How to Email a Professor

The end of any university semester brings the usual anxiety of many exams, papers and final projects due before summer vacation. One of the best things about professors in the United States and the United Kingdom is that they are approachable and available to help with your questions and concerns. We definitely would recommend to take advantage of professors’ office hours! While there are many different ways to email a professor, the following steps will ensure that your request is both polite and direct when written in English.

Subject Line: This is the first way to signal to the professor what you are requesting. Your subject line should be short, clear and summarize the type of request you are making. Your subject line should NOT be a sentence or an outright request for something:

Bad Subject Lines:

  • Help!Wake Forest junior Kelly Rumbaugh ('12), a double major in computer science and mathematics, talks with computer science professor Jennifer Burg, left, in Burg's office in Manchester Hall on Thursday, September 2, 2010. The two were discussing Rumbaugh's computer-generated music project.
  • I need you to…
  • Can you do this for me?
  • Your Name

Good Subject Lines:

  • Question about History 206 Final Assignment
  • Office Hours Appointment Request
  • Interest in Biology 101 Course
  • Final Exam Conflict

Greeting: This should be a formal greeting, such as Dear Professor Smith or Dear Dr. Jones.

Introduction: University professors meet thousands of students and often are teaching hundreds in one semester. The first thing you should do in the body of your email is to clearly introduce yourself and how you know this professor. Things you should include in your introduction sentence are:

  • Your full name
  • The course you are taking (or previously took) with this professor
  • Any indicators of how they might remembers you, such as a question you asked in class, your last paper topic, an event where you ran into them etc.

Your Request: Now that you have properly signaled the request that you will make, it is time to explain why you are writing. Be clear and concise with your explanation. The most important thing to remember in your writing is that you should not assume anything of your professor. This means using a lot of the conditional tense:

  • Would you be available to meet tomorrow afternoon?
  • Could you assist me with my thesis topic?
  • Would it be possible to still register for your class
  • Given this circumstance, could I please postpone the midterm to next week?

Follow-Up Plan: Conclude your email with a way that you will follow-up on your request using the future tense:

  • I will email you again next week to follow-up.
  • I will stop by your office tomorrow to discuss this possibility.
  • I can stay late after class on Tuesday to meet with you.

Sign-Off: Sign your email with one of the following formal closing phrases, as well as your full name:

  • Sincerely,
  • Regards,
  • Best,

Best of luck with your finals and the end of your semester!

Feature Writing

clip-art-of-extra_extra-pic-of-front-page-of-newspaperDiving into a piece of writing is so exciting; analyzing and realizing what the author could mean by a certain word, phrase or line is satisfying. As long as you have the evidence to support your claim, you cannot be wrong. However, you can be well-versed at analysis and yet, completely unaware how to write for a newspaper or Internet news. Feature writing in journalism is a whole other ball game. Learning different writing styles can come in handy to make yourself marketable in the job world.

To show the various parts of a features story I will use a piece I wrote as a features intern for the Vineland Daily Journal in Vineland, New Jersey. The terms to describe the parts of the writing are put in [brackets].

[Title] Artist sees the light

[Subhead] Millville painter innovates to make canvas come alive

Features writing allow you to be more creative than straight news. Try to think of a title that will grab people’s attention. Keep it short and sweet. The subhead allows you to explain more about the story. When you read “artist sees the light” you know the story will be about an artist who has achieved something. The subhead explains that he uses an unusual method on a canvas.

[LEAD] MILLVILLE — Dennis Tawes is trying something new on Millville’s art scene

The well-known “pioneer artist” who helped Millville launch the Glasstown Arts District has been hinting about his latest project for months, and finally will unveil his proud work at the city’s Third Friday festivities this week.

In his small art studio at The Village on High, Tawes has been working on a new technique that he hopes will change the way people view his paintings

The lead tells who, what, when, and where the article is talking about. An ideal first line is short, and should be slightly vague so it hooks the reader and encourages the reader to keep reading. It introduces the topic, without giving away the whole story.

