How to Write an Email to a Professor

Sometimes it is hard to think of how to write an email. You do not want to make yourself sound bad or like you have no clue how to write a professional email.

Writing to a Professor

I usually start with addressing the email with Dear Professor (his/her last name). I usually start the body of the email with short sentence explaining why I am emailing them. I then go to the main point of the email. Since about the only time I email is when I have a question, I ask them the question. At the end of the email, I always end with a thanks, then my name.

An example of one of my emails is the picture above.

Continuing the Conversation

Usually email exchanges with professors are short and sweet only being about 1-2 emails, but they can longer. After the first email, I usually do a few things different. I usually do not address them or address the email with just saying “Professor (blank)” instead of “Dear Professor (blank). Sometimes with professors and advisers, I will just say their first or last name. If you say their first name, make sure they are OK with this because some professors do not want their first name said by students. I would then continue the conversation and do everything as before.

To the right is an example.

If you are asking a question that will lead to another one, as my first picture shows, you can write them both in one email to avoid sending multiple emails.

Things to Remember

Some professors have several classes so be sure to mention what class you are taking about. You can either mention this in the title of the email, or within the first sentence. It might even be better to mention the specific class (with the meeting time) depending on what you are emailing them about. 

Give them time. Sometimes they will not get back to you for a day or two so don’t give them last minute emails and expect them to get back to you instantly.

Do not email them about things that can be found elsewhere like the syllabus. Some professors will get  very annoyed with this and not even respond, or say refer to the syllabus. 

Avoid addressing professors as Mr. and Mrs. for a few reasons. For one, you would never want to mess up a miss vs Mrs. Another thing is you do NOT want to mess up gender. If it is a professor you are emailing that you have not seen in person, or can not tell the gender, DO NOT GUESS. I have actually had an email that I about forwarded from my councilor to my professor (for permission purposes) that was referring to the professor as the wrong gender. Luckily I caught it. Another reason is referring to them as Mr. or Mrs. seems more for high school. They also usually introduce themselves as professors not a Mr. or Mrs.

My Opinion

I tend to think professors are busy and will not really care how perfect an email is written. I would think they usually just want a short and sweet and straight to the point email. Most emails I get back from professors are very short and sweet. Some even have typo errors that seems as if they were hurrying and did not check their own email before they sent it. Emailing a professor is not something to worry about, just keep it short and sweet, and be respectful of their time and schedule. 

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