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Tips on Emailing
Your Professors
and other Professionals

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Updated: 03/06/2016

The student-professor relationship is a professional one, so email communication should be professional as well. Professional email clearly indicates who the email is from, has a meaningful subject line, has an appropriate greeting line, contains a clear and cordial message, and is appropriately signed. Because the student-professor relationship is by its nature not a peer relationship, maintaining professional communication is even more important. Finally, getting in the habit of writing effective emails will help you in your future academic and professional careers.

Sometimes I receive an email with the only identifying "from" being a creative interest-inspired email address (who is this from?), an unclear subject line (what is this about?), no greeting line (are you writing to me? can you not even show another human being respect by using their name?), a confusing message with misspelled words, bad grammar and no punctuation, and finally, not even signed.

I will send back, unanswered, student emails that do not have, at least, an appropriate greeting line and a signature line.


Some Email Tips:

Is the answer to your question already in the syllabus (or can it be obtained elsewhere, or from your fellow students?). Often, the answer is in the syllabus, or easily found. You will not look very good if you ask a question that is already answered.

Write from your college/university account (or at least set your "from" to your real name). This shows that your email is probably not spam, and lets your instructor know who is emailing. An email from "radsurfer23@gmail.... does not clearly identify you.

Include a meaningful subject line. If your professor does not specify a convention, include your course number/time if mailing about a class. A professor often teaches two or more courses and/or two or more sections of the same course (this could mean hundreds of students). A meaningful subject line helps the instructor sort through emails, and allows him/her to know the topic of your email before he/she opens it. e.g.: [Engr152]: Question about Prob. 2/56.

Always use an appropriate greeting:

  • Appropriate: "Dear Professor ____ "; "Hi, Mr. ____ ","Hello, Ms. _____"
  • NOT Appropriate: "Hey ____" (very unprofessional)
  • NOT Appropriate: NO greeting (who are you writing to? Show some respect).
  • NOT Appropriate: A first and last name, e.g. "John Smith: ...." This is what spammers do.
  • Do not use the instructor's first name unless specifically invited to. Even if the professor signs his/her email with his/her first name, it is best to use his/her last name.
  • Avoid using "Dr." unless you are sure the instructor has doctoral degree (while there are official academic ranks "Assistant Professor", " Associate Professor" and full "Professor", the generic title "Professor" is generally safe).

Your email should:

  • be clear, concise and polite.
  • use correct capitalization, punctuation and grammar.
  • have been spell-checked and proof-read.
  • suggest a solution if you are emailing with a problem.
  • only include necessary attachments relevant to the email.
  • ask for information you can get readily get elsewhere.
  • use email/text abbreviations and jargon (no LOL, etc.). You are not texting your friend.
  • use emoticons (smiley faces).
  • use exclamation points or ALL CAPITALS.
  • say anything you would not say in person.
  • include unexpected and unnecessary attachments.
  • ask if you "will miss anything" or if you "missed anything in class". Do not ask what was covered in class...your study group/fellow students have that information.
  • make unreasonable demands on your instructor's time.
  • use the term ASAP (abbreviated or spelled out). Be polite, not demanding.

Sign your full name and course number, etc., e.g.: Joe Student, Engr. 152

When receiving a reply, simply hit "Reply" and type "Thank you", or more if appropriate. This lets the professor know you received and understood the response. Avoid unnecessary subsequent back-and-forth email.

Please refer to:


Dominic J. Dal Bello
Professor, Engineering | Current Schedule

© 2016, Dominic J. Dal Bello