Sending an email to your professor has never been easy, even if you are the best student in the class. Unfortunately, it’s not something you can escape. You probably need to email your professor more often than you would like, so why not learn how to do it right?
Emailing your professor is not as easy as drafting an email to your friend or colleague. However, it does not have to be so complicated and intimidating as most students assume it is. Finding the right words and a balance between too formal and informal is the deal-breaker in writing these emails. Once you have mastered the art, there is no going back. You will even be writing emails for other students.
In this article, we will take a look at how to email your professor in an effective manner. After reading this article, you will have no excuse to email your professor right away. Everything you need to learn how to write efficiently and effectively is right here. Take a look!
Table of Contents
Planning and purpose
Why do you need to send an email to your professor? There could be many reasons, including asking a question, getting a reference on a topic that has been giving your sleepless nights, inquiring about missing marks, or explaining missing a class, among other reasons. The purpose of the email is the first step to coming up with an effective email.
Before writing the email, keep these few guidelines in mind;
Is email the most effective way of communicating?
If you can have your issue addressed at the end of the lecture, it’s much better than writing an email. There is no need to go through the headache of drafting an email in such a case. There is also the option of going to the professor’s office, but ensure you know the protocol before walking into the office.
Check the syllabus and provided resources before asking the question.
The professor has a lot on their plate, so it’s best to check the material provided for answers. The syllabus or internet can also be a good place to look before you send that email. If it’s something you don’t understand, try asking your classmates. The professor can get the impression that you are a lazy and unresourceful student if you make them repeat something they have provided in the syllabus. Ensure you really need to send that email!
Use your school email.
Most institutions provide a school email for both students and staff for easier communication. Ensure you use your school email to write to your professor, so it catches their attention. The school email address is also professional, and it shows the recipient that you are from the institution.
If you don’t have a school email, you can still use your personal email. However, you need to ensure that it is as professional as to can be. Avoid embarrassing email addresses such as email@example.com. These addresses seem cool or funny when you are a teenager, but they can cost you dearly. Ensure your mail is professional, for instance, firstname.lastname@example.org.
After you have done all the preparation, it’s time to write the email. Emailing your professor should be as professional as writing any other formal email. The basic structure for all formal emails is; subject line, introduction/salutation, content/body, and the email conclusion. Let’s take a deeper look at each component.
The subject line dictates whether the professor opens your email or not. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure you write a strong subject line that is straight to the point. It’s unforgivable to leave a blank subject line when you are writing a formal letter.
The subject line should clue the purpose of the email to help the professor know how to act on it. It shouldn’t be too long or vague. For instance, you can write;
- Question about an assignment
- Final economics project
- Inquiry about missing marks
It’s tempting to jump right into writing the email, but courtesy is critical even when addressing your professor. Start with an appropriate salutation for your professor. Ensure it’s respectful and acknowledging. If your prof holds a doctorate, acknowledge their title. For instance,
- Dear Professor John
- Dear Dr. Bird
Ensure you are using the professor’s last name at all times. You can also be a bit informal (if you are familiar, and it is OK with your professor) for instance;
- Hello Dr. Patrick
However, in this case, you need to ensure you have interacted with the professor before. Otherwise, stick to formality.
The body is the most important part of the message. The subject line and introduction create an impression, but the body determines whether the email is effective. So, what should you include in the body?
Introduce yourself to the professor. Remember, the professor has a lot of students and classes, and even if you have interacted before, they may not remember who you are exactly. State your name as well as the course title and even the class period. For instance;
- I am Mary Richard from your class of Economics and Finance the third year LT101 at 2 pm.
Such an introduction tells the professor who they are dealing with to address your issue better and faster.
Get straight to the point. Once you have introduced yourself, shoot your question or concern. Professors are very busy people, so you don’t want to waste their time. For instance, you can write;
- I missed the test because I was involved in a road accident on the afternoon of the test.
Let the professor know what you want in a straightforward manner. Ensure you make your requests very politely and with courtesy. You don’t want to sound entitled or rude. Remember, the professor does not need to grant your request.
For instance, don’t write;
- I had an accident. Give me a retake of the paper.
Avoid any unnecessary details, slang, and incomplete sentences. The email should maintain a professional tone at all times. Avoid using emojis and unnecessary exclamations.
The content or body should be very clear and concise. Get to the point and let the professor know why you are writing to them. The email should be short, a paragraph, or two max. If anything needs farther clarification, it’s better to request a meeting.
The closing remarks should remain as formal as the rest of the email. Ensure you end with an appropriate salutation such as “sincerely” or “best wishes.” you should also include;
- Your name
- Registration or student number
Your professor needs to know who they are dealing with. Show some gratitude for the time spent reading your email with a simple thank you. Don’t exaggerate. For instance, you can write;
“Thank you for your time” or “Best wishes”, and then sign off with your name and the class.
Do’s and Don’ts For Writing an Email to a professor
- Proofread your email before sending
- Put yourself in the professors shoes
- Follow up after a week
- Acknowledge a reply
- Use unprofessional text
- Use informal tone
- Send your email from a personal account
- Write long emails
- Pester your professor
What should you do or not do when emailing your professor?
Proofread your email before sending
Grammatical errors and wrong punctuation are such a turn-off. Pay attention to the spelling and grammar of the email. Ensure it makes sense and easy to read. Avoid difficult words as they will not make you look smarter. Ensure the email maintains a formal tome throughout.
Words should be capitalized where necessary. Don’t fall into the temptation of writing text style where you capitalize words you want. All proper nouns, including the professor’s name and title, should be capitalized. Run your email through a grammar checker or have a friend read it to look for grammar mistakes.
Put yourself in the professor’s shoes
How does the email sound if you are the recipient? Has the email complied with the formal email format? Does it sound professional, polite, and respectful? Can you tell who the sender is and what they need? If you can answer a genuine yes to all the questions, it’s time to hit the send button.
Follow up after a week.
Remember, your professor is very busy. They were probably overwhelmed with work that they forgot to respond to your email. Give them some time to respond before sending a reminder. Don’t be afraid to do a follow up but remain polite in your reminder.
Acknowledge a reply
You are not entitled to a reply, so once you receive a reply from your professor, ensure you acknowledge it. A simple thank you will go a long way in showing your gratitude. If you find the need to write a longer one, stick to the guidelines of professionalism. For instance, you can write;
Thank you for your quick response. See you in class.
If your inquiry or concern has not been properly addressed, request for a follow-up meeting. For instance
- I appreciate your response on the issue. I would like further explanation on the same issue. Would you mind if I had a sit-down?
Use unprofessional font
Keep to a professional font. Avoid playing around with fonts and colors. Fonts like times new roman, Arial, and Helvetica in font size 12 are ideal for a professional email. Also avoid underlining and use of italics and bolded letters.Use informal tone
As mentioned, maintain a professional tone throughout the email, even if you have interacted with the professor. Avoid abbreviations like “2morrow” emoticons and slang. Address your professor with their last name always.
Send your email from a personal account.
Always use your university or academic account to address the professor unless otherwise. Avoid funny email addresses that will otherwise be sent to the spam folder
Write long emails.
Again, no one wants to read a novel or epic, especially your professor! Keep it short; keep it concise!
Pester your professor.
As much as you need your issue addressed immediately, don’t keep sending your professor the same email every time, do a follow up after a week and not sooner.
With the above guidelines, you have no excuse for trembling because of a simple email to the professor. It’s very simple; ensure you write in the right structure, maintain a professional tone, and a good conclusion. Follow up after a week to check in on the progress. Take a look at some samples of emails that you can customize to your needs to avoid drafting the email to your professor from scratch.
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