Are you struggling to compose an email to your professor? Email etiquette can be tricky. From the tone of your email, to its length, to the way you address a person you are reaching out to, composing an appropriate email is not always intuitive. When interacting in person, much of the communication is non-verbal. Things like emotion, delivery, intonation, body language, and face expression all contribute to how your message is delivered and received. However, you have none of these attributes at your disposal when communicating via email. That’s why we have put together a quick guide to emailing your professor.
Step 1: Use an informative subject line
Subject lines and the name of the contact are the first thing your professor will see when receiving your email. Make it count. Keep your subject line short and make sure it contains information on the goal of your email. Here are a few examples:
- Question about the last class
- Appointment Request for Next Week
- Paper Submission – Research 101 Class
Step 2: Use the proper salutation
When emailing a professor, make sure to greet her/him in the appropriate manner. While many professors have no problem being addressed by their first name, do not assume that is the case. You can’t go wrong with ‘Dr.’ + Last Name or ‘Professor’ + Last Name.
Step 3: Get to the point
Professors receive dozens of emails every day – from students, colleagues, research assistants, etc. Be respectful of their time and keep your email to a professor concise. For example:
- I haven’t fully understood the concept of ‘Machine Learning’ that you covered in class. Will you be available next week for a 30-minute appointment?
- My research paper requires to interview relevant industry practitioners, but I’m struggling to identify them. Could you please recommend a few people who would be fitting to interview?
- I am interested in joining your research project. Please find attached my CV and cover letter.
Step 4: Use bullet points for longer emails
If you have multiple points to address in an email to your professor, break them down with bullet points. Avoid long paragraphs and add structure to the email. It will make it easier for your professor to digest and to address each question individually.
Step 5: Be clear about what you expect from emailing the professor
You are emailing a professor with a specific goal. Make it clear to him/her what you are asking them to do. Give a plan of action. For example:
- Could you let me know your availability next Thursday?
- Will you be able to provide me an extension?
- Could you please confirm that you have received my paper?
Step 6: Use a proper closing
Words like ‘Cheers’ are not the best option, unless you are on a first-name basis with the person. When emailing a professor, it’s best to close off your email with one of the following:
- Thank you,
- All the best,
- Kind regards,
Step 7: Do not use emojis
Emojis have become so popular in communication that we often don’t even notice when we use them. And, while there are some benefits of using emojis (they help you communicate the tone/intention of your message), when emailing a professor they come off as simply unprofessional. So don’t do it.
And here you go! You are all set to draft your email to a professor.