Setting up a professional email signature

Email is a cornerstone of communication on the college campus as well as most workplaces, but the truth is, we’re rarely formally taught email etiquette. Since students are communicating with professors, classmates, potential job or internship sites, campus staff, organization leaders, and others, having a professional email presence is critical, and an important component of a professional email presence is a good email signature. 

What does a professional email signature look like? 

A good email signature has four basic components: your name, your title, your organization, and your contact information. At its most basic, your signature can have this information, in the same size/font/format/color as your email body text. That might look something like this: 

[First name] [Last name] 
[Major] student 
Western Kentucky University 
[email address] 

You can choose to add additional information to your email signature, such as a link to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio, as well as your phone number or other contact information. It’s important to remember who you will be communicating with, however. Make sure you don’t provide a link to your personal social media accounts like Twitter if you’ll be communicating with potential employers (unless you’re applying for a position in social media, of course) or that you don’t include your address if you have to communicate with strangers, for personal safety reasons. 

It’s also up to you whether you choose to make the signature stand out from the text with formatting different from your body text, though you won’t want to do anything too crazy (e.g., rainbow colored text, unreadable font, size 80 text). Here’s another example of a professional signature: 

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Here’s a free tool for creating a customized, professional-looking email signature: https://www.hubspot.com/email-signature-generator 

How to set up an email signature in Outlook  

  1. Select the Settings tab in the upper right corner of the window.  pic2
  2. Search “signature” and select Email signature from the results. pic3.png
  3. Enter your email signature in the text box provided. pic4
  4. Select OK to save the signature. 

If you have questions about writing and communicating in a professional manner, the Writing Center can help! Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

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Best free online group project tools

Group projects can be a pain. It’s hard to get two, three, four, or more people in the same place, at the same time, and keep everyone on task. Luckily, there are some excellent online tools you can use to collaborate with other students on group projects. These are some of our favorites:

Asana: https://asana.com/

Asana is the best free project management software out there. With Asana you can create your team (that is, add your group project members), create tasks, set deadlines, assign tasks to specific users, share progress updates, talk about the project with team members, share documents, and more. For all the tasks assigned to you or that you follow, you’ll get regular email reminders about the due date, helping keep you on task. Plus, when you complete tasks, cute little animations pop up on your screen (sometimes they’re unicorns)!

Google Drive: https://www.google.com/drive/

If you have a Google account (and like, everyone does), you have access to Google Drive, a cloud-based online platform for creating documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, and more. You can create a project in Google Drive, share it with multiple people, provide them with editing permissions, and all work on the project at the same time, from different locations, and all your changes will be made in real time. Within a document, you can also leave comments, @ mention other editors, and open a chat with the other group members. It’s almost better than working in the same room!

Microsoft OneDrive: https://my.wku.edu/

With your student email account, you have access to useful Microsoft apps, including OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. Like Google Docs, with these apps you can compose and save documents online, accessible from anywhere you can use your email account. You can also collaborate with other students in real time, making this super useful for group project work (plus, you don’t have to know everyone’s personal email address). As another advantage over Google apps (sorry not sorry), the formatting options are better and slightly more intuitive.

Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/

Dropbox is what it sounds like: a virtual box into which you can drop things, specifically files. Dropbox is very secure and has tons of controls on how you can share the files, who can access them, and file viewing/editing/accessing permissions users have. If you have a file-heavy project and need to make sure everyone has access to all the important materials, creating a Dropbox for your project and sharing it with your group members is a good way to do that.

Want to take advantage of another free resource? Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

Best Free Online Writing Tools for Student Writers

It’s not stereotyping to say that college students love free things—it’s just a fact. Whether it’s free t-shirts from student organizations, free pizza from events on campus, or free pens from tablers in DSU, we’re taking advantage of all the freebies we can get. Why not do the same with your writing? There are tons of free writing resources available to you online; here are a few of our favorites:

Grammarly: https://www.grammarly.com/

If you’ve ever thought you needed spellcheck for email, you’re in luck. If you’re doing any writing online or in MS Word, Grammarly is for you. It’s a spellchecker that is more intuitive than Google’s or Microsoft’s, and it can be added as an extension to your web browser. If you create an account, Grammarly will track your common errors and provide you a weekly report to help you improve your writing.

