At some point in your college career you will have to email your professor(s). There is certainly a right way and a wrong way. Some students might think this is a ridiculous blog post, but I’m tell you, as a higher education professional I have seen some pretty awful emails from students. Email etiquette is a thing! Here is an example of a bad email to a professor…
To: Science Woman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
can u tell me how to do number 4 on the problem set. i no u went over it in class but i have had a VERY LONG week lol tests ha ha ha and i lost my notes. pleeease help
The question is, is this how you will be emailing your supervisor one day? I would hope not! Let’s talk about the right way to email your professor.
Consult Your Syllabus: The syllabus acts as a contract between the professor and his/her students. It provides more information than a semester calendar and attendance policy. Many questions can be answered by reading the syllabus. It also contains the professor’s contact information.
University Email Address: It’s important to use your university issued email address. The university provides you an email for more reasons than getting student pricing for Amazon Prime. Bonus tip: Don’t use your university email address to sign up for store’s emails. Your inbox will quickly get bogged down with marketing emails and you might miss something important from the university or your professor(s).
Subject Line: Start your email with a clear subject line. Perhaps what class you are enrolled in, followed by the reason for emailing. i.e. ENGL 1301.01: Homework Assignment 15
Greeting: Emails should have the structure of a letter; a greeting, the body of the letter in paragraph form, and a closing with signature line. The lack of a formal greeting or the casual “hey” will not earn your points. Begin your email with Dear Dr. __, or Dear Professor __,. Consider their education and position before omitting a greeting!
Get to the Point: To begin, identify yourself and what class you are referring to. Construct a brief email containing only the necessary details. Professors are very busy and don’t have time to read through paragraphs of unnecessary information. Lastly, clearly state the intent of your email and what you are seeking. This helps the professor easily identify what it is you need.
Closing: It is wise to thank a professor for his/her time. A closing like, “Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.” or “Thank you for your assistance.” are both good examples of a closing. Remember to also use “Sincerely” “Best regards” or other formal closing before your email signature.
Email Signature: Signing your email, like you would a letter, is also crucial. It gives you one more opportunity to identify yourself and how to be reached. Your full name, student ID number, and an email address are a good place to start. Many students include their various officer positions in student organizations, but this is extra fluff that is irrelevant to emailing a professor. Unless of course you’re communicating something about your student org.
There you have it, the most effective way to email your professor. These same principles can be applied to emailing university staff as well. If you take nothing else away, identifying yourself (with name and student ID), being brief, and being formal are key!