How to end an email to a professor asking a question

Download Article Co-authored by Ashley Pritchard, MA Last Updated: February 22, 2022 Approved Download Article

How to end an email to a professor asking a question

Download Article   Co-authored by Ashley Pritchard, MA

Last Updated: February 22, 2022 Approved

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This article was co-authored by Ashley Pritchard, MA. Ashley Pritchard is an Academic and School Counselor at Delaware Valley Regional High School in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Ashley has over 3 years of high school, college, and career counseling experience. She has an MA in School Counseling with a specialization in Mental Health from Caldwell University and is certified as an Independent Education Consultant through the University of California, Irvine.

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Writing an email to a professor takes a bit more thought than shooting an email to a friend or sending a text. Your education is the beginning of your professional career, and you should treat any interactions you have in a professional manner, including emailing. For instance, you should always use your academic account and open your email with a formal greeting. Treat the interaction as you would a formal business letter. Be concise, and remember, grammar counts!

Steps

Part 1Part 1 of 3:Making a Good First Impression

1Check the syllabus for the answer first. Often, the question you would like to ask has already been answered in the material the professor has provided at the beginning of class. Asking a professor to go over this again makes you look like you are not a serious student, and it frustrates the professor because it wastes their time.[1] X Research source Go to source

  • Your syllabus may contain information about course assignments, deadlines, class policies, and assignment formatting.
  • If your professor only gives you a list of readings, it's fine to email them with a question that isn't answered in the syllabus.

2Use your academic account. Professors are deluged with emails every day. By using your school account, you'll have a better chance of avoiding the spam filter. Plus, your school email looks more professional. It also lets the professor know who's actually sending the email, as school emails are usually based on your name.[2] X Research source Go to source

3Include a strong subject line. A subject line clues your professor in to what the email is about before they open it. That can be helpful because they can set aside an appropriate amount of time to deal with it. Make sure the subject line is clear and to the point.[3] X Expert Source

Ashley Pritchard, MA
Academic & School Counselor Expert Interview.  4 November 2019. Go to source

  • For instance, you could write "Question about Current Assignment" or "Final Essay."

4Start with a greeting using the professor's title and surname. It can be tempting to just to plunge into your request. However, when you're writing to a professor, you need to treat it more like you would a formal letter. Begin with "Dear Dr. Jones," followed by a comma. Make sure to use the professor's last name.[4] X Expert Source

Ashley Pritchard, MA
Academic & School Counselor Expert Interview.  4 November 2019. Go to source

  • If you're not sure if the professor has a doctorate, you can address them as "Professor Jones."
  • You can use a bit more informal greeting, such as "Hello Dr. Jones," if you've had personal interactions with the professor.

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Part 2Part 2 of 3:Creating the Content of the Email

1Remind the professor who you are. Professors have many students to keep track of, and they'll need to be reminded of who you are. Say your name, as well as the class you have with the professor, including the specific class period, such as "MWF at noon."[5] X Expert Source

Ashley Pritchard, MA
Academic & School Counselor Expert Interview.  4 November 2019. Go to source

2Stick to the point. Professors are busy people, so you don't want to drag out your email. Say what you need to say as briefly as possible, leaving out any extraneous details.

  • For instance, if you have a question about an assignment, get to the point: "I have a question about the assignment you gave us last Tuesday. Do you want us to work in groups or alone?"

3Write in complete sentences. This email is not a Facebook post or a text to a friend. That means you need to use complete sentences when writing to your professor, as anything less does not look professional.[6] X Expert Source

Ashley Pritchard, MA
Academic & School Counselor Expert Interview.  4 November 2019. Go to source

  • For instance, don't write, "Awesome class, man... stellar!"
  • Instead, write, "You gave an enlightening lecture last class."

4Work on tone. When you're first contacting a professor, keep your tone and language very professional. That means no emojis! If you develop a correspondence with your professor, you may find that you can get a bit more relaxed as the semester goes on. That's particularly true if your professor initiates a bit of informality (such as by sending an emoji in an email to you).

