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College Email Etiquette 101

college email etiquetteCollege email etiquette may seem like a silly topic, but it is important to know how to best address your professors.

Email has become a common medium for contacting college professors, but unfortunately, knowledge of the proper etiquette is not so common. Even students who are aware of the rules do not always play by them, often because they are in a hurry or they don’t think it’s necessary.

If you have any doubts about your email prowess, take these etiquette tips into consideration before you send your college professor a note online.

Salutations and Signoffs

Don’t begin your email the same way you would greet a friend. This means starting with “Hey,” is out of the question.

Instead, stick with the more professional “Dear Professor,” inserting his or her last name. If you would like to be especially formal, you can end your email with “Best,” or “Sincerely,” but generally a “Thank you,” will suffice.

Once you are more familiar with your professor, you can likely start emails with “Hello,” or “Good morning,” etc. Your emails can become less formal as long as they always remain polite — just follow your professor’s lead for setting the tone.

If you are not sure of the name of the person you are emailing — such as when you are applying for a job or internship at your school — you can open with “To whom it may concern.” However, a quick phone call or online search will likely yield the name of whom you’re addressing, and the two minutes it takes to personalize your application can really set you apart from the crowd.

While you’re at it, you may want to obtain resume writing services before applying so you can make sure both your email and its attachments are professional.

When it comes to college email etiquette, ending the message well is just as important as starting it off the right way. This means you can use common sign-offs that include “Sincerely,” “Regards,” “Best wishes,” and other closing words that are considered positive and professional. When closing an email for a job or internship, make sure to use your full name, not a nickname.

Keep Your Email Address and Signature Appropriate

Remember that your email address will be one of the first things your professor sees when you communicate online. For this reason, you need to make sure it is appropriate.

Using your college email address is the best way to communicate with your professors — it’s guaranteed to not be sent to a spam folder, and seeing the school’s domain name will automatically convey that you’re a student.

If you must use a different email, make sure it is suitable. Preferably, your personal email simply has your full name. Unprofessional addresses  that espouse your high school clique or abuse conventional spelling should not be used in communication with anyone who has the power to issue you a grade, a job, or an internship.

Similarly, avoid any personal statements in your email signature. Whether it’s your opinion on the best band in the world, a bold political statement, or a quote that inspires you, it’s not necessary to send it to your professor or a prospective employer. Luckily, it’s easy to delete before you press send so you can stick with professional email etiquette in college.

Content Counts

Now that you know the preferred format of any email you send in school, you should consider the actual content. The main thing to remember is that your professors are busy and need you to get to the point.

In fact, if your message has to be more than a few sentences, include bullet points for faster reading. This thoughtful move can be a simple way to work toward improving professor relations.

Do not use slang, emoticons or offensive terms in your email. Always be polite, and remember to proofread and spellcheck before you send your message. You’re unlikely to change your professor’s mind about that bad grade on your English essay when your email is full of grammatical errors and typos!

Have you ever learned the hard way how important it is to pay attention to college email etiquette? Tell us about any embarrassing email gaffes you’ve experienced in the comments below.


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