*Thank you to Professor Judith Miller for bringing the New York Times article to our attention. Many Emory faculty members express frustration about their students' lack of email etiquette!
- Unless the professor instructs the class to address him/her by first name, err on the side of formality. “Dear Professor Smithers” is an appropriate opener.
- Strike the right tone: be polite and more formal than you would be in writing to a friend. Use standard punctuation and capitalization—your email should not look like a text message.
- Don’t include too much personal information. Telling a professor about your sex life, personal problems, or partying makes you sound unprofessional. Most professors genuinely care about you as a person, but they are not therapists and they don’t want to hear all the sordid details.
- Don’t ask your professor a question that could be answered by a peer, such as “What did I miss in class today?” or “What did you say we had to read for class tomorrow?”
- Before emailing the professor, check (three times!) to see if the information you need is already on the syllabus, the handout for the assignment or on Learnlink.
- Don’t expect the professor to read your draft or give you individual feedback over email.
- Don’t expect a faculty member to be available outside office hours. Sometimes faculty can find extra time; some weeks they cannot. In general, though, office hours time is the time they have reserved in a busy week to meet with students.
- Do not expect rapid or lengthy replies to email. Faculty juggle many things over the course of a week and might not look at their email more than a few times per week. .
- Don’t complain about your grade over email; it’s better to discuss grades in person. If you honestly don’t know what you could have done better, re-read the professor’s comments and then ask him/her to explain any comments you don’t understand. Focus on improving the quality of your work, not the letter grade that you receive.
- Do ask your professor questions about course content. He/she wants to know if you don’t understand a certain concept or if you didn’t follow the lecture or discussion.
Want to find out more professors’ pet peeves about the emails they receive from their students? Check out the article "To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me" from the New York Times, February 21, 2006.