[NUT GRAPH] By using LED lights on a canvas to manipulate color, flower petals change hues, a Ferris wheel moves and a woman’s mask disappears from a painting. The use of bright colors is key in Tawes’ work, which is ironic because the artist says he has difficulty perceiving bright hues.

In a nutshellThe nut graph is a sentence or paragraph that states the focus or the main point of the story. It should tell in a nutshell what the story is about and why it is newsworthy. This nut graph explains the technique used by the artist, and an interesting tidbit that the artist himself may not be able to accurately see the hues he is creating. This topic is newsworthy because it is an unfamiliar art technique, and because of the limitations of the artist.

LEDism, as he calls his latest obsession, started about a year ago.

[LEAD QUOTE] “My son hung up some of my paintings in his room where he happened to have an LED light,” Tawes said. “We noticed some of the colors were transforming. Artists focus light upon the subject (of) the canvas, (so we thought) what about focusing outside light onto the canvas, and it evolved from there. I started experimenting.”

The first quote that backs up the lead is called the lead quote. It is usually the strongest quote in the story and it supports the concept in the lead without repeating the same wording. This quote explains the origins of LEDism. Make sure to attribute quotes to proper sources. Ideally, a news/features story should have at least one quote from three different people (at least three quotes in total, depending on length). Since this story is about one person, quotes from just the artist are acceptable. To expand, I could have included quotes from his wife, son, or peers. My editor did not want that, so we just included the artist.

[IMPACT] Through his experimentation, Tawes realized pure color responds to LED lights.

“It’s a whole new different idea, even with painting, because I cannot think in terms of painting how I normally paint,” he said. “I have to think of how the light is going to affect the painting itself.”

Setting out to change how people view paintings, Tawes said this method “enhances” what the viewer sees and “reinvents” the painting.

“In my artistic career over the past 30 years I have endeavored to achieve something new with my art, something that had not been seen before,” he said.

He was hoping to combine modern technology and capture the movement of everyday life. To this point, he has only shown a handful of people his latest paintings; Tawes said he has received positive reactions.

Impact

The impact shows the readers why they should care. This method could “change how people view paintings” according to Tawes. Therefore, it is significant to the art world, but also to the common reader who views art.

[Elaboration Quote] “I haven’t changed my painting style, so it’s expressionist. (I) dabble a little in abstract, but with LED lights, when I first started thinking about it, it’s like a new level in modern art,” Tawes said. “It makes you question more of what you’re looking at. At one point it’s red, now it’s black or turns purple. How did it do that?”

Quotes can stand alone as added information for the story. Instead of me as the writer explaining the methodology, it’s more impactful when the subject explains in his own words. This elaboration is simply added information for the reader.

[Ending] Tawes can’t imagine a different life for himself.

“You raise the so-called bar to a different level where it’s just a natural growth. I don’t want to be cookie-cutter or paint what I think the market wants. That’s not why I paint,” he said. “It’s just waking up and doing what I do.”

Depending on the subject, the ending will vary. This ending is a wrap-up quote. It explains that Tawes will continue to work on his LEDism. You don’t want to repeat information given previously in the ending. Concluding with a quote is a popular way to end features stories.

Find Your Voice!

Find Your Voice!

Just like an essay, there is a structure to features writing. Following the format above is useful to create a features story. Be sure to add some creativity to the piece, so you can have a “voice” in your features story! If you need help with any kind of writing, please contact us! 🙂

Happy Writing!

By Ally Evans

Crafting a Cover Letter

So now that you’ve mastered your resume, how about that cover letter? Even though it is sometimes considered optional, cover letters are a great way to personalize your resume and describe your passion for whatever position you may be applying. Although every job market is different, for English-speaking countries, strong cover letters follow the pattern described below. Also, your cover letters is a great way to show evidence of your English skills to an employer in an English-speaking country!

