Your professors can be great resources for your career in and out of school, often providing letters of recommendation, job connections, and other opportunities to their best students, so it’s important to maintain a positive reputation with them, both in-person and online. Your emails will be your most visible form of online communication with them, so make sure they’re straightforward and professional by keeping these important things in mind:
1. Address them by their correct name.
Don’t say Dr. Smith if they only have their Master’s. Get to know your professor before emailing them, and if you really aren’t sure, just use the title, “Professor.”
2. Tell them who you are.
Professors have a lot of students, so it’s important to introduce yourself, especially if this is your first time corresponding with them online. While they may know your face, names can be hard for everyone, so make sure you start off your email with who you are and what class you’re taking with them.
3. Thoroughly explain what you need.
Online communication is difficult, because you aren’t there to show the person exactly what you mean. Avoid getting a confused response from your professor by making sure you explain exactly what you need from them. “What’s the answer to number 3?” is a really hard question to answer, especially if they aren’t at their desk and have no idea what assignment you’re talking about. Be thorough!
4. Don’t forget: professors are people, too.
While you don’t want to talk to your professors like you talk to your friends, don’t stress about using flawless grammar in every single sentence. Be polite, but just write naturally so you don’t sound robotic, especially if your college environment is more laid-back. And don’t ever use slang terms or acronyms like “IDK” and “LOL” in your email.
5. Close your email politely.
Don’t just say, “Get back to me when you can, -Joe.” Politely let them know that you look forward to hearing from them at their earliest convenience, and close with a nice line like “warm regards” or “best wishes.” Then add your full name, and you’re good to go!
It is imperative that you remember to proofread your messages to professors and other faculty. Sometimes, you’ll accidentally say the same thing twice, or even forget to mention what you’re asking about! A quick once-over of your email before you send it will eliminate any embarrassment later.
7. Professors are busy.
Professors don’t necessarily like to work outside of school hours, so they may not be able to get back to your email right away. Be patient, but if it takes them more than a few days to respond, it’s okay to send them a quick (but polite) message to remind them of your question. They’ll get back to you when they can!
Next time you need an extension on an assignment or don’t understand the homework, keep these things in mind so that your emails help you maintain a positive relationship with your college professor.