Sometimes we neglect to explain how to do something, assuming that it should be common knowledge, and then live with constant frustration when others fail to know what we think they should. How to write to one’s professor in an appropriate manner is one such area. Perhaps we should just explain the rules, even if it means putting something like this on our syllabuses?
Emailing is a genre with its own rules—very different from the rules of texting—that you need to learn, both for college and for the professional business world beyond college. In every professional email please include the following:
• A subject line that includes which class you are enrolled in and something informative that points toward the subject of the email (e.g., “Religion & Society: Question about the first exam,” or “Religions of the East: Password for the online readings”)
• A professional salutation that includes my title (e.g., “Dear Dr. Martin” or “Hello Professor Martin”)
• A message that is well written (i.e., correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation) and polite
• A closing salutation (e.g., “Sincerely,” “Best wishes,” or “Thank you”)
• A signature (i.e., your name)
The more familiar you are with a professor, the less formal he or she may be in email exchanges. However, always let the level of formality be set by your professors; don’t be any less formal than they are.
This tutorial comes to you courtesy of Craig Martin, who shared it on Facebook, and who in turn was adapting what others had put together before him. There are other similar tutorials online, as well as illustrations of how not to e-mail your professor.