Email etiquette

Want to make sure you get a quick response to your email? Here are some tips to consider before you hit "Send".

Check the syllabus first. If the answer to your question is in the syllabus, you can save us both some time by looking it up. Don't have your syllabus handy? Grab it from here.

Don't ask the dreaded question. "Did we do anything important on the day I missed?" My response to that question will be a link to this poem. Check the syllabus, then ask one of your classmates what you missed.

Always include a clear subject line. Describe the purpose of your email in a few words.
Good: "question about homework #5", "final paper draft for ENGL 3371", "scheduling an appointment"
Bad: "question", "help", "from Bob"

Always send from your school email address. This helps tell me who you are, and prevents your messages from going to my spam box.

Tell me who you are. Full name, class name, day/time of class meetings, and anything else that might be helpful
     "This is Stewart Dent from your M/W 3–4 intro to linguistics class; I sit in the front row"

Clearly state the reason for your message. What action do you want me to take? Do you want to set up a meeting? Do you have a quick question that can be answered over email?

If you would like to meet, first consider making an office hours appointment. If you can't make it during my office hours, tell me when you're available over the course of the next week or so; I'll get back to you with a time that works for both of us.

I cannot discuss grades over email. FERPA sets forth requirements designed to protect the privacy of your educational records. Email is not considered a private or secure medium, and so grades cannot be sent by email. Please check Blackboard for your current course grade and grades on any assignments.

I'll usually get back to you within one business day, or two at the most. If I'm away at a conference or am particularly busy, there might be a delay. If you are expecting a response from me and haven't heard back in 3 days, feel free to send a follow-up message.

Salutations, honorifics, and valedictions. Some professors expect a certain level of formality in email.  Your email should start with three pieces:

  • Salutation: "Dear" (more formal), "Hello" (less formal), or "Hi" (if and only if you have received a message from this professor using this or an equally informal salutation).
  • Honorific: Do you know that this person holds a Ph.D.? Go with "Dr." Not sure if they have a Ph.D.? Go with "Professor".  Do not use Mr., Ms., or Mrs. unless this person introduces themself that way.
  • Last name: Do not use their first name unless they introduce themself to you this way or they sign emails with only their first name.

At the end of your email, include a valediction like "Thank you," "Best," or "Sincerely," followed by your full name.