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How To Write An Email To a Professor

Many professors get annoyed because their students do not know how to write professional emails. They fail to follow email etiquette, an important factor that can make them get responses quicker than they expected. You may email your professor regarding missing marks, a failed class, or because you need more time to submit your assignment. If you need to write an email to a professor, first ask yourself if you really need to send the email. If you need to, then establish the main reason why so that you don’t give unnecessary information. In this article, we will give you tips on how to write an email to a professor. Read on.

Writing An Email To A Professor

Your professor isn’t your friend or a member of your family. Thus, you must create and maintain a professional relationship. That’s why you need to be careful about what goes into your email. Here are the factors you need to consider in how to write an email to your professor.

Salutation

You can use ” Dear” or “Hello” to address your professor. This part shows that you recognize your relationship to be professional. You can also use the word “Hi”, but with caution, since it may annoy some professors. It’s important to note their correct titles and names i.e Dr or Professor. No one enjoys being called by the wrong name or title.

Honorific

The honorific is where you poke right at your professor’s ego. Show him you recognize and honour his academic achievements and position in the university. Even if you don’t respect your professor, using an honorific is the best way to get a response from him. 

Addressing him as Professor X is better than just mentioning his name. If your instructor holds a PhD, address him as “Dr.” If you aren’t sure whether he holds a PhD, it’s safer to refer to him with the title “Professor.” Avoid words like “Miss” or “Mrs.” in your emails. 

Name

There’s nothing that annoys professors more than addressing them with wrong names or misspelling their names. After writing your email, confirm if the name is correct before you hit that send button. Always use their last names and spell out the whole name. If there’s a hyphen anywhere in the name, ensure to put it. Do not use their nicknames.

How To Write An Email To a Professor

Use a clear subject line

A clear and comprehensive subject line helps the professor know what your email is about, and how they can help you. It also helps them know who sent it and from which class. This way, it will be easier for them to help you. For example, An email titled “assignment” can be about anything and from anybody, but an email titled “Helena Wesley – Question About Literature Review” lets a professor know who sent the email and what they want. Some niceties would do

Even though your relationship with your professor is professional, there’s no harm in using expressions like “I hope you and your family are doing well” or “I hope your weekend was enjoyable and relaxing” in your emails. These niceties show your professor that you understand he has a life outside the lecture halls. What you say here doesn’t matter, provided you write it in a way that shows some polite interest in his personal life. 

Remind your professor how he knows you

It may be difficult for a professor to know all the students he interacts with. So if there’s an interaction you had with him that can help him put a face on your name, remind him of that. For example, you can remind him of your role in his class, the color of your hair, where you normally sit in class, or anything that can jog his memory.

If you have never interacted before, explain how you desire to work with them in the future. For example, you can say that you want to join their class the next semester or you need help with your research work. If you are confident that your professor knows you; you can skip this part. 

Explain the reason for writing the email

Once you have introduced yourself, let the professor know the purpose of writing your email. This is the most important part of how to write an email to your professor. Kindly make it brief. State clearly what you want or need from your professor without beating around the bush. One or two sentences should be enough unless it’s something that requires further explanation. Let them know whether you want a response via email or you’ll need to set up an appointment.

Don’t email your professor on something you can find answers to on your own. Instead, go to the library, revisit the syllabus, check the University’s portal, or use google. This way, you will have saved him a lot of work. Also, asking about something you can easily find on your own, will make you seem like a joker and a petty student.

Keep it short

Professors receive a massive number of emails, so keep your request short. After introducing yourself, ask or make a request. Don’t talk about things that are not relevant to your email. To communicate clearly, let the professor know what your problem is and how you want to be helped. Remember, you are not their only student. They have more emails to respond to.

Be professional

Don’t use a casual tone while addressing your professor. Instead, use a calm, respectful and professional tone. Avoid words like “What’s up” or “Hey”. Consecutively, do not use short forms, emojis, or colloquial. Remember to capitalize and punctuate where necessary. Use the proper grammar, edit and proofread your email before sending it. It’s important to use tools like Grammarly to thoroughly edit your work.

Send your email from your university address

Using your school address gives your email a professional look. You wouldn’t want to send your email using an address like “loverboy23@gmail. com. Doing this also ensures that your email will pass through the school’s spam filter. Your school email address lets the professor know that you are one of his students. This way, he is more likely to pay attention to your email.