Google Docs: https://www.google.com/docs/about/

If you have a Gmail account, you have access to Google Docs, an online word processing program. In addition to having similar functionality to MS Word and Apple’s Pages, it stores all documents online in your Google Drive, connected to your Gmail account. Additionally, it saves while you’re working (never accidentally lose your whole paper again!); you can have multiple editors on a document, all working in real time (great for group projects); and you can access your paper from any computer with internet.

Microsoft OneDrive: https://my.wku.edu/

With your student email account, you have access to useful Microsoft apps, including OneDrive and Word Online. Like Google Docs, with OneDrive and Word Online, you can compose and save documents online, accessible from anywhere you can use your email account. You can also collaborate with other students in real time.

Purdue OWL: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

We love the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab), and you will too. It has resources on every style of academic paper, including MLA, APA, and Chicago, plus resources for ESL (English as a Second Language), writing in general, and resources for tutors and teachers. Any citation or formatting questions you may have, Purdue OWL has the answers.

WKU’s Writing Center “Resources for Writers” Pagehttp://www.wku.edu/writingcenter/resources_writers.php

We’ve got some great resources, besides the ones mentioned here, specifically for academic writing linked on the Writing Center website. We’ll also be adding some video and pdf tutorials and reference sheets in the upcoming weeks—stay tuned!

WKU’s Writing Center blog: https://wkuwritingcenter.wordpress.com/

We’re shameless self-promoters, but it’s because we’re doing a ton of great stuff right now. We’ve got content on all sorts of writing situations, and new content is posted every Tuesday and Friday!

Want to take advantage of another free writing resource? Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

Communicating in group projects

by Abby Ponder

There are two words on a syllabus that have the potential to strike fear into the hearts of students everywhere: “group project.”

People are wary of group projects for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding time in an overwhelmingly busy schedule that accommodates several people; sometimes it’s a matter of having communication difficulties with your fellow group members; and sometimes it’s simply that you’re a strong, independent student who doesn’t need a group support system.

Whatever your reason, sometimes group projects can be stressful experiences–even with wonderful group members.

However, they’re an important aspect of both college life and life in the real world. People have to collaborate on projects all the time to turn out a successful product. Learning those skills can only help you in the long run.

Still, though, sometimes even when you know something is good for you, it might not be something you’re looking forward to. So, how do you make the best of your situation?

First and foremost, communication is essential. Depending on the scale of your project, there are various ways to communicate effectively with your group members. Technology of the 21st Century really is your best friend in this instance. Some viable options (and their pros and cons) include:

  1. Email: This is the standard form of communication amongst students, but is it the most effective? It depends. Emails allow you to be very verbose in your content and share files. If you have a lot to say in one burst of content, emails will definitely work in your favor. However, if your group is on the larger side, emails can sometimes make it difficult to  communicate with everyone. If one person forgets to click “reply all” or to “CC” everyone, then a communication gap can appear and information has the potential to be lost in translation.
  2. Group Texts: When you’re trying to decide when and where to meet, group texts can be a swell way to handle the communication side of things. They’re also nice for sharing quick bits of information or asking questions on a smaller scale: “When is the paper due? Are we meeting at six?” When it gets more complex than that, though? Maybe not. Another thing to keep in mind regarding group texts is that some people may have phones that are incompatible with the rest of the group. Make sure to clarify such things before establishing it as your go-to method.
  3. Facebook Groups: This is my personal favorite way to communicate because it combines all the aforementioned methods into one. You can post files, share status updates, and keep everything organized in one place.
  4. Google Drive: Want to work together but can’t meet in the same place? Google Drive is the tool for you! You can write and edit one collective document at the same time and save it automatically. This can be super helpful in the collaborative process, but do keep in mind that meeting up at least once is a very good idea in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.
The most important thing during a group project is to collaborate. If you work together and communicate, your chances for success will be much greater.
If there are several individuals working together, it might also be a good idea to assign specific roles to members–an editor, a designer, an organizer, etc. Make sure everyone is involved throughout the entire process.
So, what are your strategies for communicating in group projects? Let us know!
Stay tuned for next week’s post about the actual writing process for group projects.
This post was originally published on March 30, 2015.