Email etiquette

Communicating effectively with your lecturers and tutors.

How do I write an effective email?

Email is a very common mode of communication at university, in the workplace and socially. It's important to get the tone and style of your email right, as this will help you make a good impression and hopefully get the response you're looking for.

Sample

Below is a template you can follow and adjust when you want to email a lecturer, tutor, or coordinator. Each element is numbered and explained further underneath.

(1) Subject: [Subject code] - [question about / request for etc.]

(2) Dear (3) Dr [insert surname] / Professor [insert surname] / Prof.  [insert surname],  or [preferred name of lecturer / tutor / coordinator],

(4) I am a student in your [insert subject name] lecture,

(5) I have a question regarding the  lecture presented last [insert day/date] which I couldn't find the answer to.

Should our essay draw only on readings listed on the syllabus or can I incorporate scholarly articles I read on my own, as long as it fits with the subject of the assignment?

I look forward to hearing from you.

(6) Kind regards,
[Your name]

(1) Use a concise and direct subject line

Subject code + Problem/Enquiry

The subject line should be simple and reflect the content of your email. Something like “Question about [Class Name] paper” or “Meeting request” is clear and appropriate.

(2) Use an appropriate salutation

Start your email with a “Dear” or “Hello”, these are appropriate in formal situations. “Hey” is ok when you're emailing friends, but would be too informal in this context.

(3) Address the recipient appropriately (both title and name)

Double-check the spelling of your lecturer or tutor’s name and their title. In Australia, use 'Professor' or 'Prof.' only for academics with the title 'Professor'. Have a look at the subject guide or course information on the LMS or handbook to get the right title. Try to avoid gendered addresses like ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ Some lecturers and tutors might allow you to address them by their first name, but it's better to wait until they have told you that's how they'd prefer you address them. In some cases, you can address your tutor or lecturer by their first name if they have routinely used their first name only to sign off on emails sent to students.

(4) Introduce yourself

Tell your lecturer who you are, especially if this is the first email you've written to them. They may have hundreds of students across different subjects.

(5) Keep the body short and straight to the point

Try to use one paragraph for each idea you want to address. Writing everything in one long paragraph can be confusing for the reader.

(6) End with a clear closing

It's good practice to sign off at the end of an email with a set phrase such as ‘Kind regards’, ‘Best wishes’, or ‘Thanks’, followed by your name.

Checklist

Send emails from your Unimelb email address

This shows that you're enrolled at the University of Melbourne. If you use a personal email address, it may be filtered as spam, meaning your lecturer will not be able to see your email.

Try to figure out the problem by yourself first

If you can’t find a suitable answer, then email.  Check the information that is already available (e.g. canvas LMS, handbook, syllabus) before emailing.

Proofread before sending

Always read through your email before you click the ‘Send' button. Have you included an appropriate salutation, title and sign off. Is your spelling and grammar correct? Grammarly is a useful (and free) tool for identifying mistakes.

Final tip

Always think about your audience (who you're writing to) and your aim (what you want). This will help you to work out how formal you need to be, how much background information you might need to provide and leave the reader with a great impression of your communication skills.

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