Writing an e-mail in English to a professor

Academic formalism must never be forgotten, for requirements related to study, when for example you must write an e-mail to a professor.

The English language display a certain kind of solemnity to this type of communication and should definitely be respected, memorized and applied.

Therefore if you need to contact a professor via email, to speed up the passage of information, follow the advice I am going to give you.

The ten focal points for writing a formal e-mail to a professor

1. Reread the whole syllabus of said professor.  Your question(s), in regards to clarification about how lessons are carried out, might be answered in the syllabus.  If you ask a question about something that is already answered in the text you may lose some ‘points’ in the eyes of the professor.

2. Are you sure that e-mail is the most appropriate way of contacting your professor?  Sometimes a face-to-face conversation is the most simple and direct method.

3. Use your academic e-mail account, not your personal one; or you will risk that your message cannot be opened.  For the same reason it is important to have a concise title that briefly summarizes your question.

4. Start the letter with formal greetings, avoid “Hi” or “Hello”: these greetings are reserved for your friends.

5. Be concise about the problem or question, and offer up a possible solution; this will earn the esteem of the teacher and show you are proactive.

6. Add any attachments you think might be helpful in demonstrating or solving the problem.

7. Sign the e-mail with your full name (First, Last) and also include your student ID or other necessary information.

8. Thoroughly check the spelling and meaning of the sentences.  Never ever use an offensive or accusing tone.  Ask advice from your classmates.

9. Do not be discouraged if the response is slow.  Do not ask for an explanation for the delay.

10. If and when you receive an answer from your professor, thank them in a simple manner.  If the message does not have a comprehensive solution, request a personal meeting.

Examples for your e-mail

We start with the initial greeting:

– Dear Mr. Smith or Dear Dr. Smith; In any case NEVER write the name of your teacher incorrectly!

Do not use: Hi Mr. Smith or Hello Teacher!

The subject of the e-mail:

– clear, direct and concise, for example: UNI003 – Lesson n.3: question about experimental guide

  do not use: need more info or longer subject lines!

Click here for an example of an e-mail with a request to a professor.

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