How to write an email to your teacher


Graphic by Alex Silber.

By Emma Shaffer

The mouse cursor hovers over the send button as a sophomore girl rereads her email: “Can u help me at lunch tmrrw?” She hits send and waits for a response. Later that day, while scrolling through his inbox, her teacher rolls his eyes at yet another unprofessional, one sentence email.

A well-worded email could substantially increase your chances of getting that grade bump, extension or opportunity for make-up work. One riddled with slang and abbreviations, however, could do the opposite.

Teachers often receive emails that are sloppily written or missing important information, which hurts their ability or willingness to help the student, history teacher Katherine Young said. Students: keep your audience in mind.

After talking to five Whitman teachers, The Black & White compiled these tips to help students write better, more effective emails to teachers.

Tip #1: Be respectful

The most important thing to remember in email writing is to be professional and respectful. Teachers are taking time out of their day to read and answer your emails, so thank them for extending their duties outside of the classroom. Ask rather than demand. Always begin your email by greeting your teacher. Then, write a brief comment, such as “hope your day is going well.” By doing this, you create a stronger interaction between you and your teacher, just as you would in person.

Emails that simply jump into what a student needs are very unprofessional, Young said. Just asking a straightforward question isn’t enough, especially if you’re asking a favor.

Tip #2: Always include your name

Including your name and class period in the email helps the teacher identify who you are, making it easier to respond.

Many student emails don’t formally address the teacher at the beginning or use a signature at the end, making it hard to tell who the email is from, especially when students use email addresses that don’t indicate the sender’s name.

Tip #3: Drop the text lingo

Ensure your message comes across clearly by using proper grammar and spelling. You may text your friend in incomplete sentences or shorthand, but that style of writing has no business going to teachers.

Never use slang or text lingo while writing an email. For example, spell out the word “you” instead of “u” and say “thank you” instead of “thx.” By doing this, you demonstrate respect for your teacher.

When a student isn’t clear in their email, it makes it difficult for teacher to understand what the student needs and how to help them, said engineering teacher Rachel Stender.

Tip #4: Know when to talk to your teacher in person

While sending an email to a teacher is sometimes more practical due to time constraints, many teachers do prefer an in person meeting. More serious conversations should always be discussed in person, math teacher Ralph Hisle said. However, an email can still be helpful for setting up these conversations.

Some teachers don’t appreciate when students ask for big favors, such as a grade bump, over email. When asking a teacher to bump your grade—which they’re under no obligation to do— talk to them politely in person, Stender said.

Todd Michaels, an English teacher, is known for his strict policy against grade bump emails.

“There’s a kind of email that I find insulting, which is a student thinks they deserve a certain grade, and it doesn’t matter what I think as the teacher,” Michaels said.

Tip #5: Check your inbox for a response

After you’ve emailed your teacher, remember to check your inbox frequently. If a teacher takes the time to email you back, check, read, and follow up with them.

Teachers may send casual email responses which could make you think formalities are unnecessary, but it can never hurt to be respectful in your writing.

“People can pass judgment on you based on how you express yourself in writing,” Young said. “I think it’s just really a good life skill to learn.”