Cover Letter Example

Even though most applications are done online these days, the formatting for cover letters is still formally stuck in the past. For formatting there are 4 main parts:

1. Your contact information goes at the top center including:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone number

2. The written-out date goes at the top left, ex: April 17, 2015.

3. The contact information for the recipient goes above the salutation on the left side:

  • Name
  • Title
  • Company
  • Address

4. The greeting continues on the left: qTBX7j46c

  • Dear Mr./Ms. ______,
  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • To Whom it May Concern,

5. Your signature goes at the bottom left:

  • Closing compliment
    • Respectfully,
    • Sincerely,
    • Regards,
  • Your written signature
  • Your typed name

With the formatting done, all that’s left is to write what makes you the best candidate for the position! Although you should write a different letter for each position, the general idea for each cover letter is the same. You can break down your paragraphs with the following checklist of what to mention in each one:

Paragraph 1: Introduction

  • The position for which you are applying and the name of the company or organization
  • How you found out about the position
  • Your “thesis” that you are the best candidate for the job

Paragraph 2: Why?

  • Research the company and position and brainstorm how your experiences match what they are looking for in a candidate
  • Pick one or two examples and go into detail about how those experiences show why you are a great fit for the role

Paragraph 3: Conclusion

  • Talk about the company as a whole, why you are motivated to work them, and how this position fits into your future plans
  • Thank them for considering your application
  • State a plan for following up

Applying for a position in an English speaking country? We can help you write an awesome cover letter! Get started here 🙂

10 Tips to Write an Awesome Resume

resume-clipart-Clipart-resumeSummer is right around the corner and perhaps, you’re looking for a change of pace or a summer job. Anytime you’re applying for jobs, internships, schools, scholarships etc. you have to create that dreaded thing…your resume. Nowadays, especially for students, the resume is replacing the CV because having only one-page to look at is much easier for whoever will be judging you as an applicant. Yes, it’s unfortunate to reduce all of your awesome experiences down to one-page, but we can do it!

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  1. Target Your Audience 

Often, you are writing a resume because you have a specific job in mind. Take the time to research what position and location you are applying for. This will give you clues about what they are looking for in applicants. For example, if you’re applying for a university, look at what program you are interested in studying or the culture of the school as it is described on the website. If you’re applying for a job or internship, read through the company’s website.

Most importantly, read between the lines of the job description. This will tell you what kinds of skills or capabilities they need for the work in that position. For example, if the job description says, “Assist with writing newsletter articles, press releases, talking points, development materials, promotional items, etc,” you know to highlight your skills as a writer and editor in your resume!

  1. Create Your Brand

Now that you know what the employer or admissions committee is looking for, think about what makes you the uniquely best person to fill that need. Your personal brand is the way that you want people to think of you as a student or employee. If you’re applying for a position in a different country than where you are from, you already have a personal brand as a a motivated worker, who thinks outside the box and can bring a fresh perspective!

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Take some time to list out all of the experiences you have that relate to the job description. Now step back and try to draw connections between your experiences. For example, let’s look at a list like this:

  • Writer for my school newspaper
  • Personal blogger
  • Social media manager for local business
  • Web design for my dad’s band

This person’s personal brand might be a strong original writer and web strategist for small businesses.

  1. Categorize Your Experiences

Take your list of experiences and begin to categorize them based on what your resume audience is looking for. Remember that your resume will be looked at very quickly so the more organized it is, the more that the reviewer will be able to learn about you in a short time. Your categories should be based on both your experiences and the specific skills your audience wants. For example, if the position for which you are applying requires foreign language knowledge, you would want (and always should have) a category on your resume that is labeled “Foreign Languages.” The three main categories that should always be included on your resume are:

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  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Relevant Skills

Then within each of these sections, you can create sub-sections based on your specific skills and experiences, such as:

  • Foreign languages
  • Research
  • Awards
  • Web Design
  • Publications
  1. Less is More

At this point, you’ve done some really awesome brainstorming and have come up with all of the evidence that makes you an ideal candidate for this opportunity. Even though this is exciting, we have to take a minute and remember that all of this information is going to fit on one normal-sized page! No matter how many great things you have done that might all be relevant to the thing for which you are applying, a big part of your resume is its presentation. Specifically this means that it should not be cluttered to the point where the reviewer cannot find your personal brand. Look at your list and categories and think about which experiences are most relevant to the position and show the most about of what you are most capable.

