Emailing Your Professor
It is easy to forget that email is a genre of writing that requires some practice. Emailing a professor can feel intimidating but having knowledge on effective email communication can make it easier and can ensure that you get the information or response you’re seeking.
Subject lines are very important to email etiquette. This line of text provides information about why you’re writing. The Subject line should be simple but specific enough to reflect the information you present in the body of the email. For example, if you are emailing to request an appointment to meet with your professor, make the subject line something like “Appointment Request.”
Open the email by stating “Hello Professor X” or “Dear Professor X”. This is a polite greeting that sets the stage for your communication. Be sure to use the title and name that your professor prefers. When in doubt, the title of Professor and the person’s last name are usually good to use.
Body/Content of Email
Depending on how well you know the professor, whether you have emailed them previously, and the class size, you may want to start the email by introducing yourself briefly. Mention your name, the class name, and when the class meets. If your professor teaches multiple courses, this information will help them know who they’re communicating with and how they may help. Then, consider the goal of your email to draft the rest of your email content. It is important to be clear about what you are looking for. Are you asking a question, asking for an extension, or asking for a meeting? Be specific. If you are requesting a meeting outside of your professor’s regular office hours, suggest days and times when you are available to meet. If you’re asking multiple questions, be as specific as possible and use bulleted or numbered lists. If you’re asking for an extension, due dates, or other kinds of common information, be sure to check your syllabus first. If the information you’re looking for is not in the syllabus, you may mention that you looked for it and couldn’t find it.
Finish your email with a polite closing, like “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” or “Best wishes” followed by your name.
Good afternoon Professor X,
I hope you’re doing well. My name is Marissa Burke, and I am in your 10 am PSYCH101 class that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am writing to inquire about the research positions you mentioned in class earlier today. Is there any way that we could talk about this further? Unfortunately, I can’t make it to your office hours this week. But I’m available to meet in person or on zoom on Wednesday (Feb 16) after 2:00pm, Thursday (Feb 17) after noon, and Friday (Feb 18) between 1 and 3:00pm.
This material was adapted by Marissa Burke from Purdue University Academic Advising webpages on “Emailing a Professor” and “Email Etiquette.”