E-mailing Faculty Members
Throughout your studies at university, there will be many situations when you will need to email your professor in order to ask a question, inform them of a missed class, request an appointment, etc.
This is not a difficult task but it may feel a bit challenging at first, as writing an email to a professor takes a bit more thought than sending an email to a relative or writing a message to a friend in WhatsApp. Any interaction you have with a professor or any member of staff (academic or administrative) should be done in a respectful manner, including emailing.
Depending on your situation, you should carefully decide whether it is best to send an email to your professor or you may benefit more from an in-person conversation with them.
Generally, it is appropriate to email your professors when:
- You ask for clarification on a policy regarding assignments or exams.
- You ask for additional resources, materials, etc.
- You request an appointment.
- You inform them of planned office hours visit.
Consider asking for an appointment or visiting office hours when:
- You want to see your exam paper and/or discuss your grade.
- You have in-depth questions about course content.
- You experience general difficulty understanding the course material and need additional help.
- You need special accommodations.
Here are some tips when it comes to writing emails to your professors:
- Check the syllabus before you start emailing (most frequently the questions which students ask can be answered by reading the syllabus and information posted on SuCourse.)
- Check if emailing is the right communication channel (it is not the only channel.) Don’t send email asking too many questions at once. It may be best to ask for an appointment or use office hours instead.
- Use your academic email account when contacting members of staff. Don’t use your personal email for academic correspondence. Members of staff receive many emails and may overlook personal emails.
- Write a clear and simple subject line which reflects the content of your email (e.g. questions about XXX class or meeting request.) Don’t send an email without a subject line or do not write a full sentence or only a greeting (e.g. hello) as your subject.
- Include a proper email greeting (e.g. Dear Prof. XXX). Don’t use informal greetings such as Hi or Hey.
- Make sure to double check the spelling of their name to avoid mistakes.
- Provide context (background information) and remind who you are by mentioning your class/section. Don’t expect the professor to remember all their student by name or to understand your question if you don’t provide any background information.
- Clearly and briefly state the purpose of your email (I am writing to ask a question related to…/ to ask for a deadline extension / to inform you that …. / to request an appointment, etc.)
- Make sure your email is concise (one paragraph or less.) Don’t send long emails. If your email requires several paragraphs, it may be best to discuss the topic in person.
- Make sure the tone of your email is formal. Don’t use emojis or informal abbreviations like asap
- Allow time for a response. You can share your expectations for the speed of reply if the matter is urgent but allow for at least 24 hours for an email response during the week. Don’t demand or expect an immediate reply or a reply during the weekend. Professors have busy work schedules and may not be checking their emails at all times.
- End an email politely (thank them for their help/time) and include a professional signature (Best regards, Name Surname). Don’t finish the email by writing “Goodbye”, “Bye”, or “See you in class” which are considered too informal and don’t forget to write your full name at the end.
- Proofread your email for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors before sending it. Remember, email is forever.
- Acknowledge any replies your receive. Don’t just read the reply of your professor without acknowledging it and sending a thank you email.