As we enter back-to-school days, here are 5 simple steps to get off to the right start when emailing professors. These tips may seem overly formal, but remember, this is how the first email should look. Subsequent emails can relax as you follow the lead of the instructor.

  1. Format similar to snail mail. Yep. This isn’t a text message. For example, address the person formally and use salutations. “Good afternoon Ms. Locke.” This may be the only time you ever address the instructor this way, but it demonstrates that you understand how to communicate in a professional environment.
  2. Be succinct. Since you have regular face-to-face communication with your professor, email should be reserved for simple requests or notifications. Save the rest for in-person. Educators love to talk about their fields of expertise. If you have questions about classroom topics, you can ask them in an email, but request office hours to get the most out of their answer.
  3. Prepare to wait. It is customary to allow one business day for a response. If you desire a quicker response, simply request that and then wait. The emails that get the quickest responses from me are the ones that have one topic.
  4. Use spell and grammar check. You are emailing an educator. They care about these things. Don’t use texting jargon. Remember, this is electronic mail. Even though it gets delivered electronically, don’t confuse it with a text message.
  5. Sleep before send. It is natural for conflicts to arise. Professional communication should largely be devoid of emotion. If you notice you are angry while composing the email, do not send. Sleep on it. In fact, if something arises that makes you angry, schedule a meeting. Dialogue is best for conflict resolution.

Now go to bed. Don’t you have class tomorrow?



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