ESL: Email Communication

From the ESL Student Handbook, by Young-Kyung Min, PhD

Email is a primary mode of communication in academia. Make sure you check your email at least once a day. Professors send emails regarding course assignments and announcements. It is your responsibility to keep informed of the email messages from your professors.

Please use your UW email account and not your personal email account in your home country. Indicate the main message of your email in the subject line. Do not write your name in the subject line; your name already appears in the sender’s line.

If you go by an English name in class, you should use your English name when you communicate with your professors. Some students email from their personal email accounts written in their native languages. When you email your professors from your personal account under the name of “김진희” while using your English name “Jean” in class, it can create some confusion.

Please pay attention to how you address your professors. You should not call your professors “Mr. Brown,” “Mrs. Jones, or “Miss Sandra.” Some students continue to use the terms “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, and “Miss” that they used in their high schools, but you should not use these terms when you email your professors at the university. You can address your professors by their first names if they want to be called by their first names. Otherwise, use “Professor Brown” or “Dr. Brown.”

In any case, you should not call your professor by his or her full names without any salutation. Do not start your email “James Brown, I am emailing you regarding the final project of this class.” It is not courteous to call your professor’s full name without any salutation (actually, it can be quite offensive). An appropriate salutation to begin your email is “Dear Dr. Brown,” or “Dear Professor Brown.”

You should not end your email with “All the best” or “Best” when you email your professors. The terms “All the best” or “Best” are used often by friends and colleagues. Instead, close your email with “Thank you” or “Thanks for your attention to this matter” or something positive and pertinent to the content of your email.  

Since students are used to texting on social media these days, some students tend to use an informal tone when they email their professors (e.g. “Sorry. Can’t come to class tomorrow. Email me about the HW.”  “Want to visit you during your office hours on Monday. Are you F2T?  “Check out my first essay and send me your comments. TIA.”). Email communication can be a genre of academic writing depending on the purpose and topic. It is not appropriate to use texting abbreviations in email communication with your professors. Remember that you create an image about yourself through email communication with your professors; thus, the formality of your tone is very important.