5Make requests politely. Many students try to demand things from their professors. That will get you nowhere. Instead, phrase your issue as a request that the professor can grant or not.[7] X Expert Source

Ashley Pritchard, MA
Academic & School Counselor Expert Interview.  4 November 2019. Go to source

  • For instance, you may want the professor to give you an extension on a paper. Don't say, "My grandmother died. Give me an extension on this paper." Rather, say, "I've had a difficult week with the death of my grandmother. Would you please give me an extension on this paper?"

6Use proper punctuation. In an email to a friend, it may be fine to skip over periods and commas. However, when you're writing to your professor, make sure you are using punctuation where you should.

7Spell out words. As much as text language is taking over the internet, professional emails are one place where you should leave it behind. That is, don't use "u" in place of "you," or "2morrow" in place of "tomorrow." Use proper spellings.[8] X Research source Go to source

  • Don't forget to run your email through spellcheck.

8Capitalize words appropriately. Words at the beginning of sentences should be capitalized, as should proper nouns. Don't slip into text speak where you selectively capitalize words. Make sure you are always capitalizing words that need to be capitalized.

Part 3Part 3 of 3:Finishing Up Your Email

1Specify what action you want the professor to take. Make sure you've said exactly what you want from the professor at or near the end of the email. For instance, if you want a reply, let the professor know. If you need to meet with them, make that known as well.

2Read over your email for grammar. Go through your email to check for any grammar mistakes. Most of the time, you'll catch a mistake or two you made that you need to correct.[9] X Research source Go to source

3Look the email over from your professor's perspective. Think about the content of the email to make sure you aren't demanding something. Also, make sure it's really as concise as it can be. You don't want to overshare about your personal life, as that's not professional.[10] X Research source Go to source

4End the email with a salutation. Just like you began the letter formally, you need to end it formally as well. Use a word like "Sincerely" or "Best," followed by a comma and your full name.

5Check back again in a week. Once you've sent the email, you don't want to pester your professor for an answer. However, if you haven't heard back in a week, you can try again, as your email may have been lost in the shuffle.

6Acknowledge a reply. Once you receive a reply, make sure you acknowledge that you received it. A simple "Thank you" may be enough. If necessary, write a more extensive email using these same guidelines to keep it professional. If your problem or question is not being adequately resolved by email, ask for an appointment to meet in person.

  • For instance, you could say, "Thank you for addressing my question. I'll see you in class."
  • If you'd like to meet, you could write, "I appreciate your thoughts on this issue. Would you mind if we met in person to discuss it in more detail?"

Sample Academic Emails

Sample Email Professor Asking for Notes

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Sample Email Professor About a Question

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Sample Personal Emails

Sample Email Professor Asking for a Favor

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Sample Email Professor About Lunch

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Community Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article? Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow

  • Question How do you address a professor in an email?

Ashley Pritchard, MA Academic Counselor Expert Answer

Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer. Use their official title and last name. So if they went to medical school, you might say, "Dr. Smith" or something. If you're not sure how to address them, check your syllabus. You can also refer to an old email from them and check how they signed it. Just don't be super casual about it and you should be fine.

  • Question How do you start an email to a professor?

Ashley Pritchard, MA Academic Counselor Expert Answer

Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer. First, write a short subject line that gets right to the point of why you're emailing the professor. Then, begin the body of your email with a greeting, followed by your professor's title and surname. Your subject line might say, "Question about today's lecture," and your greeting may be "Dear Doctor Lopez."

  • Question How do you email a professor without being annoying?

Ashley Pritchard, MA Academic Counselor Expert Answer

Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer. Make sure you phrase your desire as a request and acknowledge that your professor is in control of the outcome of the situation. For instance, you may need an extension on a paper because you're very sick. Tell the professor why you need the extension, then politely ask for it. However, make it clear that you understand they might say "no."

  • Question How do I email a professor if I won't be able to attend class because I am sick?

Community Answer Send the email in advance of class. Here's an example of an email you could send with your own details filled in: "Dear Professor Smith, This is Steve Jones from your Communications 101 class that meets at 9am. I will not be in class Thursday, September 1st due to an illness. Sincerely, Steve."

  • Question How should I ask a professor for an appointment?

Community Answer Ask the professor politely when he/she is available for an appointment.

  • Question How do I write an email to my school principal asking to send my high school transcript to various universities where I am interested in applying?

Community Answer Go to your high school's guidance office instead, and tell them you want your transcripts sent to schools.  They will usually have forms for you to fill out detailing the contact information for the schools you wish to apply to, and then they will take care of the rest.

