How to email your professor
April 19, 2021
Emailing professors is like walking on thin ice. It’s dangerous, you can easily slip and fall, but sometimes you have to do it to get to the place you want. We get it, and it’s stressful. You have to follow email etiquette; you have to be formal; in general, you have to use words you wouldn’t use otherwise. That whole process can get overwhelming, so to make it easier for you, we have compiled a list of some things you should keep in mind when emailing your professor.
According to etiquette, the most appropriate salutation to use when writing a formal email would be “Dear” or “Hello.” Using standard greetings is a general rule and applies to all professional emails. “Hey” and “Hi” are considered too informal by professionals.
Title and name
After you greet, you must mention the professor’s name and title. This may feel excessively formal to you, but it is a great way to demonstrate your respect for your professor, their position, and education. Skipping the title or using the wrong one could insult your professor. Most professors should be addressed as “Professor” or “Doctor” followed by their last name. Make sure you’re using the correct title, and you’re spelling their name right. It’s essential.
Offer some context
It’s not uncommon for professors to teach hundreds of students, so it might be difficult for them to remember your name personally. You could make it easier for them by telling them your name and which of their classes you’re in. This applies especially, if it is the first time you send them an email. They are not obligated to know your name so always make sure you mention it.
Keep it short
Professors are busy people that get hundreds of emails every day. Make sure your request is short and straightforward, so your email doesn’t require to be read multiple times. You can also decrease the number of emails needed to answer your question by shortly writing down the steps you have already taken to try answering your question. These include checking the syllabus (an essential before emailing any professor), asking a classmate, and consulting with the TA.
End the email with a sign-off and your name. A simple “Sincerely,” “Cheers,” or “Thanks” will do the job. If your university email address does not contain your full name, you might want to put your first and last name in your sign-off. That way, it will be easier for the professor to find you in the system.
A clear subject line
Your email to your professor needs to have a subject line. A good subject line helps your professor, and it also keeps your email out of the spam folder. The subject line must be simple and should reflect the content of your email. Something along the lines of “Request about [Class Name] paper” or “Meeting inquiry” is appropriate. Use a phrase to summarize your request.
Send it from your university email address
Using your university email address makes your email look more professional and ensures that it will make it through the university’s spam filter. By using your university email address, it is a way to show the professor that you are one of their students, so they can take your message more seriously.
Many people stress over writing professor email, but it’s not that huge of a deal in reality. Professors are people too and won’t judge you if you make a typo. Just make sure you respect their title and not waste their time. Other than that, you should be fine.