Alex Newby, Marketing Intern
Do you have a problem in class? Are you going to miss an assignment or exam? Whether it's happened already or not, there comes a time in every college student’s life when they have to email a professor. Rather than avoiding the inevitable, read these guidelines on how to compose a professional and productive email to your instructor.
- Know your professor’s name: Don’t assume anything in college. Check the syllabus for what he/she wants to be called. Some teachers might get offended or annoyed if they’ve worked really hard for a doctorate, and you’re still calling them Mr. or Mrs. Also, don’t assume based on a name that the professor is male or female. If you haven’t met them, ask around or find them online.
- Have a subject line: With all the emails that instructors get, you need to include a subject line so they know your email isn’t spam. In the subject line, include your class number or something that actually helps identify what the email is talking about. Don’t just hit reply to an old email or write “Question.”
- Send the email from a school account: Using your school account helps the professor know that your email is from a student and not spam. If you don’t have a student account, use another professional-sounding account. For example: John.Smith@gmail.com. The point is to avoid emailing your instructor from an email account you created when you were 12. They’re not going to know who SoccerGurl09@yahoo.com is.
- Don’t treat your professor like your best friend: Emailing your professor using Internet lingo, texting phrases or made-up nicknames is not professional and looks bad on your end. For example, if your teacher’s name is Megan, DON’T decide on a whim that you’ll address her as Meg or “Hey girl!” If you have to email a professor, don’t use shortened words like u, r, y, or ttyl. Use black font and don’t add any distracting backgrounds. This is an email, NOT your AIM profile.
- Don’t write a novel: Professors often juggle multiple classes as well as other professional projects. Keep your emails concise and to the point in order to respect your instructors’ time. If you’re upset over something, opt to schedule a meeting or go into their office during scheduled Office Hours. Ranting for four paragraphs about the grade you received on the latest quiz will probably only annoy your professor and may not help your case.
- Be aware of your tone: Voice your frustrations or questions in a calm, mature way. Yelling at your professor through an email isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you feel that strongly, wait and voice your opinion on the end of the year evaluation. Additionally, if the tone of your email is too casual your professor may not take you seriously.
- Identify who you are: Signing an email with just your first name won’t cut it when you’re one of 200 students the teacher might have. When writing your email, make sure you identify who you are, what class you’re taking, and what section you’re in. If you’re referencing a certain class, give as many details as possible and use specific dates.
- Sign Your Email: This might seem like a no brainer but sending an email without signing it at the end is like hanging up on someone without saying goodbye; it’s just weird. Along with your name, it’s polite to also thank them for their response, their time, or their help in whatever you are asking.
- Emails are forever: Remember that anything written in an email is permanent. Once sent, an email can’t be changed. What’s this mean? You have one shot! Re-read the email before sending, check spelling and punctuation, and rethink what you’re trying to say.