Email Etiquette

The following email etiquette tips are offered from a professor at Kennesaw State University and prompted by the N.Y. Times article: “To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It’s all about me.”

Don’t email professors asking for their notes. Your professors work hard to prepare and deliver their lectures. If you fail to take notes, miss class, or lose your notes, contact your peers first.

Don’t email professors asking (or complaining) about your grades. Unless you have been specifically told to use email for specific grading topics or issues, don’t do it. If there is a problem with a graded assignment, or you need to find out what you made on an assignment, make an appointment with your professor or stop by during office hours. Any time you want to discuss graded assignments, talk with your professor face-to-face. There is less chance of misinterpreted intent when looking them in the eye. Also, don’t email professors asking if they have graded your assignment. They’ll let you know.

Don’t email your professor and copy the Dept Chair, Program Director or Dean. Unless you are emailing a glowing thank you, or congratulations message, any message you would need to copy a professor’s supervisors should be delivered in person. Emailing and copying their supervisor will only make your position tougher to defend, whatever it is.

Treat your faculty (and fellow students) with respect, even in email. Your professors are dedicated to your education. We will attempt to create a supportive learning environment that is conducive to your degree pursuits. Don’t misinterpret this “kinder, gentler professor” model with an offer of friendship or an invitation to treat us as peers. Always use your professors’ proper title: Dr. or Prof. and unless specifically invited, don’t refer to them by first name. Respect us, and we will respect you. Also refrain from bad-mouthing any of your professors or even any fellow students by email or out loud in the presence of any member of the faculty. It’s just unprofessional. Remember email is forever, and professors have been known to compare notes and talk to each other. Do not assume that two of your professors are not close collaborators on a research project or see each other socially.

Don’t expect an immediate response to your email. Emailing your professors at 2 a.m. is fine. But don’t expect an answer by 8 a.m. Each professor has a different work schedule, and probably has a personal life as well. Email is a great way to get your question to your professor, but realize they may not be able to answer until they have time. In some cases, they may not have access to information about your question, unless they are in the office. 24 hours is a standard window for an email response.

You are what you email. Your emails to your professor help shape their professional opinion about you. In some settings, email is the dominant opportunity for the professor to form an opinion about you. You may be someone who is quiet and respectful in person, but a flame troll behind the keyboard (look it up). Every email adds to the professor’s profile. Read each email twice before sending.

When in doubt, your professor will delete. If professors receive emails they don’t feel is appropriate, the standard response may be to simply delete it. So if you send an email that you don’t hear back from quickly, reread what you sent, then visit the professor face-to-face to get an answer. The professor may have simply been out of the office.

When in doubt, email. When you have a question, email – after reviewing the above guidelines. Immediate feedback may be more beneficial than any possible misinterpretations.