Signing-Off

Before you sign off, remind your professor that you need some response from him. i.e, “I look forward to hearing from you soon” Then say, “Thank you for your time, Sincerely, David Johnson.” Thank you demonstrate some level of gratitude for his effort to respond to your email.

Why Is This Important? 

How to write an email to a professor, isn’t just about writing an email. This activity helps you improve your communication skills, a skill that can help you, not only in the university but also in the workplace. A thoughtfully constructed and courteous request is more likely to get a positive response. 

Remember, professors are human beings with varying moods and feelings, and you must treat them as such. Sometimes you might think a professor who’s annoyed by students’ emails is lazy or oversensitive, but the problem could be you. Most professors are paid for the time they spend in lecture halls, and any work they do after that is out of their goodwill. 

A professor may have over 100 students sometimes, and if half of them email one professor, they can get overwhelmed. That’s why a kind, respectful and well-structured email will be more likely to get a response.  For more tips about College, read more about “How To Be Successful In College”.

The Follow-up

Before you write a follow-up email, you should first consider the following;

Don’t rub it in that they forgot to email you back

If your professor does not respond to your email, within a week or so, don’t send a rude email telling them they forgot to respond. They receive many emails, and responding to each one can be time-consuming and overwhelming, so give them time. Send a polite follow-up email requesting them to check your email. It’s important to resend the email you had previously sent.

When should you send a follow-up?

Wait for at least three days or a week before sending a follow-up email. Again, this also depends on the urgency of the email. If it is urgent, you can write a follow-up email in two days. Sending one on the same day you sent an email can make you appear anxious. It may even irritate the professor. Therefore. it is advisable to leave the dialogue open, for example;

Dear( Professor’s full name)

This is( your full name) ( your current position). I sent you an email three days ago requesting a (PhD position) in your class. I am emailing back to ascertain that you have received my email. I’m hoping to hear from you soon.

Sincerely

Your name

Tips On How To Write An Email To A Professor

Use your academic account

As discussed earlier, professors are bombarded with emails daily, and their job entails more than just teaching. Using your school email address will help you avoid the spam filter. In addition, your email will appear more professional. It will also help the professor prioritize your email.

Have a clear subject line

A clear and concise subject line tells the professor what the email is about. This way, they can decide whether to respond immediately or give it some time. If an email is urgent you can indicate that in the subject line. An example of a subject line is “ question about the ongoing summer project” or ” meeting request.”

Identify yourself

You should understand that you are not the only student your professor has to keep track of, so tell them who you are. Write down your name and mention your class as well as the class period. This way, you will make it easier for the professor to identify you. for example;

Dear professor,

I’m Jack Walker, Computer Application II, MWF

Remain formal

Maintain a professional and formal tone in your essay. Use the correct title when addressing your professor, and ensure your work has no grammatical errors. Do not use short forms such as substitute “u” for “you” or “2morrow” for “tomorrow”. Use tools such as Grammarly to edit your work.

Communicate clearly and concisely

You don’t want to annoy your professor by beating around the bush. Be straightforward and address your concerns without writing unnecessary information. If you want to ask him about an assignment, say for example,  “I’d like to ask you a question about the task you handed out yesterday. Do you prefer that we work in groups or do we do it individually?”

End with a formal acknowledgment

You must end the letter in the same formal manner you began with. Use words like “Sincerely, regards and thank you. Remember to indicate your name and a phone number if necessary.

Follow up

If your professor takes long to respond to your email, send him a follow-up email. Remember, you need to be polite. They have a lot of work as well as many emails to respond to. Wait for at least three days to send a follow-up email. It’s important to be straightforward, for example, you can say,

I’m writing to follow up on an email about [what your previous email was about].”

How To Write An Email To A Professor Format

Introduction

Introduce yourself. Let the professor know who you are and which class you are pursuing. It is important to include your course number and title. If you’ve had any interactions before, remind him of that. It’s important to keep your introduction short so you can dive into the purpose of writing your letter.

Body

When writing an email to a professor, the body text is the most crucial part. Establish the primary purpose of your email in the first paragraph. i.e why are you writing to them? 

Example ;

My name is xx, and I am writing to inform you about my missing grades…

Be as detailed and explain your problem, so the professor can find a way t help you. Remember, do not include any unnecessary information. This may confuse the professor. It is also important to include a call to action towards the end of your paragraph. 

