Email Etiquette: How to Write to Your Professors

The way you communicate with your professors is critical.

If you come off as harsh, clueless, or irresponsible, it will affect how your professor responds.

So, what is the email etiquette when writing to your professors?

Here’s what you need to know:

  • How to address your professors correctly
  • How to format your email
  • How to use the proper email etiquette
  • How to not waste your professors’ time

Let see exactly how this works!

Step 1: How to address your professors correctly

When writing to your professors, using the right address is crucial.

Make no mistake: incorrectly addressing your professor could affect his response!

To be safe, here’s how you can address your professors:

  • Professor: Generally, a professor or lecturer should be called “professor.” You can use this to address assistant professors, associate professors, research professors, or full professors. 
  • Doctor: Anyone with a doctorate should be called “Doctor” plus last name (unless they are a professor).
  • Mr., Ms., or Mrs: Generally, these are used only for teaching assistants or lab assistants who do not have a Ph.D. 
  • First names: Some professors prefer to be called by their first names, but others don’t like this. Never do this unless they explicitly invite you to do so.
  • Err on the side of caution: If you are totally at a loss about what to call a professor, it is better to be overly polite than overly familiar.

Now you know how to get your professor’s good graces!

Step 2: How to format your email

In many ways, writing to a professor is no different from writing a business letter.

Here’s how to format your email:

  1. Address your professor (as explained above): “Dear Professor + Last name” or “Dear Dr. + Last name.”
  2. Write your message: make sure it is easy to understand and do not go into unnecessary details.
  3. End your mail with your signature: “Sincerely + Your name and last name.”

Easy right?

Wait, there is more!

Step 3: Use the proper email etiquette

Here is a guideline to writing to your professors:

  • Write a descriptive subject line. Professors receive hundreds of emails a week. It is crucial to write a subject line that contains the course name and a brief explanation of your motives. For example: “Analysis 3: Request for meeting” or “Algebra 2: The homework can’t be solved”.
  • Use your university email address. It looks more professional, and you are less likely to end up in the spam folder.
  • Check your spelling and grammar before sending your email.

Step 4: Do not waste your professors’ time

Professors are incredibly busy, and they don’t have the time to respond to all their emails.

If you don’t waste your professors’ time, you are more likely to get a response!

Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure it is appropriate to email your professors. If you have problems with your homework, you can usually contact the teaching assistants or ask during office hours.
  • Don’t send emails to ask questions you can answer for yourself.
  • Be concise in your email!

The bottom line

To sum up:

  • Listen well during the introduction class. Your professors will tell you how they want to be addressed.
  • Format your email as if it were a business letter.
  • Use your university email account.
  • Write an informative subject line.
  • Do not waste your professors’ time with trivial requests.

If you want to learn more about the academic system, check out our content hub about professors.