How To Email Your Professor

Good examples that you can use as templates

Hi Professor Laba,

I'm a student in your Math 299 class. I have some questions about the last section we covered, but I cannot come to your office hours due to schedule conflict with another class. Could I make an appointment? I'm available tomorrow 2-4 pm, on Wednesday 10-11 and after 3 pm, and on Thursday before 11 am. Would any of these times work for you?


Stanley Park

Hi Professor,

My name is Jill Brown and I'm in your Math 299 class. I'm working on HW4 and I have a few questions about it.

In problem 1, are we supposed to assume that the function f is differentiable? The textbook does not say that, but the method recommended in the hint is only valid if the function is differentiable.

In problem 3, do we have to use Lagrange multipliers, or can we use a different method?

Also, in question 24 from the recommended homework in Section 14.5, I got the correct answer when I used x and t as independent variables, but if I use x and y as the variables instead, I get a different answer. Could you tell me why the second method does not work?


General rules for writing email to professors

Additional resources

There are many other pages and articles on writing email in academia, for example: You will notice that different people have different preferences, so there may well be no perfect way to email that will keep everyone 100% satisfied. For example, I do not require formal "Dear Professor" greetings, formal closings, or "acknowledgements of common humanity" such as "I hope you are having a good day". But a few points are universal: use formal language, use last names and professional titles unless instructed otherwise, state your request clearly, provide all necessary information, do not make unrealistic or impossible demands.

One more word about formal language: the point is not to have you use archaic phrases from the 19th century, but to communicate effectively with someone who only has a professional (not personal) relationship with you and who might not share your background. "Hey, do u have time to talk tomorrow" is completely appropriate when you are writing to a friend. Your friend may already know what you want to talk about (or if they don't, they probably want to see you anyway), and you can be casual about the scheduling. These are not assumptions that you can generally make in a professional setting.

Copyright I. Laba, 2019.