Email a professor

Check your Penn email daily. You can email me with questions anytime. I will answer emails about assignments UP TO 24 HOURS before the deadline.

Email is professional communication and should reflect the same standards as any other written work (complete sentences, polite and professional tone, etc.).

Before emailing, CHECK THE COURSE SYLLABUS AND WEBSITE. If the answer to your question is on the course syllabus or website, you should not email your professor asking for this information. If you do, they will just point you back to the syllabus and course website. They spent months creating the syllabus and website so that you will have them as a constant reference.

Include the course number in your subject line and specify exactly which course and assignment to which your email refers. “Question about GSWS 322 assignment” is clear and sounds genuine, while “a question” looks like spam. The subject “Question about Women’s Studies assignment,” without identifying the class you’re in, may leave your professor with the chore of figuring that out (professors teach 2-5 courses per semester and can have hundreds of students at a time). An email that merely says “I’m in your women’s studies class and need the assignment” is not helpful. Many if not all of your women’s studies professor’s classes are women’s studies classes; ze still needs to know which one is yours.  (Also, “I need the assignment” doesn’t ask anything)

Start a new email for a new topic. This means that you should not dig through your email inbox, find an old email your professor sent out welcoming everyone to the course, and hit reply when you are notifying them you will not be in class that day (or whatever your topic may be). Start a brand new email thread titled something like “GSWS 322–Absence on September 9.”

Choose an appropriate greeting. “Hi/Hello Professor [last name]” is always appropriate. Address your professor  in the way that they have asked you to do so. If a professor has not indicated this, use “Professor [last name]” or “Dr. [last name]. It is insulting to use non-professional titles such as “Ms.”, “Mr.” and “Mrs.” Not only do these gendered titles reflect your assumptions about your professor’s gender identity (and it is never okay to assume someone’s gender identity), but your professor went to graduate school for a very, very long time to earn their PhD and the title that comes with it.

Ask politely. “Could you e-mail me the page numbers for the next reading? Thanks!” is a lot better than “I need the assignment.”

Always sign your full name. The “from” line doesn’t automatically include your name, even when you’re writing from your university account.

Proofread what you’ve written. You want your email to show you in the best possible light. Your emails should sound as professional as your written assignments–your professionalism is measured by your communication skills (in class, in email, in conversations after class, in written assignments, etc.). Use complete sentences and correct grammar, and avoid IM-speak or texting language.


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