Nowadays, email has become inevitable part of every business or college setting. While back in time you could communicate with your professor face to face only, today you can compose an email and address your concerns or submit assignments (in case your professor allows submitting assignments via email). Naturally, to avoid awkward situations or misunderstandings and other unwanted problems, you have to follow email etiquette. To make it easier for you to email your professors or other college personnel appropriately, this article contains email etiquette tips that all students should follow.
When to email your professor or other college personnel
You have a problem that has to be addressed as soon as possible, but receiver isn’t in his/her office
You have a valid excuse for not going to their office personally e.g. you are sick, not in town etc.
You have easy question that can be answered in one paragraph or less
You have assignment that can be submitted via email.
When to avoid sending email to professor or other college personnel
The problem you have is to complex to be dealt with in email
Turning in assignments to professors who specifically made it clear they don’t want to receive projects via email
Asking for extension for particular assignment (it should be done face to face)
Topic of your email requires continuous conversation (do it face to face)
Professional email address
To send email to your professor, you should use your college email address (if you have one) or make sure the address is appropriate and professional in case you use some other emailing system. This will also save you from feeling uncomfortable because you emailed your professor using address like email@example.com.
TIP: if your college (or other email) address contains your initials only, before you get to the point of your email, identify yourself. Also, if you’re a part of large class, to make sure professor knows who sends the email you can include the class name and division. For example, “this is John Smith from English literature class 8.30 – 9.20, Divison 0008”.
Subject line – there for a reason
Sending email without filling out the subject line is very unprofessional. Therefore, when composing an email, you should always ensure there’s a subject line describing what the email is about. Another reason why you have to enter subject is because otherwise it might end up in receiver’s spam folder if it’s recognized as randomly generated content.
Address professor directly
Instead of just launching straight into the request address your professor directly. For example, “Good afternoon Dr. Jones” or “Dear, Dr. Smith” are good ways to start your message to the professor. This sets professional tone and indicates you’re showing respect.
Regardless of the reason why you’re sending email to your professor, you should stay calm and be polite at all times. Therefore, don’t accuse, avoid making demands, and always remember to write please and thank you. When composing email, use professional writing style. Instead of I wanna know… use I would like to know whether…
Always bear in mind that there are hundreds of students in your college and chances are likely they send emails to that professor as well. They don’t have time to read long emails that look like novels. Although you sometimes feel like you have a lot to say about certain subject, you should strive to make it specific and short.
Let’s say you’re emailing your professor regarding the current assignment. Instead of saying If I complete the writing assignment you should opt for When I…
Avoid using negative words or words that could be misunderstood in a negative manner i.e. you don’t want your professor to think you’re not capable to finish the assignment or to think you’re blaming him or her for something.
TIP: avoid using smiley faces, emoticons, or winks.
Yes, he or she will open attachment and see what you send, but it is more professional to identify what you attached. You should include filename, format, and the version of the program e.g. Attached: “Mrs. Dalloway Essay.doc” This file is in Microsoft Word 2007.
TIP: consider sending file in rich text format such as PDF to ensure compatibility.
Ideally, all complaints and problems should be addressed face to face. But, if you can’t wait for your professor to be in the office and want to deal with it as soon as possible, then you should be extra careful when composing an email. First and most important rule is not to write email when you’re angry, take a few moments to calm down and start writing then. Here are some tips that will help you compose complaint email:
End it properly
Don’t enter your request or submit assignment and just hit Send. To ensure professional demeanor from top to bottom of your email, you have to end it properly. Use Thank you for your time, Respectfully, Kind regards, Sincerely and always add your full name under.
TIP: You can always find Signature options in your email’s setting section, enter preferred text and it will automatically add it to each email you send.
Jane B. Goldsmith
Prior to sending your email, be sure you read it from top to bottom one more time to proofread and edit grammar errors and typos. Your email shouldn’t look like you were about to forward funny cat videos to your friends. Make sure it contains full sentences, real spelling (no abbreviations), and proper grammar. Then, you can press Send button.
To ensure professional relationship with professors and college personnel it is extremely important to pay attention to email etiquette. Tips from this article will help you compose specific, professional, and polite emails fit for college setting.