Dear student

Dear Student,

If you received an email from me with this link, two things are true. 1) you sent me an email that does not represent you in a way you would like to be represented and 2) I want to help you represent yourself better.

In the age of social media, many students approach emailing similar to texting, opting for brevity and informality.  But I, and most college teachers, consider emails closer to letters than to text messages – more formal, more thorough and with proper spelling, punctuation, capitalization and syntax.  Using emojis, acronyms, abbreviations, etc., when texting your friends is fine, but is DEFINITELY NOT if you do the same thing when emailing professors.

Please refer to the following tips when communicating with me (and all other professors):

1. Use a clear subject line. The subject “Respiration question” would work a bit better than “heeeeelp!” (and much better than the unforgivable blank subject line).

2. Use a salutation and signature.  NEVER jump right into your message or say “hey” “dude” or anything you would use with a friend.  ALWAYS begin with a greeting like “Hello” or “Good afternoon,” and then address your professor by his or her title and last name, such as “Prof. Xavier” or “Dr. Octavius.” (if you are unsure “Professor” is usually a safe bet).  Similarly, don’t end your email with “Sent from my iPhone” or nothing at all; include a signature, such as “Best” or “Sincerely,” followed by your name.

3. Use standard punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and grammar. Instead of writing “idk what 2 rite about in my paper can you help??” try something more like, “I am writing to ask about the topics you suggested in class yesterday.”

4. Do your best to answer your question BEFORE emailing.  If you email to ask something you could look up yourself, you risk presenting yourself as less resourceful than you are. However, if you mention that you’ve already checked the syllabus, asked classmates, and looked through old emails/lectures/textbook, you come across as responsible and taking initiative. So, instead of asking, “What’s our homework for tonight?” you might write, “I looked through the syllabus and course website for this weekend’s assigned homework, but I haven’t been able to find it.  Can you please let me know what the assignment is and/or where I can go to find it?”

5. Be aware of how your words sound to someone who didn’t write them.  If you appear to demand help, shrug off absences or assume late work will be accepted without penalty, you may sound irresponsible or presumptuous. Even if it is true that “the printer wasn’t printing” and you “really need an A in this class,” your email will be more effective if you to take responsibility: “I didn’t plan ahead well enough and I accept whatever policies you have for late work.”

6. Don’t hesitate to email me! I don’t want this to come across as discouraging you from emailing me.  I want to help and I am here to help.  Likewise, I love hearing about cool and interesting things you learned after and outside of class!

Looking forward to many emails,

Dr. Stumpf



Adapted from here.


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