How to Email Your Professor
It’s been noted before that email is the lifeblood of this campus. No secrets there. But it has come to my attention that students’ interaction with professors via email is a point of concern for all parties involved. In particular, professors lament the sometimes use informal language in emails, even irking the most lax of professors. Most Middkids probably know enough to not put slang in emails to your teacher but what about sending an email without a greeting? What about an all-lowercase email? What about emails with abbrevs? Students live a fluid online world of work and play, but it’s probably worth reviewing how to contact your professor:
- When in doubt, write formal. Kinda like showing up to the party: better to be over dressed than under dressed.
- No slang, abbreviations, etc.
- Open with a greeting as if you were writing a snail mail letter, close with a sign-off (best wishes, warmly, sincerely, etc.) and sign your full name with class year
- Capitalize the beginning of sentences and use proper punctuation. Fragmented sentences are not acceptable.
- Send from your Middlebury email account because some professors do not read non-Midd emails.
- Identify yourself and the class. Some professors have a lot of students and several classes. It’s a good idea to put yourself in context.
- Be polite. Request, don’t demand.
- If you have a complicated issue, go to the professor in person during office hours or call on the phone. Trust me, it’s faster and more effective.
But for all the rules for students, professors (and administrators) need to know a few things about how we do email:
- Capitalization implies shouting. Just don’t use full-word capitalization and exclamation points, unless you’re angry.
- Aggregate your information into one email. Students get a lot of email. It’s a lot easier if you put all your information for the week in one email to us instead of forwarding three emails about upcoming events, another email about homework, and a yet another replying to a student question.
- Go easy on the reminders. Students take email from professors much more seriously than we do most other emails at this school. Professors should not be afraid of students deleting their emails (administrators on the other hand…).
- If you’re forwarding extra information (a cool new article, etc.), be aware that that is more work we have to do (even if its unofficial and you’re not expecting everyone to read it). You sent it out, it has become work for us.
- If you have a small enough class to have out-of-class discussions, do it with a blog where comments are on a website instead of all in long emails. Example: Prof. Isham’s class on 21st century global challenges.
- Try to shy away from the attachments unless its reference material like a syllabus. Instead, use links and in-body information.
- Just because you can put stuff in colors and bold and italics doesn’t mean you should.
- Just because you use an emoticon that you read about in the NYTimes doesn’t make you a “hip” professor.
MiddBlog wants to know: What other professor-student email rules should there be?