Email: Student to
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
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
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,
T. F. Patterson