I am beginning a new semester in college and I often communicate with professors via email. Please explain the basics of email etiquette and how to format a proper email.
Dear Reader, The number of emails you send in your college career may seem endless. The way in which you communicate and present yourself when writing to your professors is extremely important. You should view how you communicate as a professional exchange.
It is in your best interest to be respectful and polite when communicating with professors. The words you use are a reflection of you and your attitude. As with any professional interaction, you want to convey a level of seriousness and professionalism. You do not want bad practices to follow you into your career, where daily and effective email communication is vital to good job performance.
Begin your email by addressing your professor by title and name. Never address your professor by his or her first name, unless they explicitly give you permission to do so. If your professor has a Ph.D, you should address them as “Professor (Last Name)” or “Dr. (Last Name).” If they do not have a Ph.D., or if you are not sure, address them simply as “Professor (Last Name).” Begin your email with a greeting addressing the professor such as “Dear Professor Jones.”
The main thing to remember is that your professors are busy and need you to get to the point. Make sure your message is clear and concise. A significant portion of email etiquette revolves around being considerate of the recipient’s time. Make sure that your email clearly identifies who you are. Including your first and last name, class, class time and day, and section number will help a professor to place you correctly.
Use correct spelling and proper grammar. Avoid using all capital letters. it insinuates shouting and yelling. Do not use slang words or emoticons (smiley faces, etc.) Remember you are trying to be professional. You aren’t texting a buddy.
Do not leave the subject line blank. The subject line is a deciding factor in whether someone will read on or not. Professors get a great deal of email, and they have to prioritize which emails to read and respond to first. Write a few words indicating the purpose of your message, for example: “Request for a space in your class.”
Email from your student email address if you have one. Leave the silly email address you used in high school behind to avoid ending up in a spam folder.
Explain why you are writing. Do you need to make an appointment to see the professor outside of his office hours? Do you have a conflicted exam schedule?
Whatever it is, make it straightforward. Use good grammar, punctuation and spelling. Double-check for embarrassing errors. Show that you care about how you present yourself in writing to your professor. Proofread. Use the spelling checker.
Please, before you press that “send” button, make sure you are being clear in your communication and courteous in your manner.
Respectfully Yours, Jacquelyn
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of Jacquelyn Youst Etiquette Consulting, specializing in protocol training. She works with the National Civility Foundation. All Rights Reserved © 2018 Jacquelyn Youst