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How to Write an Email to Your College Professor

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Nowadays, when social media have become an integral part of society, the majority of students consider emails similar to texting and other kinds of digital communication, in which the fundamental conventions are conciseness and informality. However, college teachers tend to think of emails as of some letters. Therefore, they expect to get more formal and accurate emails.

We have talked to a number of professors, who gave in-depth feedback that will help students with emailing to their professors. They have read the worst of students’ emails, as well as the best of them. So what are the key points? Here are some tips on how to write an email to a professor.

Have a Solid Comprehension of the English Language

It is vital to be self-aware while writing an email. A person who has a clear understanding of the language is able to compose a grammatically correct letter where everything is spelled correctly, the words are chosen perfectly, and the tone is corresponding. If you struggle with grammar or tend to overlook mistakes in your writing, it would be better to ask somebody to proofread the completed email.

Many professors complain about getting emails written entirely in lowercase and without any punctuation. Such texts are difficult to understand. Furthermore, the professor will hardly take seriously the student, who has sent a message full of errors.

Note that having a solid comprehension of language means more than the correctness of word choice. It is also essential to be clear in the content if you want to get a positive response.

Check the Syllabus before Emailing a Professor

Many professors note that in most cases, students already have the needed information. Some of them stress that their main headache is related to the situations when students ask elementary questions about exams just hours before the exam is set to start. So before sending that email, it is always best to read carefully over the syllabus.

Use a Clear Subject Line

When you write an email to professor, make sure to provide it with a short and understandable subject line. For example, the subject “Analytical Essay Topics” would definitely work better than “heeeeeelp!”

Carefully Think About the Salutation

As far as the salutation is just several words, students tend to overlook it. However, some kind of greeting will make your email more polite and professional.

Some professors note that they often receive emails that are too casual, beginning with “Hey,” or “Hi,” or even “Dude.” Students should definitely avoid such addressing. The way you address your professor depends on how well you know him/her, but when you just start the conversation, make sure to keep the formal tone. It is recommended to use a simple “Dear” or “Hello” instead.

Address the Professor Properly

Your email requires not only a salutation but also recognition of the professional status of a professor. You should consider the title; if he or she has a doctorate, he/she might not appreciate a “Professor,” as well as a “Mr.” or “Mrs.” It is often confusing, but it is always worth it. When you get it right, the professor will notice your time and effort in addressing them appropriately.

Provide the Necessary Background Information

When you wonder how to email your professor, keep in mind that they get plenty of emails every day from different students. Therefore, it is crucial to identify yourself. Otherwise, your professor might have trouble placing you.

Moreover, make sure to provide enough background information in terms of the actual topic. Do not focus on a very specific topic right away without providing any context. The content of the email may be clear for you, but your professor likely has dozens of students, so he or she needs more information to understand your request better. It is always better to fully explain the situation than to assume the professor will remember every detail immediately.

Do not Ask Stupid Questions

This piece of advice has no direct relation with email etiquette, but it is included as it was mentioned by a lot of professors. Often, professors note one particular question that they are commonly asked and that drives them crazy. Students, who miss classes, ask, “Did I miss anything in class on Wednesday?” This is totally impolitely as the professor will think that you consider their class insignificant. Many professors say that they always want to answer, “No, we did absolutely nothing, as usual.”

Acknowledge Your Gratitude

There is one more useful tip about how to email a professor. Before you sign off, ensure to include a valediction. It would be enough to write even a quick statement like “Thank you for your help!” Doing so is a good way to recognize the professor’s efforts in replying to your email.

Carefully Think about Your Signoff

Your signoff should communicate something about you. Additionally, it provides you with an opportunity to further set the tone of the email, whether it will be more formal or more casual. A signoff is also used to distinguish yourself among other students. Make sure to indicate your full name at the end of the email.

We hope that these pieces of advice provide you with a better understanding of what most professors expect from academic emails. Also, remember that writing effectively is not just simply following the rules. Consider it as an act of human communication; shape your words in light of whom you are writing to and why.

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