Email Etiquette

Email is one of the main ways to communicate in the workplace and is more formal than chat. Over time, certain rules of etiquette, or social expectations, have developed. You may be viewed negatively if you neglect to follow them. Email etiquette includes using a polite tone, representing yourself professionally, writing clearly, and being timely when sending and replying to emails.

Etiquette is especially important when communicating with professors. The following guidelines and examples will help you make a good impression with your Miami instructors (and the advice applies to business or other formal situations too).

Polite Tone

  • Write in a polite tone that is respectful of your instructor and their time. Consider the following examples:

Polite: After I receive my grade, I would like to request a meeting.

["After" acknowledges that the instructor will complete grading at some point.]

Impolite: If I receive my grade, I would like to request a meeting.

["If" sounds impatient and implies the instructor may never finish grading.]

  • Be careful about where you assign blame, particularly when it comes to discussing grades.

Polite: I didn't receive a good grade on my last paper and, if possible, would like to discuss ways to improve.

[accepts responsibility and asks for the possibility of discussion]

Impolite: You gave me a poor grade on my last paper, and I want to discuss why.

[places the blame on the instructor and sounds demanding in requesting a discussion]

  • Present requests as questions, rather than commands or demands. If scheduling a meeting, leave the request open for your instructor to suggest a specific time.

Polite: Can I meet with you during your office hours on Friday?

Also Polite: Would it be possible to meet with you sometime this week?

Impolite: I want a meeting in your office this Friday at 2pm.

Professionalism

  • Recognize when it is appropriate to email
    • Asking simple questions.
    • Submitting an assignment when told to do so.
    • Explaining that you will be late to class or miss class.
    • Requesting a meeting in your instructor’s office.
  • Recognize when not to email.
    • Asking questions that are already answered on the assignment sheet or syllabus.
    • Asking complicated questions that require long answers.
    • Submitting an assignment without permission.
    • Expressing anger that could lead to a heated debate or argument.
  • Proofread your email before sending.
    • Re-read your subject line and entire email before sending.
    • Ensure the recipient’s name is spelled correctly.
    • Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • If you attach a document, double-check that the correct document is attached.
  • Provide all necessary information, such as the course number and section or time of class, assignment name, or dates. This prevents extra emails for clarification and ensures you get the information you need in a timely manner.
  • Send emails early, so you can receive a response before your deadline. By the same token, reply to emails as soon as possible as well.

Basic Structure of an Email

Consider the structure of the following email:

ACE 113: Attending Thursday Section [subject line]

Dear Professor Smith, [greeting]

I will be unable to attend ACE 113 this Wednesday, December 3. Would it be possible to attend your 1:00 section this Thursday, December 4, so that I do not fall behind? [body]

Thank you for your time and consideration. [closing]

Trisha Harris [signature]

Subject Line

  • Always provide a subject so your reader has some context before opening the email.
  • When emailing your instructor, include your course number and the specific topic of the email.

ACE 113: Topics on 9/6 Quiz

  • Be specific but concise.

Too long: ACE 113: Question about whether we are supposed to submit 9/6 Quiz by email

Concise: ACE 113: Question about Submitting 9/6 Quiz

Greeting

  • Begin with “Dear,” “Hello,” or “Hi.”
  • Address instructors by their last names, unless they have told you to use a less formal name, such as Jane or Ms. Smith.
    • Instructors with a PhD → Dr. Smith
    • Instructors without a PhD → Professor Smith

Body

  • Keep your email short.
  • Provide necessary information, such as dates or assignment names.
  • Avoid unnecessary explanations. For example, you don’t need to tell your instructor a story about why you missed class or will miss a deadline.
  • Write in complete sentences.

Closing and Signature

  • Thank your instructor for their time.
  • Sign your full name the first time you email.
  • Sign just your first name on additional emails.

Example Impolite Email

The following email is impolite because it does not provide the instructor with information about the course, assignment, or even the student's name. Without a subject, this email is less likely to grab the instructor's attention or may even be sent to their Spam folder. Direct language accuses the instructor of misrecording a grade and does not clarify what the student would like the instructor to do. While "thank you" is used, it comes across as sarcastic, based on the overall impolite tone of the email.

Subject line: [no subject]

The review that we had one week ago regarding my assignment grades resulted in an A. However, you put the wrong grade on Canvas. It should be an A. Thank you.

Example Polite Email

The following email provides the instructor with information about the class and assignment in question, gently requests clarification and a possible change in Canvas, gives the instructor an opportunity to acknowledge and correct their mistake, and thanks them for their time.

Subject line: ENG 111: Assignment 2 Grade

Dear Dr. Jones:

When our Assignment 2 essays were returned in class last week, I had received an A according to the grading rubric. However, I noticed today that the Assignment 2 grade listed in Canvas is a B+. I just wanted to confirm which grade I received. If my grade was an A, could you update this information on Canvas for me?

Thank you for your time and any clarification you can provide.

Sincerely,
Cristal Casaluci