Students, especially first-year students, are often rather clueless creatures. We go around the campus with eyes wide open in fear, amazement, and, well, fear. The stress will get to us later when we finally face the first exam session and realize how not ready we are at this moment. Anyway, to overcome many class-related worries and inexperience, we tend to turn for guidance quite often. Who else, if not our professors, must help us, guide us, and fill in all our knowledge gaps. Thankfully, most of them do it gladly and are always happy to help.
Unfortunately, though, not everyone knows how to write a professional email to a professor. Not in the right way, at least. Knowing how to do it is crucial if you ever want to receive any kind of assistance, recommendation, or else. So let’s see how to write an email to a professor that will earn you a good reputation.
How to Write to a Professor
Aside from some technical aspects of writing (which we will cover later), you should have a general understanding of what to do and not do when talking to your lecturers. For the most part, you just have to stick to traditional forms of online communication, and you will be fine. Nevertheless, you probably also realize that learning how to properly write an email to a professor will often depend on the situation and your instructor. For instance, have you met them already? Do you have any form of relationship, as so, if they know your name or not may impact how you construct your message? Overall, here are four rules you should follow on any occasion.
First and foremost, be respectful. Your instructors are not your pals or even colleagues. They worked hard to earn their titles, social positions, and respect that comes with it. You should recognize it. Hence, keep your tone formal throughout the entire message, including a formal greeting and ending. Overall, being respectful in emails is just the right thing to do. For instance, you want to go to your instructor and give them a high five instead of a formal greeting. Here is the same. You have to act appropriately.
Value their and your time by sending a precise and brief email with a clear message of what you want. You want to receive a response that will answer your question and not annoy your instructors. To have exactly that, you should be very clear with your message. Don’t overburden your receiver with unnecessary details. Also, don’t miss out on any important details if you don’t want follow-up questions from them instead of an answer. Be precise and show respect to everyone’s time.
Last but not least, quite often, your teachers will tell you their norms of communication. They have things that they find acceptable and not acceptable when it comes to talking or emailing with students. You should listen to them and follow the rules they set for you. For example, some teachers find it okay when their students only use their first names. These are the friendly teacher types who talk to youth like their equals. It’s great to have at least one of them during your studies.
However, other instructors may be appalled by such false familiarity. They will not approve students who behave like they are equal because, well, they are not. Each person has the right to set personal boundaries regarding relationships and communication with other people. Professor or not, it’s just a polite way to respect those boundaries.
Don’t overstay your welcome
Sometimes, students get too comfortable by constantly troubling their professors with every little thing. This is not how you should approach your relationships with your lecturers. You should not distract them by asking things you can easily ask your colleague about. For example, if you forgot the deadline for your paper, you can look it up in your syllabus or an exam schedule. You can also contact the office for any broad information. Contact your lectures in situations where they are the only ones who can answer you.
How to Write a Formal Email to a Professor
Now that you have some common sense about how to approach this task, you can learn about some more complex aspects of writing. Here’s how to write an email to a college professor:
- be polite. You are probably writing because you need something from them. Politeness will help you get it;
- be concise. Everyone is busy, get to the point;
- have a subject line filled. Again, they are busy people. You need to grab their attention with that line;
- be formal. Use formal greetings, like “Dear Dr. [...]” or their full name;
- have good grammar. Good grammar show your professionalism and care;
- introduce yourself, state your major, year, maybe the class you are taking, etc.;
- don’t be entitled. The fact that you are struggling with something, or need something, doesn’t mean they have to meet your needs. They don’t.
So, next time you are wondering how to write an email to a professor about grades or any other things, use those tips to guide you. Of course, you won’t go wrong if you stay respectful, brief, and polite.
A Good Sample Email to Professor Asking for Help
Dear Dr. (Name),
I am a 1st-year student majoring in (major). I will be taking your class next semester. I was wondering about the syllabus you have in the class description. Unfortunately, I have bought the 2nd edition of Smith instead of the 3rd that you put in our syllabus. Please, tell me if I can still take the course with the 2nd edition or if I should buy the right edition instead.
Thank you in advance!
This is how to email your professor without being annoying. It’s concise, informative, formal, and respectful. It cuts right to the point, asks a direct question, and does it in a polite way.
Examples of Bad Emails to Professors
So, I heard we have to send you an essay by Friday, but I will be busy this week, so can I send it next week? I have so much other homework at hand and my friend has a birthday on Thursday, so I also can’t be working on Thursday. It will be super cool if you let me!
(Name)This is how to write an email to a professor if you never want to receive a response. This example is not precise, has grammar mistakes, doesn’t show much respect to the receiver, and demonstrates a student’s very poor work ethic.