Email Etiquette

As a rule…

1. Brevity is the soul of wit: keep it short!
2. Proof read before sending!
3. Use appropriate address!
4. Tone: keep it positive! Avoid negativity but don’t try to be cute.
5. When sending attachments, make not that there is an attachment and name the file as SPECIFICALLY as possible, including last name and course title along with assignment ID (BOYD-ENGL700-Pedagogy-Teaching Template)

For specific concerns…

Lodging a Complaint:
Complaint emails are about as fun to write as they are to read. Keep it brief but give a context. Explain attempts you’ve previously made to remedy the problem and offer suggestions on ways you think it can be resolved.

To Email or Not To Email:
Do email if:

1. you have an easy question to answer via email
2. you have permission to email an assignment
3. you are requesting a meeting to discuss something of a lengthier nature

Don’t email if: 

1. you’re turning in an assignment late without permission to submit via email
2. you are requesting to discuss a topic that will require a lengthy conversation or dialogue (this should be limited to a request to meet)
3. you just want your instructor to look over a paper that is due (unless you have permission from your instructor).
4. you are angry. Sleep on it and have a friend read over it. It’s much easier to win bees with honey.

Be careful emailing if:

1. you are requesting an extension (it may be best to make these requests in person)
2. you are requesting something that will involve a significant portion of your instructor’s time (writing a recommendation letter,requesting mentorship, research work,directed studies, etc.)

Many of these requests are best made in person so I recommend this Email Request Rx:

  • Keep it BRIEF! Request an appointment (or mentioning the desire to drop by office hours).
  • Allude to your request but don’t make it an explicit yes/no question. Open-ended requests followed by an in-person visit is usually the best strategy.
  • Use appropriate forms of address (Dear Professor, Dear Dr., Dear Ms, Dear Miss, Dear Mr.)
  • Be sure to follow up your appointment (if successful) by giving your writer all the relevant information about when and how the letter should be submitted (is it a contact email? is it something that must be mailed? You offer an addressed stamped envelope if this is the case).
  • Always give your writers AT LEAST TWO WEEKS NOTICE (if not more!)
  • Provide all your application materials to your writer at least a week in advance of the due date (personal statements, CV, or other application materials) and/or include some sort of statement providing your writer with the details of why this internship is important for your professional or undergraduate experience.


Dear _____________,

I’d like to schedule an appointment to speak with you about the possibility of you writing a letter of recommendation for a summer internship I’m applying for this semester. The deadline is ___________.


I’m hoping to meet with you in the next few weeks to discuss an internship I’m applying for this semester. It requires two recommendations. I’d like to meet with you to gage your interest in serving as one of these two letter-writers for this application. The application deadline is ____________.