General Issues

Q: Can you give me any tips for writing effective email queries?

A: I get a lot of email, often from thoughtful people with good questions. I also follow several groups that I sponsor. Many of the email or group postings I receive are ineffective and unprofessional. Hence this FAQ entry...

Avoid these common problems:

  • Asking questions that have obvious answers or can easily be found by a Google search, visiting the SJSU web site, or reviewing other posts to a group that already answers your question.
  • Sending email to me directly instead of asking questions on groups that are available for you.
  • Sending duplicate email. Even though I have other email addresses that you may discover, all of my email addresses get forwarded to one inbox so duplication is not necessary, costs me time and effort to delete, makes it difficult for me to follow my email on my mobile device, and only delays a response to your question.
  • Not including sufficient information to identify who you are. Please ALWAYS include your First and Last Name. If the email is a private email to me, also include a student ID if you have one. Do not put your student ID in a group posting. Using your maiden name, someone else's email address, and incomplete or nicknames are confusing, a waste of time, and only delays a response to your question.
  • Asking questions that the recipient isn't likely to be able to answer ("I need legal advice about my immigration status..."). I am not the best person to answer questions about visas, housing, financial aid, residency and other non-academic questions.
  • Using poor grammar or poorly worded questions.
  • Bizarre spelling ("I rqst 2 nrol in ur dprtmnt..."). Please do not use abbreviations for words.
  • Misleading message subjects (Please use your email subject lines effectively)
  • Inappropriate greetings ("Hey Dan")
  • Unreasonable demands ("I need to know by 9 am tomorrow...")

I also recommend Eric Raymond's useful article "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way".