For example,” I am eagerly waiting to hear from you.”

Conclusion

After you have addressed your problems, wrap things up. Thank the professor for their time, use polite words like, sincerely or respectfully and remember to indicate your full name. It’s also a good idea to include your phone number.

Example;

Sincerely,

Jack Morn

Phone no:12345678

How To Write An Email To A professor: Dos and Don’ts

Dos

Identify yourself

When emailing your professor, tell them who you are, the course you are pursuing, and the year of admission. Mention whether you are from their class or someone referred you to them. Do not assume your professor knows or remembers you. Doing this, will it make it easier for him to respond to your email.

Be detailed

Instead of diving into your personal life or any other unnecessary information, tell the professor what your problem is and how you would like them to help you. Be as specific, so they can figure out a way to address your issue. Failure to do so, the professor might disregard your email.

Make your request politely

Many students attempt to exert pressure on their professors. That is not going to get you anywhere. Instead, frame your problem as a request that the professor may or may not grant.

For example, you may wish to request an extension on a paper from your professor. Please don’t say, “I was sick last week. Give me extra time to finish my assignment.” Rather, say, “I was not feeling well last week, would you kindly give me more time to finish my assignment?

Proofread your email before sending it

Examine your email for spelling and grammatical errors. Proofreading ensures that your email is polished to an exceptionally high standard. Using the correct tenses, having short sentences, and communicating effectively will let the professor know that you are a serious and careful student.

Don’ts

Email your professor at night

As mentioned earlier, you need to demonstrate a professional relationship in your email. Therefore, don’t send them an email at night or when they are on holiday. In this case, your email may be buried beneath a slew of others. Send it during business hours, preferably between 10.00 am and 2.00 pm.

Demand for a response

If you’re asking for something that takes time or effort, be polite and phrase it as a plea. Do not assume that you are privileged to special treatment. Explain your situation and your requirements politely.

Wait Until the last minute

If you have something that needs immediate attention, for example, you have missing marks and the schools are closing, consider sending the email early. Maybe two weeks before the school close. Do not wait until the last minute to rush your professor into giving you a response. If you are requesting for an extension, do not wait until the day you should submit the assignment to ask for extension.

Email your professor frequently

It’s good to follow up, but doing so repeatedly over short intervals is not the best way to go. If you don’t want to seem nagging, give yourself a timeline of three to four days before sending a follow-up email.

Dos Don’ts
Identify yourselfEmail your professor at night
Be detailedDemand for a response
Make your request politelyWait until the last minute to send an email
Proofread your email before sending itEmail your professor frequently
The do’s and don’t of writing an email to your professor

What Should An Email To Your Professor Look Like? 

Here’s a sample email that illustrates how to write an email to a professor.

Dear Professor Thompson,

I hope you had a good day in college today. I am a student in your Philosophy class, section number 507, that meets every Tuesday and Thursday. You once helped me with a question on (Write the topic) when we met in the library.

In my studies, I came across this problem (state the problem), which is a challenge to me. I have checked my notes, textbooks online and even asked my colleagues, but I have not found a good explanation.

I am requesting you to help me with an explanation of this problem, if possible before we sit for our next class text.

Thanks.

Your Name 

Conclusion

In writing an email to your professor, use the above steps as a checklist. Ensure you touch on each part. The sample shows how to write an email to a professor. From the sample, you can see, all the steps have been taken care of – from salutation to signing-off. If your professor takes long to respond, you can send a reminder and tell them how important the response is to you. 

How to write an email to a research professor?

Have a subject line and be concise. Remain formal although and do not use slang. Identify yourself and the reason why you are writing.

What is the subject line of an email to a professor?

The subject line lets the professor know the main purpose of the email. It should be straightforward and reflect the email’s content. A good example: ” Helena Wesley – Question About Literature Review”.

Is it normal for a professor to ignore your email?

No, professors don’t ignore emails. Because of the workload, they take time to respond to emails. This is why you should be patient with them and after three days send a follow-up email.

How to email a professor of MS and Ph.D. positions?

Have a strong subject line i.e “Request for PHD supervision”. Use professional greetings i.e Dear Dr…Tell the professor what your area of expertise is and what your interests are. It’s important for them to know your passion. Remember to be formal and have the right sign-offs.

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