How To Write an Email to a Professor

I remember sitting in an office at Front Range, before I transferred to CU Denver, listening to a handful of professors vent their frustrations about emails they get from students. "There was no subject line, so it went to spam, and I had to search for it," "They called me Mrs., I'm not married," "What class is this student in?" were all said with frustration and disbelief. Last month I sent and received 130 emails from professors, the University, and coworkers through my university email alone! In the online or hybrid setting that many of us find ourselves in, we send countless more emails because they have quickly become the primary way we communicate. In this article, I give you four tips on how to create a professional email, so you don't become one of those students

Step One: Never Leave the Subject Blank

The subject line should be a few words that summarize what the rest of the email is about. If you don't put a subject in the subject line, many email algorithms will think its spam and send your email to the spam folder where the professor will never see it.

Step Two: Know the Professor's Title

If you are unsure whether your professor is a Dr., check the class syllabus for a Dr. or Ph.D. next to their name. Also, rules for using "Ms." or "Miss" are confusing, and sometimes women don't like either to be used, so to avoid insult, use "Professor" in its place.

Step Three: Include Your Class Information

If you don't tell the professor what class you are in, they often have to spend time trying to figure it out. I always include this information at the end of an email after my name. Things to include are subject abbreviation, course number, section number, day(s) you meet, and time. These can all be found on the class syllabus or UCDAccess under the student schedule. The end of my emails look something like this:


Justin Shrader

COMM 4550-001

T/TH: 1-2:15pm

Step Four: Use an Appropriate Salutation

Never use "Dear" at the beginning of a professional email or end with "sincerely yours" this is not your high school sweetheart. Instead, begin with a simple "Hello" or "Good afternoon" and end with "Best" or "All the best." These show respect and professional courtesy. If you develop a good rapport, you could begin the email with "Hey" but don't send that in your first email.
If you follow these rules, you will have a solid foundation for writing professional emails. If you would like more information on how to write an email to your professor, read this guide for additional information.

Justin Shrader | TRIO SSS Peer Mentor

This story originally appeared in the TRIO newsletter. CU Denver TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO SSS) helps first-generation, low-income students and students with disabilities reach their full potential and achieve academic success.

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