Student Email, Best Practices

This document outlines best practices for students as they use email to communicate with their professors.

Constructing your message

  1. Use clear, specific subject lines. Keep subject lines direct and to the point.
  2. Identify yourself. Your name will display on your email, but your professor works with hundreds of students. Be sure to include your full name, class period and course.
  3. Refer to previous communication. If you are continuing a conversation, refer back to the previous communication.
  4. Use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.  Make a good impression. If in doubt, look it up.
  5. State the issue and desired resolution. Don't ramble on. Clearly state the issue and your desired resolution.
  6. Be professional. You are writing a business letter whenever you email a professor.
  7. Tone is critical. Review your choice of words. Remember the audience and ask yourself "will this be received as aggressive?"

When to expect a response

  1. Responses will typically not be immediate. While email may be the preferred method of communicating with your professors and the fastest and best way to reach them, most check email during office hours and other times as able.  Most responses will be within 24 "business hours."
  2. Do not expect replies after 5 p.m. or on weekends, holidays or during University recesses.

When replying to an email

  1. Keep responses short. Brief, concise responses are best.
  2. Don't respond to emails when you are angry.  Keep it professional.
  3. Be aware of phishing attempts. Do not reply to any email requesting your personal information, or linking to a page requesting entry of your personal information. See wmich.edu/phishing.

When sending attachments

  1. Let the recipient know in the email what you are sending and why.
  2. Ensure that the file is actually attached when you say you are sending an attachment.
  3. Provide logical file names to your attachments.
  4. Avoid unnecessarily large file sizes. If you have unavoidably large file sizes, consider sharing them using your W-Exchange OneDrive.

Email is not private: What should not be sent via email

  1. Do not send personal or sensitive information (e.g. credit card or other account information, usernames or passwords). Remember, WMU will never ask for your personal information via email.
  2. Be aware  of FERPA and HIPPA.  Because of these privacy acts, there are some topics regarding your personal information that faculty and staff will not be able to legally discuss with you via email.
  3. Do not send anything you would not want broadcast to the world. Emails may be forwarded, posted to social media and/or read by unintended people.
  4. Your email is a reflection of you. Check for typos and other mistakes before sending.