Emailing Professors

How to Email Your College and University Professors

While I am still a graduate student, I teach both online and in the classroom. As a result, I get a lot of emails from students.

Sad to say: some students don’t know how to email politely or they think that they don’t have to worry about their email etiquette with me because I’m “still a student” or “not a real professor.”

Admittedly, some of these emails can be downright funny but some of them are downright rude. While I do not take it personally, I still wonder about such emails.

My overall tip: email professors or instructors, grad student or not, like you were emailing a boss that you hardly know or a potential employer. It is good practice.

So here is a list of things to think about when emailing your professors.

Click the “more” link below for actual tips.

Click the links in this sentence for humor. 🙂

1. Politeness and tone

Sometimes students email me with inquiries about their grade. However, the way that you inquire makes a big difference.

Demanding to know why your grade is lower than what you thought versus asking why a professor graded you the way they did, and maybe, just maybe, if they could take another look at the assignment/test are two different ways to ask the same question.

2. Full sentences, correct spelling, and grammar please

I wanted to ask you about our upcoming assignment. There are a few aspects that I do not understand and I was hoping that you could clarify them for me… *asks questions*

“Heyyy! I dont get the asignmt. wat iz it u wnt me 2 do?”

That second one is a real email.

3. Subject lines help

I get a LOT of emails daily. Having a subject like “assignment confusion” or “assignment 2” or “test concern” or “test 3” really helps me out a lot.

4. Be short and to the point

A good overall format for emailing professors, or any business email, is:

Salutation (Dear Professor X,)

Introduction (“My name is…”)

Statement of concern, problem, or question (“I was wondering…” “I am having difficulty…”)

Say thank you (“Thank you!” “Thank you for your time!” “Thank you for your help!” “Thank you for your understanding!”

Sign your name (First and Last name)

5. Proofread your email

This goes back to the grammar tip but read it over at least once. It helps.

6. Do not expect an instant response

While instant gratification is always nice, it doesn’t always happen. It almost always has nothing to do with you. Don’t take it personally.

Now, these tips are intended for undergraduates. Emailing as a grad student seems a bit more murky when it comes to how much formality to include or not include but I still follow these rules, especially for official business.

Happy Emailing!


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