1. Don’t forget your subject line. It should be very clear what you are writing about. So a blank is not appropriate. “Homework: Please read” is a better subject line than “question” or “class?” A subject line that identifies both your course and the issue, like “HUMA homework: question about the sculpture assignment,” would be excellent.
2. Professors like their titles and their names within the email.
Dear Dr. Brokenrecord,
3. Always identify yourself at the end of the letter with the name you go by in class. Use Jim Student rather than Jim, though, since I may have ten Jims. If in class I call you CeeCee, then don’t sign the email Celina Caroline. I won’t know who that is!
4. Always identify your course number and class time.
ENGL 1301 at 8 am MWF or
ENGL 0310 at 10 am or
HUMA 1301 7-9
5. Do not reply to an old email to begin a new conversation. If you are asking or writing about something unrelated or only peripherally related to a previous email, do not simply hit reply to that email. Instead begin a new email conversation with a new email.
6. Always use the highest standard of English in your messages. Neither teachers nor bosses, regardless of their ability to translate text spellings, want to have to figure out what you said. If it needs to be said, say it well and correctly.
7. Email is not the best medium for urgent communication, unless it is the only medium possible. It is a good medium for information that is complicated.
8. Consider whether or not you would want the email to be printed on a local billboard. While I would not publish your email, there are hackers and there are also times when emails are released to the public for legal reasons. As a check for whether or not your email is appropriate, read it aloud. Think about whether you would be willing to say it to your mother, your guardian angel, or your boss.
Students are not the only ones who have trouble with email. A good advice column from the CHE is on administrators who need email etiquette lessons.
PhDComics on Email Writing