Email:  Student to Faculty Protocol

 This memo is intended to give students some general guidelines when emailing CALS faculty.  To begin, it is important to note a few things…

First, email can be easily misinterpreted.  Without face-to-face interaction, without free dialogue between speakers, without verbal intonation and emphasis, email messages are often misunderstood.  In fact, recent research suggests that half of all email messages are misinterpreted by the receiver (Kruger, et al, 2005).  While email is a great vehicle for asking a question or exchanging information, it is not a good way to engage in dialogue.

Second, CALS faculty are extremely busy people.  Most University communication is now done through the Internet, and faculty typically receive over 50 emails per day.  In addition to teaching and advising, professors are responsible for conducting research, publishing books and journal articles, serving on committees, participating in professional associations and providing service to their Department, the University and the greater community.

Finally, in a university setting, there is always an unequal relationship between students and faculty.  Faculty are responsible for evaluating your performance in class and passing judgment on your growth and behavior as a student at UVM.  This relationship should always be kept in mind by students when communicating with faculty.

With these caveats in mind, the following guidelines are suggested when students email faculty:

Email:  It is critical that you use your UVM email account to correspond with faculty.

Subject Line:  Always use a subject line (most often the class you are writing about).  Many faculty will not answer email messages that do not contain a subject.

Greeting:  Always begin your email with a salutation.  In most cases it should be Professor or Doctor.  If you are not sure what to call your professor, ask them, but, in general, always start with the more formal address.

Body:  Use correct English.  Be brief and to the point, but use complete sentences.  Capitalize I and the first word of each sentence.  Do not use internet abbreviations.  Spell check and always reread your email before sending it, to make sure you are communicating the right message with the right tone.

Signature:  Be sure to “sign” your email.

Replying:  If responding to an earlier email from a faculty member, always include a copy of the first message in your reply.  The copy should be included below your reply.

A Final Note:  Before sending your professor an email, you should check the course syllabus to make sure your question isn’t already answered there.  Also, CALS faculty are encouraged to communicate to students their own guidelines on how they respond to student email.  Check your syllabuses or, if in doubt, ask your faculty member how they prefer to communicate with students via email.   And finally, if you have something critical to discuss with a faculty member, check when they have office hours and talk to them in person.


Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J. & Zhi-Wen, N.  “Egocentrism over email: Can we communicate as well as we think?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 89, No. 6, 925-936, 2005.        

                                                                                                                           T. F. Patterson

                                                                                                                                May 2006