How to Send Professional Academic Emails

academic skills grad school Jul 09, 2023

This post is in collaboration with the Southern African Archaeology Student Society.

Email is the most critical means of communication in the academic sphere. Regardless of whether you are a student, researcher, or educator, possessing the skill to compose professional academic emails is of utmost importance. The aim of this article is to provide valuable insights and practical tips to help you create emails that are not only effective but also garner a positive response from recipients.

Why it matters

Sending professional academic emails is vital for several reasons. First and foremost, it establishes a positive impression and reflects your professionalism and competence. A well-crafted email can open doors to networking opportunities, collaboration, and mentorship. It also helps you build and maintain professional relationships with professors, peers, and potential employers. Additionally, mastering the art of email communication can help set you apart as a serious and dedicated academic.

When emailing professors and senior academics, especially for the first time, it's important to follow the professional conventions in order to make a positive first impression. 


Follow the traditional format

Sending emails is more like sending an old-fashioned letter than a DM or text.

To create a professional email, it is essential to follow a traditional format. Adhering to this structure ensures clarity, coherence, and professionalism. While email formats can vary slightly, a traditional structure typically includes the following components: the opening, the body, introduction (if appropriate), closing, and signature. By following this format, you provide a clear and organized message to the recipient.

Professional emails follow the traditional letter format with an opening, body, closing, and signature. In this way, professional academic emails differ from DMs and text messages. 


The opening

The opening of your email sets the tone for the entire message. Start with a polite greeting that addresses the recipient respectfully. In most cases, if you are emailing somebody more senior than you that you do not know personally, you want to open with "Dear Professor [Last Name]" or "Dear Dr. [Last Name]."

The title is important here. Google the person to find out what the correct title is. If you are unsure, then use “Professor” just in case.

The body

The body of your email contains the main content and purpose of your message. It is important to be concise and clear. Use complete sentences. Structure your thoughts into paragraphs, ensuring each paragraph addresses a specific point or topic. Don’t overwhelm the recipient of your email with too much information or too many questions.

Introduce yourself, if appropriate

In certain situations, it may be necessary to introduce yourself briefly, especially if you are contacting someone for the first time. Provide relevant information, such as your name, academic institution, and the purpose of your email. This introduction establishes your credibility and helps the recipient understand the context of your message.

To do this you can start the body of the email with a phrase like “My name is XX YY, and I am a Masters student at the University of Amazing. I’m writing in response to/to enquire about/to ask…”

Use complete sentences and paragraph structure in your prefessional academic emails. 


The closing

As you conclude your email, it's important to include a closing remark that maintains the professional tone. “Sincerely” is the classic, tried and true closing.

The signature

The ‘signature’ is your name at the end of the email. If you are emailing someone you don’t know personally, your signature should minimally contain your full name. You can also include your academic title or affiliation, and contact information. This allows the recipient to easily identify you and provides them with the necessary information to respond or follow up.

Which email address to use

When sending professional academic emails, it is essential to use an appropriate email address. Ideally, use an email address that includes your full name or some variation thereof. Avoid using unprofessional or funny email addresses, as they can create a negative impression. Your email address should reflect your professionalism and dedication to your academic pursuits.

Avoid using emails that have funny words or a nickname. Rather create a simple email address with you name and or initials that you can use to send professional emails to professors and other senior academics. Or, use your student or staff account. 


What if you don't get a response

It is not uncommon to encounter situations where you don't receive a response to your initial email. If this happens, it's important not to be discouraged. Give the recipient a reasonable amount of time to reply, considering their workload and commitments. If you still don't receive a response, you can consider sending a polite follow-up email as a gentle reminder. However, exercise discretion and avoid being overly persistent or demanding.

Your follow-up email may begin with “I am writing to follow-up on this email I sent previously because I have not seen a reply in my inbox.”

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Dos and Don’ts Summary

To summarize, here are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind when sending professional academic emails:


✅ Use a polite and respectful tone throughout your email.

✅  Keep your emails concise and informative.

✅  Follow a traditional email format for clarity and professionalism.

✅  Include a professional signature with your full name and contact information.

✅ Use an appropriate and professional email address.


❌ Use casual or informal language.

❌ Overwhelm the recipient with lengthy emails or unnecessary details.

❌ Neglect to introduce yourself, if appropriate.

❌ Use email like you would DMs or text messages

❌Use unprofessional or funny email addresses.


By sticking to these tips and honing your email communication skills, you'll be able to make stronger first impressions and up your game in the academic world.

Additional Resources:

Advice from Purdue University: Emailing a Professor

Advice from the University of Waterloo: Writing professional emails in the workplace

Want to learn how to read academic journal articles like a pro? Check out this post: Read Scientific Articles Quickly and Effortlessly

Are you considering publishing your first academic journal article? Read this: Should I publish a peer-reviewed journal article?

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