Email Etiquette

Sometimes you are going to need to contact professors outside of class, and you’ll usually do that by email. You might not have thought much about how to write an email, since email is often viewed as a more casual form of communication than a formal letter, but poorly written emails are a quick way to make yourself look bad to professors. Before you hit send, read your email aloud and ask yourself:

  • Does it sound professional?
  • Does it sound like it could be a letter (not a text)?
  • Does it sound respectful?
  • Is everything spelled correctly?
  • Did I use proper punctuation and grammar?

Quick Tips

➤ luvmesomezacefron@aol.com: Email Address

If your email address is sexxxxxy1991, koolchik05, or nolimits601, you might want to rethink that.

If you send an email to a faculty member with a weird personal email address, that's how they'll remember you. And that's definitely not what you want when you are trying to present yourself as a mature, responsible student. Use your USM email address when you are corresponding with faculty and staff.

 

➤ Plz Read This!!!: Subject Lines

A subject line should clearly and briefly represent your purpose for emailing. "Hey," "URGENT!!!!!" and "A Question" are not good subject lines. "SOC 101 Paper Assignment" is a good subject line.

Keep in mind that the person you're emailing may have hundreds of emails in his or her inbox. By briefly stating the purpose of your email in the subject line, you allow your recipients to get an idea of what your email is about during their initial scan, and it also makes it easier for them to find your email again if they can't answer it right away.

 

➤ Hey Teach!: Addressing Faculty and Staff

Always use a formal address, such as Professor, Dr., Ms., or Mr.

It's important to address the person you're emailing by name. If you don't remember your professor's name, check your syllabus or look on SOAR. Never use your professor's first name unless you've been specifically told that it's okay. "Ms." or "Mr." are only appropriate if your professor does not have a Ph.D. Most do, and should be addressed as "Dr." If you are not sure whether your professor is a doctor, you can never go wrong with addressing him or her as Professor.

 

➤ It's Me!: Identify Yourself

Unless you know the person you're emailing well, make sure you identify yourself clearly.

It's always good to state your name and to let your professor know which class you're in. If you're emailing your advisor or a staff member, you should include your student ID in the email to make it easier for him or her to look up your records in SOAR.

 

➤ You Need To Check My Grade: Asking Nicely

If you want someone to do something, make a request, not a demand.

People always respond better to requests than they do to demands, and your professors and campus staff are no exception. You will get better results if you ask politely. State your question, concern, or request briefly and clearly, using standard English. Maintain a polite, respectful tone and avoid using exclamation points, emoticons, texting abbreviations, or coarse language. Avoid asking questions that are answered on the syllabus or assignment sheet, such as “When is our paper due?” or “What is our homework for tomorrow?” Emails that are not professional in style or tone, or that ask questions that are clearly answered on the syllabus or assignment sheets, may be ignored.

 

➤ XOXO, Me: Closings

Use a formal closing, and always sign your full name at the end of an email.

Formal closings include: “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” “Thank you,” or “Best wishes,” and using one makes you come across as respectful and professional. If you are emailing back and forth, it is not necessary to use a formal address and closing in each response, but you can never go wrong by ending an email with a "thank you," or "I appreciate your time."

 

➤ Uh, It's Been a Whole Hour: Patience

Allow your recipient a reasonable amount of time to respond.

24-48 hours is reasonable. An hour and a half is not reasonable. Professors often have a different sense of what is a reasonable time to respond to your email than you do. They typically do not check emails on their phones, and they aren’t always at their computers. They also get a LOT of emails, so you shouldn't expect a response before 24-48 hours. If you get one, tell them thank you!  If you have not heard back within 48 hours, you can follow up politely. If you don't get a response to the follow-up, check with the department office to make sure you have the right address and that your professor is not out of town.