Advice from the Other Side: Email Etiquette

Happy Friday, Terriers! Before we launch into the weekend, I need to have an important chat with you about email. Why would I need to talk to you about email? We all know how to email, right? Unfortunately, this is often not the case.

When you’re working full time, you’ll be sending emails constantly, and you need to be sure that you’re projecting a tone that’s professional and competent. But guess what? You also need to be projecting the same kind of tone when you email a professor or anyone else.

Boston University is a huge school and the faculty come across thousands of students during their careers. Your email etiquette (or lack thereof) can make you stand out for all the right reasons (or all the wrong ones). Professors and TFs will be more likely to take you and your concerns seriously if you demonstrate respect in the way you communicate.

Always use a formal greeting

Unfortunately, “Hi!” is not an appropriate greeting for any member of the BU community who’s handling your grades. What’s even worse is forgoing a greeting all together and launching into your message. You don’t have to be overly formal, but demonstrate that you know your professor or TF’s name. “Hi Professor Smith” or “Dear Professor Smith” are both totally appropriate ways of starting an email.

Remember that your professors are human beings

I know that you need to meet with your professor as soon as possible, but launching into demands isn’t the best way to communicate. How does it feel when you’re having a rough day and you get a text from a friend that just asks you for something? Before detailing your situation in any way, throw in a simple “I hope you’re well.”

Tell them who you are

There might be over a hundred students in your class, and your professor might be teaching multiple courses, so identifying yourself with only your first name isn’t always helpful. Tell your professor the name of the course, the date and time that it meets, and your full name. Then, in a measured tone that does not demand, explain why it is that you’re contacting them. Do not, under any circumstances, use text speak!

Here’s an example of what NOT to do:

Hey,

I missed class this a.m. & really need to catch up before Friday’s exam. I can’t make your office hours, can you meet me this afternoon?

– Jane

Now, here’s an example of what to do: 

Notice that all the tips that I’ve given you are included, and it’s also very polite:

Dear Professor Smith,

I hope this finds you well! My name is Jane Doe. I’m in your PH 150 course that meets at 9:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Unfortunately, I was ill yesterday and was hoping we could meet in order to discuss the material I missed. My schedule conflicts with your office hours, and I was wondering if you’d be available to meet with me at a different time. I know that you’re very busy, but I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much!

Best,

Jane

That’s not so hard, is it?

Remember that professors can serve as references and write letters of recommendations (in addition to administering grades)—be sure to make the best impression you can!

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