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Netiquette; How to Act Online: Email Communication

Email Netiquette

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How to Email a Professor: 

 

  • Always start your email with a salutation. Make sure you know whether your professor prefers to be called Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Doctor. If you are unsure of their preference, Professor LastName is your best option. Only greet your professor by their first name if they have given you permission. ​​​​
  • Never leave the subject line blank. Your subject line is your opportunity to summarize what the email is about in a few words or a phrase. For example, if you need an extension for an English paper titled Research Project, you could title the email: 3 Day Extension for ENGL 1102 Research Project? 
  • Never, ever use abbreviations. You are only saving a few keystrokes, and abbreviated words can come across as informal, sarcastic, and can often be misinterpreted. Type out phrases like by the way [btw] and let me know [lmk]. 
  • Keep in mind emails are not always private. You need to give your professor the essential information without going into too much detail. For example, if your grandparent passed away, and you need to miss class for a week to attend the funeral, you can let your professor know with a message like the one shown below.
    •  I need to miss the next two to three classes due to a death in the family. Please feel free to call me or schedule an appointment with me, so we can discuss the details of my absence. 

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  • Only click “Reply All” if you want everyone in the world [or whoever is attached to the email] to know the information you are about to send. If your professor emails the entire class and you need to send them private information, “Reply” is the option you are looking for. Usually “Reply” is the button with one arrow, and “Reply All” is the button with two arrows. When in doubt, check the send, cc, and bcc lines in the email you are typing. You can always click on names and delete them if you accidentally clicked “Reply All.”  
  • Never assume that you will not be missing anything when you miss class. Professors hate when you ask them, “Will I miss anything next class?” The better question for you to ask is, “What will I miss next class, and how can I make up that work in a timely manner so that I do not fall behind?” 
  • Always end your email with your name and class title. Professors teach roughly 4 to 7 classes a semester, and unless you let them know who you are, what class you are in, and what section you are in or when you usually meet, they will not know how to respond.  

'Bad' Email

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In this email you will notice I did not add a subject line. Your professor will not know anything about this email and what it is you need from them. It's important to to add a subject line so your professor will know what the email is about. In your email make sure to greet your professor correctly. Start with hello and your professor's name. You can check your syllabus to see what your professor prefers to be called, for example Mr/Mrs/Ms or Dr. Only call your professor by their first name if they tell you it's acceptable. As you can see in my email I use an unprofessional greeting. Professors do not appreciate that. I also do not tell them what it is that I nee dhelp with. Be specific so they can better assist you. I don't end my email with my name or class, so now my professor will not know who I am and what class I'm in. This will make helping you a lot harder than it needs to be.

'Good' Email

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In this email to Marla we are on a first name basis, otherwise I would use a more professional title such as Ms or Miss. You will notice I have put in a subject line. This is important for your professor to know what it is that you need. You will also see how I specifically tell her what I need help with in Zoom and that I need an extension on my assignment. You will need to be specific with your professor so they can better help you. Also, when you go to end the email you will add your name and what class you are in. Most professors teach around 4-7 classes a semester so it is very important to let them know who you are and what class you're in. Always be polite when speaking in an email, thank them and let them know how best to contact you to help resolve the issue.

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