The Do’s and Don’ts of Emailing Teachers

by Christine Chadwick

By now, everybody knows what a great communication tool email can be. However, if it is not used properly, email could be a "dead end" form of communication; or worse, it could communicate something never intended. That being said, here are some guidelines you should adhere to when using email to communicate with teachers.

Don't be inappropriate

Regardless of the reason for the email, never send an email to a teacher containing the kind of language you would use to message a friend or family member; that means no text language and no slang terms. Profanity, accusatory, or inflammatory statements should be avoided as well. It is good practice to avoid typing the message in all capital letters as that tends to convey strong emotions such as anger. Don't complain or even comment on the teacher's performance in class, and avoid the blame game.

Don't use an unprofessional email

When emailing a teacher, don't send the message from your "" account. Use a school account or an account that appears more professional. Avoid any urges to include emoticons, quotes to live by, or other "cute" extras. Also, only use common formats when sending attachments, unless specifically told to do otherwise.

Don't be impatient

Finally, don't send a teacher more than one email in a 24 hour period. Professors are busy, and they will respond when they can. If your message is time sensitive, note that in the subject line, or consider phoning the professor.

So what should you do when you email a professor?

Do check your syllabus

The first thing a student should do when considering whether to email a professor is to check in the syllabus. Many professors will spell out the best ways for students to reach them, and it's not always through the school's email system.

If email is the way to go, take some time to think about what you want to say in the message before you actually type it out. Email messages that are written and sent in haste can often be confusing, misleading, or detrimental, depending on the subject of the email. When ready to begin, fill in the subject line with the main point of the email and be specific. Avoid subject lines such as, "paper questions." This small but important step could be the reason the teacher reads, or doesn't read, your message.

Do be formal

When it comes to the email message itself, always start with a formal greeting and address the instructor with a title, such as Professor or Dr. Within the body of the message, use words that are professional, courteous, and respectful that convey a calm tone. Keep the message as brief as possible, using clear, to-the-point language. If you have multiple questions or thoughts, separate those using paragraphs or bullets. Close the message by thanking the professor for his or her time. Use a formal closing such as, "Regards," and be sure to include your full name. Before clicking "send," be sure to run spell check and proofread your message.

Do respond

Finally, be sure to acknowledge your receipt of the teacher's response. A quick "thank you" email or an in person "thank you" is a good way to complete the circle of communication. This acknowledgement will also allow the teacher to know you appreciate his or her help and may make him or her more willing to help in the future.

For the unforeseeable future email will continue to be a useful form of communication between students and teachers. To get the most out of it, be sure to follow these guidelines.

Tags: Email communication
Categories: Communication