Despite endless messaging apps and texting and calling and social media, we still email. But it’s important to remember that when emailing a professor, internship boss, or potential job connection, the tone must be different. Follow these etiquette tips and you’ll be the favorite student in no time.
Use a formal greeting
Unless that person has given you explicit permission to use them by their first name, start the email with “Dear Professor XYZ.” Starting with professor eliminates any stress about knowing whether or not they have a PhD, as well as any embarrassment about referring to someone as the wrong gender. If you’re emailing someone you haven’t met before, and they aren’t a professor, Mr. or Ms. is appropriate. If you aren’t sure of the gender of this person, do a little digging on LinkedIn to find your answer. Make sure you spell their name correctly as well! Especially if its in their email or email signature. Google it if you’re not sure how to spell it.
Be smart with the subject line
Provide a quick synopsis about your email in the subject line, such as “Question about Anthropology Paper.” This will make life easier for your professor, and will ensure an important gets answered, without seeming desperate.
Be a human
It never hurts to say something like “I hope you’re enjoying the beautiful weather today,” or “I hope you had a relaxing weekend,” to start off. You don’t need to provide endless details about your own life, but its an element of etiquette that is appreciated.
Remind them who you are
If it’s a professor, note which course you are in. If its someone you met at a networking event, let them know when and where you got their information. Same goes if someone referred you. This keeps you from being anonymous, and helps connect a name to a face if they have met you before.
Especially if this is the first email you’re sending them, you should not send an essay. If you do have a lot of information you need to convey, use bullets and numbers to keep it organized, and make it easier to respond to. If you find yourself spending 10 or more minutes composing an email, that’s a good sign that you should instead pick up the phone or pop into someone’s office for a conversation.
Always include a polite and quick sign-off message. “Thank you” is almost always appropriate, as is “Best” or “Regards.” Your professor might feel more inclined to reply to your message when you exhibit gratitude.
If your professor hasn’t emailed you back, and enough time has passed (give it a few days at least) it is appropriate to gently remind them. You can use much of the same text from your previous email, just include “Just following up on my previous email” before the request.
If you’ve requested information about something, or asked for a document to be sent to you, always reply to let the person know you’ve received it. Even if you’re waiting on a piece information to send back to them, a quick reply that you received the email and will get back to them is important to maintain clear lines of communication.