Simple Advice for Any Professional Email


Formal for the win

It is always best to assume formality over friendly when established initial contact with your professor.  A simple Dear Professor "Last Name", starts the communication on a professional tone.



 How does your professor know  you

Most professors teach more than one course or teach multiple sections of the same courses, so it's important to include your course name, section number, and day(s) the class meets.  If you have previously spoken to your professor after class or in office hours, here is where you can remind them of that conversation.



Did you try to answer your own question

Have you looked in the syllabus and your notes?  Did you review your Canvas or Sakai site?  Did you ask a classmate?  Make sure the answer to your question has not already been provided.  Let you professor know you have already attempted to answer the question yourself.



Clear, concise and courteous

In a respectful tone, ask your question without making a demanding statement.  If you cannot articulate your question in a succinct 2-3 sentences, then consider changing your email to request an appointment to meet in person or attend office hours.



Over and out

A simple "Thank you," before signing your name is all you need.  You are signing off and showing appreciateion for their time.  Make sure to include your first and last name along with your RUID number.  Be patient while waiting for a response and give your professor a few business days to reply.


Here's a template you can follow in constructing your email to a professor or academic advisor. Each element is explained below:

Subject line: 01:830:101:09 question from Mabel Douglass

Dear Professor Smith,

My name is Mabel Douglass and I am a first-year student in the School of Arts and Sciences. I am in your General Psychology course 01:830:101, section 09, which meets MW 1:10-2:30.

I am writing to ask for some additional information about the research assignment due October 26. I’ve looked on Sakai and at the syllabus, but I still have some questions about the assignment. Unfortunately, I have class during your office hours, so I am hoping that we can set an appointment to meet. I don’t have any classes on Fridays, but if that day is not convenient for you, I am available as follows:

Tuesday and Thursdays before 1pm

Mondays and Wednesdays after 3pm

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Mabel Douglass (RUID: 123004567)

SAS Class of 2023

Adapted from "HOW TO EMAIL YOUR PROFESSOR (WITHOUT BEING ANNOYING AF)" by Laura Portwood-Stacer, April 26, 2016, MEDIUM.COM