Professional Email Tips

The speed and convenience of email make it an invaluable communication tool between student and instructor, but there’s a downside too.  Too often, email is seen as a purely informal medium, and students put less time and care into these messages than they should.  Would you approach your instructor after class and say, “Hey, prof, idk what’s for homework”? Hopefully not, yet instructors get emails like this every day.  As with all other professional interactions, emails to your instructor should be clear, careful and courteous.

  1. Email using your MocsMail account (
  2. Always include your FULL name (not just your nickname of Bo if your full name is Robert) and your UTC ID.
  3. Put the Subject, Course number & CRN in the subject line - for example, USTU 1250-43022.  Know that sending an email with a subject line of "HELP!" nearly always gets stuck in the spam filter.
  4. Know your instructor’s preferences and policy regarding email, like how often they check and respond to email.
  5. Format your email properly, avoiding text or Twitter abbreviations and using complete sentences.
  6. Be clear and specific.  If you need help with an assignment, specify which one.
  7. Don’t email in anger.  Remember that email could be forever!  If you need to, wait an hour to cool down, or have a friend proofread the message before you send it.
  8. Patiently wait for a reply - meaning, a minimum of 48 hours.  If your issue is particularly urgent, you're probably better off trying to meet with them face-to-face during their office hours.
  9. Choose your wording carefully.  If you missed class, don’t ask “if” you missed anything important. It’s a good bet that your instructor thinks everything he or she works hard to impart to you in class is important.  Be diplomatic. Even if you feel completely in the right, be smart about how you phrase your message.  Don’t be demanding, and don’t tell your instructors what they “have” to do.  Finally, be honest, but don’t over-share.
  10. Copy yourself on emails to your instructors. 
  11. Refrain from sending forwards to your past or present instructors. 
  12. Be sure that your instructor is the best person to ask before emailing.  If you ask a question that the instructor has already answered multiple times in class, or the information you need is on the syllabus, or you can get the material from a classmate, then your instructor will not look favorably on your email. However, with that in mind, don’t be afraid to email your instructors about even small things; unasked questions can never be answered.