How to Write an E-mail to Your University Professor or TA

How to Write an E-mail to Your University Professor or TA

Writing an e-mail is an important skill that is necessary for your success in college, and also afterwards once you have joined the workforce.  A well written and professional e-mail is important for several reasons. First, it will help your instructor know exactly who you are, what class you are in, and how to best help you. Second, I find that the old adage of: “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” rings true. Therefore, a polite and professional e-mail will resonate well with the receiver and probably get a quicker response. Lastly, an e-mail without a subject line, a salutation,  or a leave-taking can appear to be spam, and might be disregarded or flagged for safety. Leaving your e-mail without a reply. 

Here are 6 tips to help you create a professional e-mail that will make you look like a champion. Keep in mind that you might want to change some titles or formatting, depending on your need.

1) Use Your Official University E-mail Account

In order to comply with FERPA regulations most universities ask instructors not to address sensitive materials such as grades via non university e-mail. Theoretically only students have access to their official university accounts. It is worth mentioning here that you should try your hardest to keep your password safe. Moreover, anyone (e.g., a parent) can create a yahoo or gmail account with anyone’s name and attempt to contact an instructor regarding class performance and things of the like. For example, Shelby Walker’s mom can create Swalker14@yahoo.com and contact an instructor asking about her grade in the course. In order to protect the student, instructors are likely to reply to such requests via official university e-mail only. Beginning communication from your university account will save time, and help protect your privacy. Lastly, e-mails from non-university addresses can appear to be spam, especially if they lack the other key components of a professional e-mail.

2) Include a Clear and Concise Subject Title

If this e-mail is for a professor or TA that you are currently working with, and the e-mail pertains to the class,  include the course title (and section if applicable) in the subject line. You would then want to have a concise summary of what the e-mail pertains to. For example: “HIST 150: Midterm Question”

3) Include a Salutation

This is an important aspect of an e-mail that students can overlook. If you jump right into the meat and potatoes of your e-mail you run the risk of essentially sending your instructor an e-mail that seems like a text message.  This can appear unprofessional and perhaps even cause confusion.

First, you always want to start an e-mail with the salutation “Dear.”

 If you are writing to the professor, use the title “Dr.” or “Professor” before their last name, unless of course they have invited you to call them by his or her first name or something of the sort. If you are not sure if the instructor has a PhD, default to “Professor,” you can’t go wrong. Thus, you would start an e-mail for a professor as follows: “Dear Dr. Morrison,”

If you are writing your TA, typically using their first name is fine. Remember to follow his or her first name with a comma.  An e-mail to a TA should begin as follows: “Dear Cecilia,”

Pro Tip: Keep titles in mind when writing e-mails in general, using “Dean,” “Dr.” and “Mr.,Mrs., & Ms.” where appropriate.

4) Organization

If this is your first time communicating with your instructor (in person or online), take a few minutes to introduce yourself and explain what course you are in.

You will then want to start a new paragraph in which you get to the point of your e-mail. Like an essay, each paragraph in an e-mail should cover a particular point, this will make it easier for the receiver to digest your e-mail.

5) Use a Leave-Taking

Again, if you want to avoid sending an e-mail that looks like a text message, use a professional leave-taking followed by a comma right above your name. Such as, “Regards,” “Sincerely,” or “Warm Regards.” I personally avoid using “Yours” in all of my e-mails, and I think it is odd and would advise against it for professional e-mails.

 

6) Sign with Your Full Name

Now that your e-mail is almost done, sign it with your full name. I suggest using the name that your instructor will see on his or her roster or grade book, this will avoid any confusion. Believe it or not, there are lots of Edwards in the world.

An example: “Bernardino de Shagún”

Pro Tip: Take a few minutes to create a signature for your university e-mail account. Include your full name and perhaps your major and any other pertinent information. This will save you time when you write e-mails.

 


Below is an example of what an e-mail should look like. This e-mail assumes I am writing a professor, and I have already been in communication with her in the past.

———

 

SUBJECT: HIST 160 H3- 11:00AM Section: Question Regarding Study Guide

 

Dear Dr. Jones,

I hope this e-mail finds you well. The syllabus mentions that the final study guide would be posted in the 9th week of class. I looked around on the course site and I was unable to find it. I was wondering if it is up yet, or perhaps I just missed it?

Thanks in advance.

 

Regards,

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
Economics Major
Class of 2045
The University of My Dreams

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