Welcome to the University Ombudsperson’s Office

Welcome to the University Ombudsperson’s Office, where we aim to guide you through effective and respectful communication channels when engaging with your university’s faculty, staff, and administrators. This information is designed to assist you in crafting impactful letters and emails while maintaining proper communication etiquette.

Choosing Between a Letter and Email

Typically, professional communication takes place via email within a university setting, unless otherwise specified by the recipients. Nonetheless, if you find that an email isn’t gaining the desired attention, or if a more formal approach is necessary, composing a letter might be beneficial. A letter, distinct from an email, is usually printed and either hand-delivered or sent via traditional mail.

In either case, requesting an in-person meeting when sending an email or letter can facilitate a meaningful dialogue about your concerns, leading to an enhanced understanding of the matter at hand.

Email Etiquette

Even though emails can be less formal than letters, it’s still beneficial to incorporate some degree of formality. Emails should include:

  • Subject Line: Providing context for your email, such as the course number and a brief description of the reason for writing, can be helpful.
  • Salutation: Using a formal name or title, like Dr., Mr./Ms./Mrs., or Professor as appropriate, is recommended.
  • Body: The email’s body should be concise, factual, and specific, with the main points outlined in the first few sentences.
  • Attachments: It’s important to include any relevant attachments that could assist the recipient in understanding your message.
  • CC’s: If necessary, you may consider copying additional individuals who have context about the issue into the email conversation. However, it’s essential to use discretion and only include relevant parties.

Letter Format

Traditionally, letters contain more formatting than emails and usually include:

  • The full mailing address of the sender
  • Date on which the letter is written
  • Address of the person to whom the letter is addressed
  • Subject line
  • Salutation
  • Body (the main message)
  • Complimentary closing
  • Signature line (be sure to sign your letter)
  • Enclosure and copy notations

Content and Tone

Regardless of whether you’re composing an email or a formal letter, the content and tone are crucial in effectively conveying your message. Review any pertinent policies and ensure the letter includes the necessary information for the decision-maker to consider your appeal or request.

Opening Statement

Begin with a clear and concise statement outlining the purpose of your letter.

Being Factual

Include factual details while refraining from dramatizing the situation.

Being Specific

If particular facts are crucial for the decision-maker’s assessment, be specific in your communication.

Documentation

Include any necessary documentation required by policy or to substantiate your claims.

Stick to the Point

Avoid cluttering your letter with extraneous information or requests unrelated to the main message.

How to Talk About Feelings

When emotions are pertinent to your message, present them as factual and legitimate.

Be Brief

Strive for brevity in your communication, as concise letters can have a great impact.

Avoid Errors

While it’s important to maintain technical correctness, meeting deadlines and conveying your purpose clearly take precedence over a perfectly error-free letter.

Keep Copies

Until your matter is resolved, keep copies of all letters sent or received, alongside any relevant documents and forms.

*Adapted from The University of Western Ontario Ombuds Office, Frances Bauer, Ombudsperson

** Adapted from San Diego State University Office of the Student Ombudsman

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