For example, although it would be nice to describe the time you volunteered at an animal shelter, if it was a short-term commitment, you did not have a leadership role and the position you are applying for does not involve animals, it doesn’t need to be taking up space on your precious one-page.

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  1. Reverse Chronology 

Another way to pick your most important and relevant experiences is to think about what you have done most recently. The structure of your resume should be in reverse chronology, or going from the present to the past. The top experience in each category should be the experience that happened the closest to the date you are applying.

This is especially important as you get older and gain more awesome life, academic and professional experiences. For example, once you are in your third year of university, you should not be listing experiences you had in high school (secondary school) on your resume.

  1. Don’t Assume

When your reviewer picks up your resume, they should be able to quickly understand where you were and what you did. This is especially important for international applicant as education systems and known organizations/companies vary from country to country. With each experience you list, you need to both describe what type of work it was in addition to what you specifically did. Often when I write my resume, I assume that the reviewer knows exactly what I’m talking about and so I forget to clearly explain.

For example, say that you volunteered at a place called One World Plants and spent your time teaching young children how to garden plants using seeds from all over the world. Your first bullet point should incorporate a brief description of the mission and purpose of One World Plants with your specific role that you played there. An example might be, “Worked one-on-one with young children to learn about the processes of planting seeds from around the world at this organization focused on bringing global awareness through sustainable agriculture.”

  1. Use Action Words action-clapboard

Notice how in our hypothetical role at One World Plants we started our sentence with the past tense action verb, “Worked.” For all of your descriptions of each experience, use these past tense action verbs to start each bullet point or sentence. Your resume shows what you can do and therefore this style immediately shows your reviewer what you have done in the past that can contribute to what you can do in the future!

Here is a link to “185 Powerful Verbs That Will Make Your Resume Awesome” that you can use when writing your resume: https://www.themuse.com/advice/185-powerful-verbs-that-will-make-your-resume-awesome

  1. Be Consistent in All Things

If you’ve been following all these steps, you should now have almost all of your content for your resume! You have your experiences, categories, timeline and descriptions and now, it’s time for the fun part: formatting and fitting it all onto one page 🙂 This often takes getting creative with the use of bullet points, italics, bold font, different size fonts, expanding your margins, playing with spacing etc.

There is no one correct way to format your resume, but my main word of advice is to be consistent. If you are going to put a job title in italics, put all of your job titles in italics. If you are going to bullet point all of your description sentences, bullet point ALL your description sentences. Here is a sample format for a resume section:

Resume Example

Here we have different formatting to distinguish the different important components of each experience:

  • WORK EXPERIENCE= the experience category in caps lock
  • Association for Children= the name of the organization in bold text
  • New York, NY= the location of the position in regular font
  • Childcare Intern= the job title in italics
  • June 2014-August 2014= the timeframe of the experience in right-aligned italics
  • Supervised a classroom of 4-5 year olds at the Starry Sky Childcare Center in Chelsea. = the first description, using bullet points, starting with a past-tense action verb, giving a description of where and what the organization way

In addition, notice the use of reverse chronology and the creation of a personal brand!

  1. Know your punctuation

You’re almost there! Now’s the time to put those finishing touches on your resume. Is everything necessary capitalized? Do you have periods at the end of each statement? Part of being consistent is making sure that all of your punctuation is the same and complete.

  1. Stand out!

iamanexpertYour resume is all about showing how awesome YOU are; so don’t be afraid to stand out! Start by putting your name really big at the top (and your contact information), so that your adoring fans can reach you. Then, read through all of your experiences and add details to emphasize the amazing things you’ve done. Bragging isn’t always welcome in conversation, but your resume is the perfect place to show off your accomplishments.

Inspired? Ready to start? Want some help? Click here!

If you’d like to see an example of my resume, send me an email!

I look forward to working with you to get that dream job, internship, scholarship…