Beginner’s Guide: Writing an email to a member of staff

We are currently sending more emails to each other as everyone has been asked to stay at home. This means that you are unable to visit staff in person to resolve any queries. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to post a guide on writing emails as many students have little practice writing emails prior to university. Plus, this guide will help you to ensure you get the intended response to your email, rather than an email back asking for further clarification.

1. Make the subject line clear

The subject line is the first thing that they will read. This needs to be clear, especially if it is important. If you are emailing your lecturer about an essay for example, include the module code in the subject line e.g. ‘LW104 Essay’. Lecturers may teach more than one module so titling the subject line with ‘Essay’ is not useful and will make the process slower. This is because the staff member may have to email you asking for clarification before they are able to respond.

2. Write a greeting, address the person by their name and use their preferred pronouns

Although you are emailing a member of staff there is no need to be super formal. A simple ‘Dear ….’, ‘Hi ….’ or ‘Hello …’ will suffice. It is up to you whether you would like to address them by their first name or last name. I typically address staff by their first name unless they have stated otherwise e.g. they may have introduced themselves in the lecture as Mr. X.

You must use their correct pronouns. This is important because misuse of pronouns can cause a person to feel disrespected or lead to dysphoria, exclusion and alienation. If you don’t know their pronouns, don’t assume them, use gender neutral pronouns such as they/them/theirs and ask them what pronouns they would like you to use.

3. Be clear about what you’re asking

Be clear about what you are asking otherwise you may not get the response you intended. Be concise because although background information can sometimes be necessary, often lecturers are able to answer a simple question without it. This will save both you and them time.

If it is necessary to give them a lot of background information, it might be easier to speak with them via Zoom to ensure there is no miscommunication and that the member of staff fully understands all the information.

4. Don’t use any slang, abbreviations or emoticons

An email to a member of staff does not need to be super formal. However, it is inappropriate to use slang, abbreviations and/or emoticons.

5. Acknowledge your gratitude

When you have written the main content of your email, it is nice to state your thanks to the member of staff for taking the time to read and respond to your email. This shows good manners.

6. Include a sign-off

Similarly to writing a greeting, this does not need to be really formal but make sure to signoff. A simple ‘Regards …..’, ‘Many thanks ….’ Or ‘All the best …’ is fine, followed by your full name and your registration number e.g. 19872 as this will help the member of staff to find the relevant information to respond to your query.

Now your email should be ready to send!

We recommend waiting at least 5 working days before sending a follow-up email, if you have not had a response.

Don’t forget that you can still arrange a meeting with a member of staff over Zoom if that makes you feel more comfortable!

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