We will finally look at a few pointers on how to communicate with your tutor via email. This section focuses on organisation and language only, not on the appropriateness of the content. As we mentioned earlier, you need to be aware of what is expected of you and what is expected of your tutors to ensure that your request is reasonable. For example, you might think that it’s a good idea to email your draft to your tutor and ask for feedback before the submission, even though your handbook clearly states that feedback is given after the submission. Such a request will probably be denied as it would not be practical for your tutor or fair to the rest of the students.
So, let’s start with what could go wrong in an email to your tutor. Read the example below and take a few minutes to read through and identify as many problems as you can.
Note: The email is entirely fictitious, and it was written for demonstration purposes.
Have a look at the suggested answers below to check how many issues you were able to identify.
So, let’s move on to some basics of email communication and examine how such issues can be avoided.
This is the first thing that pops up in the recipient’s inbox: the topic of your email. Make sure it is brief, informative and appropriate. If you realise that the topic of your email has changed after you have finished writing it, then you need to revise the subject line so that it reflects the content.
This is how you greet your tutor. If you want to be formal, open with Dear + title + tutor’s surname as in the examples below:
✅ Dear Dr Tibon,
✅ Dear Professor Parsh,
✅ Dear Mr Dudley,
✅ Dear Mrs Abdulhamed,
✅ Dear Ms Ardabili,
✅ Dear Miss Hill,
Hey + Surname e.g. Hey Villegas
Title + First name e.g. Dear Ms Paula
Using the wrong title e.g. Dear Ms Simpson instead of Dear Dr Simpson
If you are not sure about the title, please try to find this information by checking the academic staff webpages or your tutor’s email signature. Do not make assumptions about the title based on the tutor’s name alone and always double-check you have spelt the tutor’s name correctly. Getting the name and title wrong can create a very poor impression. Occasionally, a tutor might ask you to address them using their first name, so in that case opening with ‘Hello Patrick’ or ‘Hi Claudia’ is acceptable.
This is the main text of your email. It should be clear and concise. It should provide sufficient information to the tutor so that they know who you are, which class you are taking and why you are emailing them. The length and organisation of an email can vary as it depends on the context, but try to keep it brief; for most formal emails it is best to get straight to the point. This does not mean you can be blunt (= saying exactly what you think without trying to be polite).
Read the following emails and notice the differences in terms of content. Email 1 doesn’t provide important information i.e. who the student is, what test they are talking about and what the exact request is. Email 2 is much clearer because it provides all this information.
Note: The emails are entirely fictitious, and they were written for demonstration purposes.
If the situation allows it, you can start your email by referring to previous email communication or the general context. See the examples below:
I hope this email finds you well.
I hope you are doing well.
I hope you had a great holiday.
It was great seeing you at the conference in Brighton.
Thank you for the quick response.
Thank you for today’s seminar; it was really interesting.
Finally, you need to close your email. This is basically signing off an email, and it is usually an expression of gratitude, followed by your full name. Below are some of the most common ways of closing your email:
Kind / Best regards
Your full name
So, these were the basics of writing an email. We will now move on to some practice tasks. Click Next to continue.