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Email Etiquette 101
Every semester there is at least one professor who addresses the ill-mannered ways students have been emailing them, and yet there hasn’t been a formal lesson on how to tackle this complication. With classes being online, any dire questions or clarifications must be handled virtually via email. However, depending on the way you convey your message can indicate the type of response you receive, or if you even get one.
Fear not! I am hear to teach you the correct way to email your professor. It is simple and your professors will greatly appreciate your thoroughly thought out questions and concerns.
The subject line
At times, I still struggle to come up with a subject line. Sometimes you have multiple questions which means the main idea from your email won’t fit in the subject line. In this case, I typically write the course code with the words course questions. For example, your subject line should be SOC 114 Course Concern/Questions. If you’re inquiring about a single assignment, state the course code and the name of the assignment. Your subject line should look like this, SOC 114 Question Regarding Final Essay. Never leave a subject line blank! I have made this mistake before while in a rush and was never given a reply.
Address your professor correctly
I cannot urge this enough. Please, call your professor by the correct name. I understand that typos happen but try to double check the spelling. This is the first thing they’ll see when they open your email. It may come across as careless if you do this even if it’s an honest mistake. When it comes to addressing your professor, pronouns are crucial. If your professor has a PhD call them Doctor followed by the last name they go by. If you’re unsure of their education status, always refer to them as “Professor” and their last name. Unless your professor has made it clear that they prefer to be called by their first name, always address them as “doctor” or “Professor”.
I find the best way to start your email is to say, “Hello” or “dear.” They are polite, respectful and ultimately the best way to commence any formal email. While you may have said, “Hey” or ‘yo” to your high school teachers, the relationship between your professors should be more professional and respectful. I also like to add in a friendly sentence before asking my question.
Dear Professor Gold,
I hope you had a great weekend.
Be concise and straight to the point
Professors are busy people so it’s important to be clear when writing out your message. In the past, professors have answered my questions by telling me to “check the syllabus.” In order to save a chain of emails be clear and explain the steps you’ve already taken. For example, stating that you’ve checked the syllabus and asked your peers is an important point to mention. If there are multiple sections for your course, list the one you’re in as well as the course code. Including your first and last name could also be beneficial for the type of email you’re writing. For example, if you’re addressing a mistake in an assignment or test mark introduce yourself at the beginning of the email stating both your first and last name.
Flattery never hurts
Whether it’s cheesy or not, everyone loves flattery. Professors are human too, so showing that you hope they’re well or are loving their course is optional, but great to add in your emails. Who knows, maybe they’ll give you that extension you’re asking for if you tell them how much you enjoyed that lecture!
Concluding the email
There are endless options for how you can sign off on your emails. I’ve listed few of my favourites below.
- Kind regards
- All the best
- Many thanks
- Thank you so much
- I look forward to hearing from you
- I appreciate your time and consideration
- Thank you
Always proof-read your email. This includes checking for grammar, flow and of course spelling. As I’ve mentioned before always double or triple check the spelling of your professor’s name. It’s an embarrassing mistake you don’t want to make. Also, make sure you’ve spelled the name of the course correctly, again another mistake you want to avoid. I usually have someone proof-read my emails as having a second pair of eyes can often catch onto mistakes you may have not noticed.
Use your manners!
If your professor gives a kindly written response always say a quick “thank you!”
“Thank you so much for your clarification! I look forward to Monday’s class.”
Example 1: Clarification
Subject Line: SOC 114 Question Regarding Final Essay
Dear Professor Gold,
I hope you’re having a great afternoon.
I just had a quick question regarding the Final Essay for SOC 114 section A. Is it okay if we go 500 words above the designated word count?
Thank you so much for you help. I look forward to Wednesday’s class.
Example 2: Exam Inquiry
Subject Line: SOC 114 Question Regarding Exam Results
Dear Professor Gold,
I hope all is well.
My name is Taryn Herlich and I’m in your SOC 114 section A class. I received my final exam mark but feel as though it doesn’t reflect on my academic abilities. I was wondering if we could set up a time to discuss these results and if there’s any way I could improve my overall grade such as extra credit work, or a test retake.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
I hope this can guide you on how to email your professors. Remember your professors are people too. The way you format your emails can go a long way. It is also an excellent skill to know how to send professional emails. It will definitely help you in the long run!
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More Thrive Global on Campus:
What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need
If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help
The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis