It is seemingly more convenient to send a text message as opposed to an email to your professor; gets rid of all that tedious wait and formality about the whole process, doesn't it? I can relate. Nowadays, due to the many new ways of instant messaging, emails are seen as the jaded method that shouldn't be but is necessary to have regardless. Like the suit, you place at the back of the closet to wear when you need to look formal.
It is a beautiful thing that you have come across this article, however, because we are going to change that perspective and show you how to write an email to your professor successfully.
It is vital to understand that there are two categories that emails fall under, to know the best approach to take while sending an email to your professor.
You send this form of an email to someone who is in authority, for example, your Professor. The email is usually professional and to the point without much personal information shared.
This form of email is usually between people who know one another reasonably well. The email has an abundant amount of enthusiasm and detailed interest and information about what is happening in one another's lives, for example, an email to your friend.
With these two in mind, I am sure you can tell that an email to your professor definitely falls under the formal category. Let us get cracking on how to do it, shall we?
Firstly, you need to make sure you have your Professor's email address. The school-issued email address is preferable unless the school has provided you with another. Here are a few places to look when you cannot find it:
Ensure that the email address you have is the correct one before you progress. Avoid the Cc (Carbon Copy) and Bcc (Blind Carbon Copy) section unless very necessary.
A Cc'd email is inserted when you have more than one recipient you would like to view the email without necessarily 'blinding' each one's email address. Perhaps, you are to send an apology email to your professor following the dean of students' instructions. In this case, you Cc the dean of students (sometimes as proof of action).
A Bcc'd email is inserted when you want to blind the primary recipient's email address. This comes in handy and is polite when you want to share the message with many recipients without having to display the main recipient's email to avoid issues like spam emails and the like on their end.
Secondly, it is also preferable that you use your school-issued email address.
You want your subject line to give a gist of what your email is about without being too wordy. Treat your subject line like a movie trailer. Here is how:
Aim for five to eight words that are straight to the point.
You do this to place into consideration that the Professor maybe using His phone to view your email; moreover, you wouldn't want the compelling details of the subject line to be cut out.
These may include salutations that can more preferably fit in the body of the email.
These keywords help when the recipient is searching for your email using a specific keyword, especially when he has thousands of emails to run through. If you are handing in a project, the title of the project will serve as a friendly keyword before the word 'project.'
Indicating that you need a response, helps to grasp the attention of the recipient, and see the urgency of the email. You can begin your tagline with 'please read…', 'please reply…'
Using the name of that who has referred you, is another way to grasp the attention of the reader right away.
Using all CAPS may get your Professor's attention but not in the right way. It is wise to avoid that which is considered the digital equivalent of yelling. It is also best to avoid characters like the exclamation mark for the same reason. I KNOW YOU GET THE POINT!
You don't want to begin your email with errors right off the bat. Make sure it meets the listed above needs and is alluring at first glance.
For the reason that the email you are working on is formal, here is where you establish you are aware of this since, of course, you view your relationship with your Professor as a professional one.
Here are a few pointers on how you can respectfully address your Professor at the beginning of your email:
Even though on the face of it, 'dear' looks overused, this term is a good one to place before the name of the person you are to address.
An honorific is a title used to communicate respect for a person's position, for example, 'Dr. for when they have a Ph.D. It is a plus not to leave out the honorific because it shows respect and saves you the trouble of finding out your Professor's marital status so that you can address them as such.
The name is a very crucial bit, so you want to get it right the first time. It will be very impolite to have the name wrong or misspelled. If you are not sure of your Professor's name, please don't hesitate to look the information up. It is most likely in the same place you got the email address: The class syllabus, provided documents like notes, the school's website, and so on.
When writing the name, the last name is preferable right after the honorific title, for instance, if your Professor's name is John McGregor, then it shall read, 'Professor McGregor.'
It doesn't hurt to begin with a formal pleasantry in your email. Your Professor is, after all, a human being and not a robot, right? Here are two examples you can use to acknowledge that your Professor has a life outside the class:
The body carries the weight of the whole email so, include here what you were not able to insert in the subject line. You can use the following steps to learn how to buff up the body of your email without turning it informal:
This bit is significant, especially if you are sending your Professor an email for the first time. After indicating your name, add something distinctive about yourself that may jog their memory, for instance, your sitting position or a question you may have asked in class. Some professors are not at all good with names, so please feel free to throw them a bone or two here. If you have not met, be sure to mention your desired relationship to them. Perhaps you want to enroll in their class at a specific time.
Make this good as it is the whole reason for the email. Briefly explain what it is you require from the Professor without making excuses or going into too much detail. If it is impossible to state your reason in a few sentences, then consider making an appointment to meet with the Professor in person. In the request to meet, include the subject of discussion. For example: "I was hoping we could meet to talk about (insert subject). When and what time will be best for you?" if your Professor is unable to meet and is okay to discuss the matter over email and lets you know, the floor is open to writing as much.
Ensure that the matter you need your Professor to address is at the last resort, in that, for example, you need a question addressed, and you could not find an answer to the subject anywhere on the school website or the syllabus, perhaps even the internet.
When requesting for a meetup, it is advisable to show initiative. For instance: "It is indicated in the syllabus that your office hours are Thursday at 2:00 p.m. May I come this Thursday at 2:30 p.m.?"
Especially when you want to show urgency, never forget your manners at the niceties. If you have asked a question you need an answer to as soon as possible, include something like: "If you can get back to me at your earliest convenience, I will very much appreciate it." Doing this will help them set a reminder without feeling barricaded with pressure.
Remember, it is just one of them and plenty of you guys, so as you apply politeness, be patient and considerate as well. (We shall revisit this in the follow-up section below).
Imagine receiving several attachments all on different subject matters, but with inadequate labeling, so you have to download each one, open each one and relabel to avoid confusion. That would be a lot of unnecessary work for the Professor, right? It may get to the point of your paper getting lost in the lot, and you have to go through the process of sending it again. All these can be avoided by labeling your attachments properly.
Here is where you give gratitude for your Professor's time. A thank you goes a long way when you are not sure how to end. You can also use, sincerely. These come right before you finish with your name.
Before hitting send, proofread the email to your professor and edit in case of any spelling and grammatical errors. After making sure all is well with your email. Send it then confirm that the email has moved from outbox to sent items.
If your Professor has taken long to respond to your email gauging with previous responses and how dire the situation is, then it calls for a follow-up email. Do not rub it in his face to not have responded yet, be gentle in your approach, indicating that it is a follow-up and wait for a response.
Below is a template you can use to guide you through writing an email to your professor:
Dear Professor (indicate the last name),
In this line, you apply the niceties (do not overdo it).
My name is (insert your name) I am in your (enter class name) class, that meets on (add when, where, and the time). We discussed this in the last session that arose the following question (state question). I am requesting for a meet up to discuss this. Kindly advise further.
Absolutely! Learning the skill of writing up a professional email is something that can go beyond helping you just in school but also in the outside world and with desirable results. It may seem inconsiderate for a professor to get annoyed over poorly written student emails but consider that there are more of you than they are. With this essential, you will be able to construct a well thought out email to your professor and attract the kind of response you want.
We have a sufficient number of professional email samples at custom writing bee for better understanding.
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