Writing FAQs

 
Online Etiquette FAQs

You put that in writing? Let’s help you fix that ...


1. I am e-mailing my professor to ask them to clarify an assignment. How should I ask that?

If you are e-mailing your professor to clarify an assignment, you should first know that it is not a good idea to e-mail them the day before the assignment is due. Why, you ask? Well for one thing, it shows the professor that you really did not take the time to look at your assignment and to think thoroughly about your response. If you want to e-mail your professor, you should also keep in mind the language in which you are using. Professors are not your peers. They are faculty and, therefore, the wording you use in your e-mail makes a big difference.

You should always address the professor politely, and state what you will like from them very clearly; make sure you name the assignment and the date that it was given. You should also try to make it sound as if you really care for the assignment. For example:


Dear Professor_____,

My name is ______ and I am e-mailing you in regards to the assignment that was given in class on DATE. Can you please clarify the question/subject/research topic, etc., (WRITE THE question/subject/research topic, etc.) you gave us to answer. I am not sure about this particular aspect of the assignment, (NAME THE PARTICULAR ASPECT). I am sorry for any inconveniences this may cause you, but I really just want to make sure that I am on the right track for this assignment.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME

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2. I am e-mailing my professor to ask them to let me in their class. How should I ask that?

When asking the professor to give you a permission number to their class, it is always a good thing to appear eager to learn the subject of the class you are asking to be let into. Do not tell them that you are a senior and you just need their lower-level writing class to graduate (it does not make you look good), and do not tell them that you have no interest in their course but that you *must* take it or you will not be able to graduate. For example:

Dear Professor_____,

My name is _____ and I am e-mailing you in regards to your class (state class number, and date and time). I have noticed when trying to sign up that your classroom is filled. I am interested in taking your class to learn more about (NAME SUBJECT). Is there any possibility that you will have a permission number in which I will be able to take this class for next semester? I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have cause you, I hope you have a wonderful day.

Sincerely,
YOU NAME

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3. I am e-mailing my professor to ask them if I can miss a class. How should I ask that?

Whenever you are asking your professor for anything, you should always be polite and courteous. You should also be aware that even though you are you asking nicely, does not mean they are going to allow you to do whatever you are asking of them.

When asking if you could miss class, you should know that any professor will most likely tell you “no.” No professor wants you to initially miss class; however, if it is an emergency, or there are urgent matters to which you must attend (or if you are are sick with whatever cold/flu/pinkeye that is going around), then it is a good idea to ask the professor. Please, keep in mind that before asking the Professor to miss day of class, you should always first look at the syllabus for two things (1) what the Professor’s attendancey policy is, and (2) what is supposed to be covered in class this day. In knowing these two important pieces of information, you can mention them in your e-mail, and show the Professor you actually care about missing the class. For example:

Dear Professor_____,

My name is (YOUR NAME HERE) and I am in your AENG 300 course on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:25 a.m. I am e-mailing you in regards to class on (PUT THE DATE YOU WANT TO MISS), as I will have to miss class that day due to (INSERT REASON). I understand that you only allow two excused or unexcused absences, and that you will be covering (INSERT CLASS TOPIC), but due to my current circumstances there is no way I will be able to attend class. I hope you can understand. Thank you.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME

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4. I am e-mailing my professor to ask them to take an exam on a different day. How should I ask that?

When asking the professor to change a date for you, you should be aware that they could tell you “no,” but once you come to accept that, then we can move on to the hard part… the asking. When asking the professor to let you take an exam on a different day, you should be aware that for most of professors exam dates are not a matter of choice but are instead scheduled by the University. However, as in all e-mails to the professor, you should be courteous and polite. You should also give the professor some options that may be good for both you and the professor. For example:

Dear Professor______,

My name is _____ and I am in your AENG 300 class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:25 a.m. I am e-mailing you in regards to the final exam that will be given on Thursday December 12, 2008. I would like to know if there is any way I may be given the chance to take this exam on an early date because ( State your reasons here). I know this is asking a lot; however, due to prior engagements on December 12, having to take the exam on that date is highly inconvenient for me. I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you, I hope to hear from you soon, and that you have a wonderful day.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME

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5. I am e-mailing financial aid to ask them to help me understand my academic aid. How should I ask that?

You should always ask politely and courteously. You should always assume that they do not know you, and keep in mind that you are one student, and they might not remember all the information you have. You should be very clear as to what you would like the financial aid office to clarify for you. You should also be aware that they might not get back to you right away and you should wait at least a week before you call them to ask about your e-mail. When e-mailing the financial aid office, it should go something like this:

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is _____, my I.D. number is 000 000 000. I am e-mailing you in regards to my financial aid package. I am unclear about aspects of my aid and why my student account states that I owe money. I live on Colonial Quad, in a standard double room and this is my second year at the University at Albany. I did not have to pay anything last year as a freshman and I would like to know if there was something in my financial aid package that did not go through, or if there was something that I failed to do in order for my full package to go through? I am really concerned about this situation and would appreciate any suggestions you may have for me. I hope you have a wonderful day.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME

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6. Once again I put my paper off until the last minute. I know I can do a much better job on it if I just had a little more time to work on it, but how do I write my Professor to ask for an extension?

Here is another situation where you want to keep your audience in mind. Professors were students once too, and they know that work can sometimes unexpectedly pile up. So, to begin with, when you e-mail your professors—even if you have e-mailed them before—make sure that you explicitly state your name, the class you are in, and the assignment you are referring too. BE CLEAR. You do not want your professor to open up an e-mail and get frustrated trying to figure out what you are talking about. This will make them far less likely to give you that extension. After you have introduced yourself, give them information on what you HAVE done with the project. Let them know that you HAVE given it consideration, and that you have not completely forgotten about it. Tell them where you are expecting to go, or a question that you are trying to figure out, and then make it clear that if you are given an extension you will be able to really do this paper full justice. Also, make sure you go over and READ WHAT YOU WROTE. Do you really think a professor is going to give you an extension if your writing doesn’t make any sense, or you have spelling mistakes throughout the e-mail? Before you hit that send button, read over the e-mail at least three times to make sure that they will understand what you are asking, and that your tone is appropriate to the occasion.

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