Monday, April 7, 2014

Don't Write Like a Puppy - 5 Tips

Recently, someone shared a piece of writing with me. As I read it, I could hear the enthusiasm, the "gush of emotion" and more in the other words, it reminded me of a puppy (if a puppy could write) approach to writing. You know, enthusiastic licking that's warm and fuzzy but sloppy. And, unless you're writing fiction and want your character to give that impression, not suitable for academic or business writing.


So, here's the original piece (stuff in ALL CAPS has been edited) - Version 1:
My name is STUDENT NAME, and I took your NAME class this past Fall. I truly enjoyed your class and the material, and right now, I am considering "taking" an independent study course for my final minor course. I was wondering if you would be willing to discuss whether or not you would be willing to act as my supervising professor, preferably in the upcoming Fall semester. I would understand if you think that you will be too busy to act as a supervising professor for such a class, and if you don't think you could/or are not willing, please let me know. But if you think you might be willing to supervise me, I would be happy to come in and discuss possible directed studies ideas for a class, as I do have a few in mind but I would like to confirm that you believe you have the time. Again, I understand if you do not, but I would be delighted if you could.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you have a nice day. 

Here is my revision (Version 2):
Professor NAME:

Thank you for your attention to this email. As you may recall, I had the opportunity to take your thoroughly engaging NAME class this past Fall. Given your expertise in this area, I hope you will not mind me asking for your academic guidance.

Would you be willing to serve as the supervising professor for an independent studies course during the Fall, 2014 semester? This would be the final, requisite course for me to complete my minor in SOMETHING. If yes, please let me know when we might meet to discuss your insights and ideas for such a class. I eagerly await your response and I am grateful, no matter whether we proceed or not.

With appreciation, 
Am I being heartless, cold, and disconnected from emotion? Which version do YOU prefer? Some of the points that came to my mind included the following:

  1. Focus on them, not you. The first version focuses on the student from the start, rather than on the professor. It's rude. Do you begin conversations with, "I am awesome, great, and here's what you need to do for me, pretty please," or do you greet the other person, remind them of how they are great and what that means for you, then ask?
  2. Avoid ruminating. Too much speculation about whether the professor will be available, how busy the professor might be and how that's OK and "understanding stuff." Let's be friendly, say what you need to say, then leave it in their hands. We're grown-ups here.
  3. Chunk your ideas into paragraphs. The first version is one long paragraph, a breathless rush to the end of the email that promises a nice day (thank goodness because I couldn't take more of that). The second version divides into paragraphs, representing complete ideas.
  4. Be brief. "Brevity is the soul of wit." Keep your email short and to the point. Sweetness...well, we're all obese in America, aren't we?
  5. Be specific. Follow up in person with a specific deadline, date and/or time. Avoid "several," instead say "3" or whatever the number was.
Could I revise this email more? Yes. Maybe this version (Version 3):
Professor NAME: 
Thank you for considering this request to serve as a supervising professor of an independent studies course during the Fall, 2014. Based on my past experiences (e.g. CLASS NAME) under your tutelage, I hope you will agree. Per my advisor, this course would serve as my final class.
Please advise as to your availability to serve in this mentor capacity. I look forward to the opportunity to study with you again. Would you be available to discuss this further on SPECIFIC DATE AND TIME?
With appreciation for your time,

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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