  • Question How do I ask for extra credit work?

Community Answer Don't. Just ask how you can improve your grade, and imply you'd be willing to do anything to improve it. If a professor doesn't offer extra credit, don't ask for it.

  • Question How can I ask for an appointment to meet with my professor?

Community Answer You may ask for an appointment with your professor by emailing him/her, or waiting until after class to make the appointment.

  • Question How do I email my professor about an assignment question?

Community Answer Very simply. For example: "Hello [whatever you call him], I was wondering if you could clarify something for me. [write your question/explain the problem]. Thanks, [your name]

  • Question How do I e-mail a teacher about wanting to get a good grade?

Community Answer You could ask for any tips about making your work better, or ask how much work you should do.

Tips

  • Contact a peer first if the purpose of your email is to find out what you missed when absent.

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References

  1. https://www.math.uh.edu/~tomforde/Email-Etiquette.html
  2. http://udel.edu/~jsoares/How%20to%20Use%20Proper%20Email%20Etiquette%20When%20Writing%20to%20a%20Professor.pdf
  3. Ashley Pritchard, MA. Academic & School Counselor. Expert Interview. 4 November 2019.
  4. Ashley Pritchard, MA. Academic & School Counselor. Expert Interview. 4 November 2019.
  5. Ashley Pritchard, MA. Academic & School Counselor. Expert Interview. 4 November 2019.
  6. Ashley Pritchard, MA. Academic & School Counselor. Expert Interview. 4 November 2019.
  7. Ashley Pritchard, MA. Academic & School Counselor. Expert Interview. 4 November 2019.
  8. https://www.math.uh.edu/~tomforde/Email-Etiquette.html
  9. https://www.math.uh.edu/~tomforde/Email-Etiquette.htmlMore References (1)
  10. https://www.math.uh.edu/~tomforde/Email-Etiquette.html

About This Article

Co-authored by: Ashley Pritchard, MA Academic Counselor This article was co-authored by Ashley Pritchard, MA. Ashley Pritchard is an Academic and School Counselor at Delaware Valley Regional High School in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Ashley has over 3 years of high school, college, and career counseling experience. She has an MA in School Counseling with a specialization in Mental Health from Caldwell University and is certified as an Independent Education Consultant through the University of California, Irvine.  This article has been viewed 4,040,801 times.   Co-authors:  46 Updated: February 22, 2022 Views:4,040,801 Article Rating:87% - 78 votes Categories: Campus Life Article SummaryX

To email a professor, start with a formal salutation like "Dear Professor Jones" or "Hello Professor Jones." Then, briefly explain who you are by saying something like "I'm Mike Smith and I'm in your drawing 101 class on Mondays and Thursdays." Next, get straight to the point by stating why you're emailing. Remember to use a professional tone and language so your email doesn't sound too casual. When you're finished, end your email with "Sincerely" or "Best" followed by your full name. To learn how to proofread your email before sending it, scroll down!In other languagesItaliano:Scrivere un'Email a un Professore Español:enviar un email a un profesor Português:Enviar um Email Para um Professor Deutsch:Einem Professor emailen Français:écrire un mail à un professeur 中文:给教授发邮件 Русский:написать электронное письмо преподавателю Bahasa Indonesia:Mengirim Surel kepada Dosen Nederlands:Een docent mailen Čeština:Jak napsat email profesorovi العربية:مراسلة أستاذك عبر البريد الإلكتروني ไทย:เขียนอีเมลถึงอาจารย์ 한국어:교수님께 이메일 보내는 방법 Tiếng Việt:Viết email cho giảng viên Türkçe:Bir Üniversite Hocasına Nasıl E‐posta Gönderilir 日本語:教授に英語でメールを書く

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Reader Success Stories

L anell Payton

L anell Payton

Jun 8 "It will help me be a good writer."

Malika Muhammad

Malika Muhammad

Feb 4 "This article helped me by learning how to type a proper professional message. It really gave me insight on a few things I did not know when sending a professional email."

Shanice Bryan

Shanice Bryan

Jan 18, 2017 "I like how they broke it down into a step-by-step procedure. With that being said, it gives the students a better understanding what is expected of them and how to approach their professor. Those are some useful tips to help us out in the long run."

