The dos and don'ts of student-professor correspondence.
In college, communication is very important. Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively with your professors will save you a lot of stress and frustration. A new academic year is approaching, and with it a class of new, impressionable, confused, sheep-like freshmen. While this guide is primarily for the newbies, the skills within can be used by any college student who is new to the art of emailing professors.
1. Avoid formalities like “Dear” in the opening line.
While this address may be appropriate for veteran emailers, if it’s the first time you’re emailing a professor it’s best to not come on so strong with a word like “Dear.” You also don’t know your professor’s life story yet. His or her whole family could have been killed by a stampeding herd of deer, and the very thought of the animal could drive him or her to delete your email instantly. It’s best to avoid this situation. A safe bet is to simply write out your professor’s title, name and succeed that with a comma.
2. Make sure your professor’s name is visible.
You are an underling. Your professor is an overling. This must be established from the very start. When writing your professor’s name, consider using a font size at least 10 points larger than your body paragraph font. The bigger the better. If you’re really going for the win, consider writing your professor’s name out by hand in a fancy script font or with water colors. Scan your image into the email, and you’re off to a great start.
3. Beat around the bush.
A key feature in Japanese business writing is creating a relationship with your business partner. Rather than rudely getting straight to the point, it’s best to get to know the recipient of your email. A little-known fact is that student-professor correspondence works in a very similar way. Instead of asking that question about the assignment right away, consider telling your professor about how your day went. How did you sleep that night? Ask your professor about his or her own life and family. Wish your professor well and get to know who he or she really is.
4. Use nicknames!
Once you’re into the body of your article, the formality level of address becomes significantly lower. Instead of using words like “doctor” or “professor,” consider using a personal nickname, like “DJ” or “Jedi.” This kind of banter can really bring your relationship closer. If your professor neglects to give you a nickname in a return email, that means that the nickname you provided for the professor was unsatisfactory. Keep changing the nickname in future emails until you find one that works. Practice makes perfect.
5. Be careful of your syntax.
In the English language, “subject verb object” form is the most common kind of sentence. You start with the subject “I,” follow up with a verb “need” and finish off with an object “the assignment rubric.” In email writing, things are much different. SVO form can come across as rude, if not attacking. Switch things up to make your email seem more lighthearted and conversational. “I need the assignment rubric,” can turn into “Strong need of the rubric of which pertains to the assignment have I.” Experiment with form. Write your email in sonnet form if you’re feeling it!
6. Close your email appropriately.
When signing off in an email, the most important thing is to disclose who you are and what you do. Sometimes your name will not be enough, especially if your professor doesn’t know everyone yet. Consider including a series of seven pictures of yourself progressing from your first baby photo, to a selfie. It is important to place your computer in the background of the selfie with your email draft on the screen. That way your professor knows it’s a picture of you, and not some random person.
After your name, include a mini to full-fledged resume underneath. Consider writing down every life achievement you’ve accomplished and a link to your AP test results. A fail-safe method is to simply attach your resume in the email altogether. It also never hurts to attach a picture of childhood pets.
And there you have it, a comprehensive guide to writing emails to professors. I wish you all the best of luck in your starting semester!