of illustration and electronic art, Bonner spends her free time crocheting and bead making. She is usually working on a blanket or making jewelry when she is not drawing, illustrating or brainstorming.

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