How to Email Your Professor
Just like with terms of address, you want to approach your professors politely. If you are not talking to them face to face, that means sending an email. Email is the official means of communication at Southwestern University and that means your professors will contact you via email. Even if you have not done so before, you MUST check your email at least once a day. That’s part of being a college student.
When sending emails, you follow email etiquette rules. And it’s important to learn these rules because when you join the workforce, your employers will expect you to be able to communicate professionally. Texting is not generally considered communicating professionally. Many professionals have to communicate longer, more complicated ideas–and that’s hard to do in a short text.
I know that today, texting apps and email apps look very similar on your phone. They are not the same. You should never use texting abbreviations or etiquette in an email. Do not email your professors “where u at?” or simply “did I miss anything?” They may perceive it as rude because email etiquette requires a bit more text.
I graduated college and entered the workforce in 1992, just when email was becoming widespread, and I watched the etiquette of email evolve. When I first started working, email was set up in a memo format.
The idea was that the To, From, Date and RE: [subject] lines included information that did not need to be repeated in the body of the email. We started our emails the way we started business memos (e.g., “Starting next Monday, all employees are expected to follow the new policy…”). However, as more and more email accounts were created, the usernames became more and more unlike real names. Soon XPZ432@company.com was sending email@example.com an email. Who was that from? And who was it meant to go to?
So, to avoid confusion, lots of people started following letter conventions in their emails.
We left the date in the header and the addresses were usually skipped, but people started adding a Salutation and a Signature block to their emails. So, we now generally start emails with “Dear Dr. Nenga” and sign them “Best, Roberto.” Leaving off the salutation and signature is text etiquette; including them is email etiquette. When writing a professor, include a salutation (that is not “Hey you!”), a signature, and write in complete sentences with proper spelling and grammar. This is the most professional way to communicate via email.
Created by Dr. Sandi Nenga, Professor of Sociology