Bobbi LaBella Adams

Bobbi LaBella Adams

Oct 31, 2021 "Going back to school as a wife, mother and grandmother was a goal I just knew I had to achieve. You never stop learning, there is no age limit on the brain. I encourage everyone to ask, believe and receive! I never gave up and it took me 25 years."

Brianna Feltner

Brianna Feltner

Aug 7, 2019 "This article helped me. I'm so used to social media and texting that half the time I don't realize I'm not typing in complete sentences or using proper grammar. Now that I've read this article, I know exactly what's expected of me when I email."

Reginald Morgan Jr.

Reginald Morgan Jr.

Jan 15, 2019 "This article helped me understand that there are two different types of ways to send an email: formal or informal. It really helped me by letting me know that making sure that everything is correctly spelled can make or break me."

Lexi Navarro

Lexi Navarro

Apr 26, 2016 "The most helpful thing in this article was that there were a lot of great tips, and many helpful steps. When I wrote this email to my professor she did not seem annoyed or bothered, and she answered rather quickly. Thanks."

Rhonda Steele

Rhonda Steele

Aug 24, 2016 "The overall article was very formative. I have been guilty many times of being informal when writing emails. I also have received informal emails from teachers. I will use this format in my future emails."

Ins Redd

Ins Redd

May 31, 2019 "I had struggles writing an email to my Spanish teacher, in particular, asking her a favor. wikiHow helped me that way, and my teacher replied me very respectfully; she even sent me advice on my work!"

Kdee Nieto

Kdee Nieto

Oct 6, 2020 "This article has helped me learn the correct way to share an email with my professor. I don't send too many emails and I've never had to send an email to a professor, so this really helped me out."

Nakeyia Clark

Nakeyia Clark

Aug 30, 2018 "It shows how to properly send a email to your professor, which is really helpful for maintaining professionalism. It's something we will need once we graduate."

Cathy Morris

Cathy Morris

Aug 31, 2020 "Sometimes we lose sight of how we need to remain professionals and proper etiquette in talking to your professor. This is a skill brush up I needed."

Alexis Murphy

Alexis Murphy

Apr 4, 2020 "This article helped me to correct a mistake I made when I emailed my instructor. And it helped me also email the correct amount of times. Thanks!"

M.P. Clark

M.P. Clark

Aug 13, 2016 "I want to direct my students to a good, thorough sites about email etiquette, and this article does the trick. Thanks for compiling it!"

Imdad Ali

Imdad Ali

Jun 25, 2021 "This article helped me in a way that it did let us know almost all the important points while writing to a professor. Thanks."

Destiny Williams

Destiny Williams

Feb 21, 2020 "This was really helpful. I learned how to talk to my professor, ask questions and get help quickly."

Sayed Latif Hashemi

Sayed Latif Hashemi

Jan 17, 2017 "I really appreciate your information. Helped me with how to write a brief, excellent email. "

Ahlam Abdunabi

Ahlam Abdunabi

Feb 2, 2017 "The article gives me words that helped me to convey my request without being offended."

Nabila Irum

Nabila Irum

Oct 18, 2016 "All the instructions are very helpful. By using them we can email to anyone easily."

K. Albulushi

K. Albulushi

Sep 2, 2018 "This article gave me very helpful tips about writing an e-mail to my professor."

Galina

Galina

Jan 15 "It helped me to understand the proper or professional way to email professors."

Justin Gammons

Justin Gammons

Feb 1, 2021 "This article has given me a visual explanation on how to email my professor."

Dallas Martin

Dallas Martin

Jan 16, 2019 "This article helped me a lot on the best ways to email my teacher."

Wisal Hameed

Wisal Hameed

Sep 1, 2018 "It's helped me to communicate with the professor in a good way."

Sandy Probst

Sandy Probst

Aug 24, 2017 "It gave me guidelines on what I should be doing or not doing."

Sydney Castillo

Sydney Castillo

Jul 8, 2017 "I've never known how to properly email a professor until now."

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Sep 28, 2017 "It helped me figure out how I should lay out the email. "   Rated this article:

Timothy Rodgers

Timothy Rodgers

Nov 10, 2020 "Very good information about sending email correctly."

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