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Use a clear, specific subject line

✗ question for paper
✓ Question about ENGL 105 Feeder 1.1 prompt

✗ meeting
✓ 11/5 2 PM office hour meeting request

Use appropriate names

✗ John Smith
✓ Professor Smith (unless otherwise indicated)

✗ I am Juan.
✓ This is Juan, from your ENGL 105 section.

State your purpose in the first lines

✗ I have some questions about the reading and was wondering if I could ask you some questions.
✓ I was wondering if I can make an appointment with you on Monday at 2 to discuss some questions I have about the reading material.

✗ I’m really sorry about this e-mail, but lately I have sudden responsibilities and it’s been getting hard to manage everything.
✓ May I ask for an extension on essay 1? I have several other deadlines on the same day and would like 2 extra days to develop it.

Use polite phrases

✗ Send me the document ASAP.
✓ Please e-mail me the document as soon as possible. Thanks very much.

✗ Send me your reply.
✓ If you can reply to confirm the details, I’d appreciate it.

Proofread for spelling/grammar errors

✗ Is their a page limit?
✓ Is there a page limit?

✗ I can definately make the the time.
✓ I can definitely make the time.


poorly written e-mail

FROM: 李诺拉
SUBJ: Hello! I am Nora Li.

I have some questions about the reading but can’t come to your office hour.
I will come to ur office at 2:00 tomorrow instead.Thx!


  • Untranslated name
  • Unclear subject line
  • Unclear how the e-mail sender knows the recipient
  • Decision made without consent
  • Internet slang
✓ well-written e-mail

FROM: Tina Fei
SUBJ: 4/2 meeting request

Prof. Smith,
I’m a student in your BIOL 101 – 001 class. I have some questions about last week’s reading material and would like to discuss them with you. Unfortunately, I have another class during your office hours. Could I make an appointment to see you at another time? Are you available at 2:00 tomorrow?

I appreciate your help.

Tina Fei

  • Clear subject line
  • Appropriate opening
  • Introduction in context
  • Clear purpose
  • Polite phrasing
  • Specific question
  • Polite phrasing
  • Appropriate closing

Useful phrases

✓ Polite openings

People you don’t know: title and family name

  • Prof. Smith
  • Ms. Smith
  • Dear Ms. Smith

Professors and other professionals: address them based on however they’ve signed

  • Jane Doe → Dear Ms. Doe
  • JD → Dear Ms. Doe
  • Jane → Dear Jane
✓ Polite closings

Polite generic

  • Sincerely
  • Regards
  • Best regards
  • Best


  • Cordially
  • Yours truly


  • Cheers
  • Have a great weekend


This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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