Skip to main content

Bessie W

SFU Student

empty
A closeup of the Mail app
Credit
Torsten Dettlaff from Pexels
When in doubt, be polite!

This blog post was originally published on the Student Learning Commons blog from Simon Fraser University Library on Sep 22, 2020.

Do you often find yourself staring at the screen for 10 minutes, not knowing how to start that email to your professor or TA? While everyone has their own style of writing, there are a few general rules you should keep in mind to stay professional and polite.

Subject

Remember that your professors and TAs may be teaching several classes at the same time. From that standpoint, you may be one of literally hundreds of students sending emails. Using the subject line of your email to provide your professor or TA with your context will therefore definitely help your email get seen and responded to! For example, you may write something like  "BUS 101 -General Inquiry" as your subject line. It will be much more effective than writing "Student Inquiry" or "Request for Help!" You should also avoid sending professional emails with no subject line, as those are frequently ignored or deleted.

Greeting

Just like would greet a friend before telling them all about your day, you should open your email with a proper greeting before diving right into your email request or content. If your prof or TA hasn't given you specific details about what to call them, your best bet is to simply say "Hello Professor ___," or, in the case of a TA, "Hello ______ [first name is fine]".

Avoid using slang and friendly language such as "Hey" or "What's up Prof".

Main Body

You may want to start off by introducing yourself and addressing the main reason why you are emailing. After that, dive into what you want to say and make sure to be clear on what kind of questions you have or how you would like help. Consider whether you might be asking a common question such as those about office hours, deadlines, or reading schedules. If you are asking such common questions, double-check SFU Canvas or the syllabus first, as you can usually find the answers there.

Conclusion

Be sure to thank the professor and feel free to add an appropriate concluding sentence. If it's a Friday, wish them a good weekend! At a time like this, telling them to stay safe is also appropriate. Here are some common email closings: kind regards, sincerely, many thanks, yours truly. Remember to avoid informal closings such as: see ya, xoxo, see you around, and similar phrases that you might send to a close friend.

Email Checklist

  • Include a subject line to ensure that your email won't be overlooked by providing context.

  • Give your professor or TA a professional greeting and avoid slang.

  • Briefly introduce yourself and be clear on the question(s) you are asking (after checking to make sure you can't find the answer on your own in the information your professor and/or TA has already provided). 

  • Wrap it up with an appropriate concluding sentence.

  • When in doubt, be polite!

Happy emailing! 

Beyond the Blog

  • Have an idea for a future blog post? Want to become a contributor to the SLC In Common Blog? Have a writing or learning question you've always wanted answered? Contact us and we'll reply. We read all questions and feedback and do our best to answer all writing/learning strategies-related questions directly on the blog within three weeks of receipt. 

  • Bessie W Aug 11, 2021
    Like to recommend this item
    visibility  37

About the Author

Bessie W

SFU Student

You Might Like These... International, Career Exploration, Academic Success, Personal Development, Professional Associations, Seeking

picture of a bunch of hand-painted bowls
International Studies: Experiences Abroad Set Students Apart

International Studies (IS) is a fairly new faculty at SFU. How can students in IS market their unique perspectives and skill set to potential employers? Read on for advice from Jan Bérubé, Manager of Academic & Administrative Services for the School for International Studies, and for some upcoming events with international-focused employers.

Suzanne smiling at her desk
Suzanne Young: A Co-op Student's Success Story

For Suzanne Young, SFUs Co-op program was an immense part of her undergraduate experience. As a graduate in Linguistics and French, she reflects back on her experiences as a Co-op student.

Monica smiling on the sands of a beach
Studying Down Under

Monica Hartanto spent a semester studying at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.  Read about here experience here, and get tips on how you can study abroad too!

A closeup of the Mail app
library_books
Blog
Writing a Professional Email 101
Academic Success, Communication, Professional Development

Former SLC English as Additional Language Peer Bessie W. returns with tips and tricks for writing a professional email. Just in time to help you reach out to your professor or TA to get clarification on those first assignments...

You Might Like These... Academic Success

Comic Guide: 5 Tips to Survive your First Week of University Banner
Comic Guide: 5 Tips to Survive Your First Week of University

New experiences can be scary. The transition from high school to university can be tough, especially when you go from a class of 30 to a class of 200. In this comic strip blog post, Linnea offers her top five tips for kicking first day jitters to the curb. 

Picture of calculator beside a graph
Getting Ready for Math-Related Classes in the New Semester

Many university classes require a lot of math and problem-solving. Eric Cai, an SFU alumni currently working in statistics, shares his top tips on how to excel in these challenging courses. 

Dennis as a freshman with his friends
Must-know Tips For A University Freshman | Part One

Making the transition from high school to university can be exciting but difficult, check out some useful tips and advice from a senior student so you can make the most out of your first year at SFU!