At the beginning of the semester, everyone wants to leave a good impression on their professor. So what do you do? You write up an email with a few questions, of course. But where do you start? How do you address them? Do you introduce yourself? What does cc even mean? Emails may seem scary at first but don’t let that intimidate you.
Check out these ways to write the perfect academic email.
When to Email
Before all else, you need to know when you should or shouldn’t email your professor. Always makes sure to check the syllabus for what you can email about. Professors constantly get emails and don’t want to shuffle through them with questions they’ve already answered in the syllabus. Once you know for sure that the answer that you need doesn’t appear there, you can write your email. “The worst email I ever received was from an angry male graduate student who was upset with the grade he earned. He started out the email with the greeting, “Little girl,” and the email just went downhill from there,” said communications professor at the University of Florida Renee Martin-Krazter. Always remember to not email out of anger and remember that typing out of aggression will get you nowhere.
The subject, aka one of the most important parts of an email. Always include something in the subject line. If you include anything in the subject line it should state, of course, what your email contains. Along with that, also include your class name and section number. For example, if you need to ask your professor about the final project for an English class the subject line might look something like, “ENG 100-001 Final Project.” This way, your professor knows the email’s topic and exactly what class the email concerns. This will help you grab your professors’ attention by helping it stand out from the hundreds of emails they receive. The perfect subject can also make your email get answered quicker.
I’m sure you’ve seen the Cc and Bcc functions on emails, but have you ever used them? Both of these have important uses if you utilize them correctly. Cc stands for “carbon copy,” and Bcc stands for “blind carbon copy.” The two allow you to include other people on the email without directly addressing them. When you Cc other people on an email, everyone can see who you added to the email. With Bcc, however, other people cannot see who you’ve added. So if you wanted to include your group members in an email to your professor you could Cc them so that they can see the email exchange without having to email the professor separately. Never thought you’d use those strange functions in an email, now did you?
Emails take a lot more effort than you might think. Arguably one of the most important parts of an email, how you address your professor needs to give off a professional tone. You need to first know their title: Dr., Mrs., Ms. or Mr. But before you jump right in, include a “Good Morning/Afternoon” to make your email sound more polite. You, of course, want to address them properly—no first names or goofy greetings. “I always look at how the email starts. Sometimes students don’t know how to address professors. They might use “Miss” or “Mrs” or “Ms,” rather than Dr. It’s a small detail, perhaps, but I do tend to notice it,” said writing, rhetoric and digital media professor at the University of Kentucky Jennifer Rice. Don’t begin with “My name is…” because you will cite that in the conclusion. “Instead, I recommend kicking off with something inviting and simple, such as ‘How are you?’ or something upbeat like ‘I’m thrilled to connect with you,’ and then jump into your point. Concision is everything,” said Amanda Nachman, Publisher of College Magazine and Host of Find Your Passion Career Podcast. Including a nice message to begin your email will set the tone for the rest of it.
As you write out the meat of the email, the body, you want to keep in mind the importance of having an expert and friendly tone. Keep in mind to actively try not to come off as aggressive in the email. “The number one thing I look for is a friendly tone,” Nachman said. Remember your audience. Try writing it as though you talked to them in person. Instead of rambling along and giving a lot of backstories, try to make sure you write clearly and get to the point. Your professors have a lot on their plates. Make your email easy to read and don’t include a bunch of needless information. If you do have a lot to say, try separating it up into bullets so that your professor can clearly follow along. “‘Content is king’ is the saying that I’d go by,” Martin-Krazter said. We don’t enjoy shuffling through needless information either so why make your professor read it?
The conclusion: the last impression you’ll leave with your professor. No matter what you emailed about, include a thank you. Somewhere, somehow, thank your professor for taking the time to read your email. When you begin to sign off, you have many options on how to finish it off. Try to avoid saying words like “from” or “sincerely” because emails differ from letters. Simply enough, you could just end with a thank you and your full name. You could also create a signature that includes your includes your full name and contact information. For students, you don’t need too much in the signature. So remember, a small thank you can go a long way.
Emails help connect us to the world and they make finding information easier. Once you know how to craft the perfect email, you can do just about anything. Just remember: professional, friendly and concise; then you’ll have a beautiful email.