How To Email A Teacher



In a world before email and texting, students were required to appear, in-person, during office hours, to ask a teacher a question.

Try it sometime, but don’t be surprised if the interaction is awkward. Students always seem to think their visit is disturbing me. Not true. The only reason I’m in my office is so you can come in. And when I say ‘come in’, I literally mean – come in. Most students linger by the doorway as if my office floor is paved in hot coals. And that empty chair next to my desk? It’s not an electric chair. It’s there for you, so we can sit comfortably and talk.

As a result, most students opt for email, especially when the question involves something negative. Missed a test? Forgotten homework? Half-written paper? Excessive absences? Who wants to sit inches from their teacher’s skeptical frown while they discuss their dog’s homework eating fetish?

If you choose to go the email route,  here are TEN commonly used email tricks a teacher will quickly dismiss.



  1. “I stopped by your office, but you weren’t there.”


             No you didn’t, so don’t say it.


  1. “I couldn’t make it to class today 🙁   So I’ll be handing my paper in tomorrow!”


          “Not for you to decide.”


  1. “I put my paper in your box. Just wanted to make sure you got it.”


           “See above. If the paper was due during class, don’t assume the teacher will take it just because you wrote it in an email.”


  1. “You haven’t confirmed you received my paper. You must have missed my first email where I sent you my paper as an attachment. I’m resending the paper now.”


            No again. The missing email strategy is a red flag especially when it arrives a few days after a due date.


  1. “I understand this paper is late and you won’t give me a grade. I just wanted you to read it so you know that I tried my best.”


             What? I was planning on reading the dictionary today!


  1. “About my absences, I just wanted you to know that it’s not you. I really like your class.”


           Whew! I was worried about that.


  1. “I was going to email you earlier, but I didn’t know your name.”


           Okay, now my feelings are hurt.


  1. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to come to campus during this weather, so I’m emailing you my paper. Due to the weather, it’s little late.”


  How do you think I got here? On a magic carpet?


  1. “Here’s my paper. I had to email it because I overslept!”


   Then why didn’t you hit send before you fell asleep?


  1. “Here’s my paper!” (attachment missing)


  Here’s my grade. 0%


Ooooh, that’s mean on my part.


The missing attachment scenario actually happens quite often. When it does, I’ll email a student back immediately and let them know they forgot the attachment. However, if the student doesn’t respond within a few hours, I have to assume there was no paper.

All comments welcome!

  • Macaiah Gross

    Hilarious! I see how ridiculous my emails are to professors now.

  • Victor Alvarez

    haha I am ashamed to admit that I have been guilty of using these cheesy email tactics on professors. To my defense it was mostly during my freshman and south more year of college so i was very much a “newbie”. To be honest I have no idea why i ever thought emails like this would work but it probably had something to do with the fact that sometimes they did! The thing is that now i realize that it was not so much that the professor believed my excuse, it was probably more that they just felt bad for the new kid. Its not like i did it very often, in fact most classes i never had to resort to these cheap tricks. The truth is just that sometimes i simply forgot that an assignment was due, I freaked out, and just tossed a Hail Mary hoping it would stick.

  • Roberto Salazar

    Very funny! (and all true i’m sure). I have to say, I suspect most people probably are very aware (or lazy) when using these “tricks” but I feel a few are probably a bit tone deaf and just unaware on how they look in these responses (which is half the problem!). Interesting, as the post was about “How to e-Mail a Teacher”, all the time reading it made me appreciate the face-to-face meetings. Hey, you blew it missing a deadline, might as well face the music and plea your case in person. I mean, turn-around can be fair play, right? Harder to say no when someone takes the time to come in the office, make an appointment, weather a storm and with sad drooping eyes explain how the dog ate their paper for breakfast. You might have a better chance in person…or not.

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  • Kyle Barry

    I’ll admit that back in high school, I was about as guilty of attempting some of these tricks as I could possibly be. A personal favorite of mine was coming into class and asking the teacher if they had received my email with the attached assignment, which of course I had never actually sent. When they inevitably said no, I put on my best “confused” expression and promised I would resend it as soon as I could. I always knew the teacher never believed me, and that they had probably heard that one a million times since email had become a popular medium of communication, yet I attempted it over and over again like I was some kind of master con-artist. I even toyed around with the idea of using a website that lets you attach and send corrupted Word files to make it appear that you tried to send in your work. I never ended up doing it simply because I was afraid that a teacher would know of the site and call me on it. Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that honesty really is the best policy. If you’re incredibly busy at a point in the year when you have a big assignment due, then go to your professor before the due date and politely and sincerely explain your situation and ask for an extension. Professors aren’t monsters (OK, most of them aren’t monsters), and usually they will be happy to oblige your request and extend your due date a few days or even a week. Being straight up with people is always preferable to lying, which can weigh on your conscience and even get you caught in a web of dishonesty down the road.

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  • Jonathan Pacheco

    I guess I fit well into this topic and felt I could leave a few comments :D. I have yet to use one of these reasons but after reading this I know which excuses to avoid. Things do come up which are unexpected such as the weather but as for some of the other material in which the student automatically assumed it was okay is a stretch. I can not be assumed that because you missed class today that it will be okay for you to hand it in tomorrow. There has to be a mutual agreement with teacher and student. Some excuses are just so far-fetched that the student just has to go on hopes and dreams with the assignment being accepted.

  • Matthew Talty

    Email is a wonderful tool, I often use it to keep in contact with my Professors. Whether for assignments that need to be emailed, questions, or even to apologized for absences. It’s a good way to build a teacher-student relationship and hopefully shows you care about the class and appreciate the teachers time and effort.

    With busy schedules, meeting a teacher during their office hours may not be convenient for either person. In email you can relay messages on your own time and even keep a record of possible useful information within the email.

    After reading this, I definitely will try to be more conscious of how I address a Professor in an email. Obviously always keep it professional, but will definitely look for any excuses that may have slipped it’s way from finger tips to the keyboard. I hope I have never used any of the ten excuses on this post or any similar ones!

  • Nancy Valencia

    E-mail is a perfect tool to communicate with your professor especially if your course is online and you don’t see them face-to-face. I like to ask questions so that I understand assignments more in depth and can accomplish what I am being asked. I do not think its right to misuse the tool by making up excuses and missing class or assignments. We live in a generation where we don’t get to know each other and develop a relationship of humans meaning student to professor. I think e-mail makes it easy to hide behind the computer and not have to go to campus or schedule meetings. It’s a dream come true to all the parents who work full time and can’t drive back and forth to campus. I personally rather speak to a professor than to send e-mails back and forth, unfortunately I need to pay the bills and cater to my job more than my schoolwork. I hope professors in the future drop e-mails and use Skype instead. It would be like a online meeting which would be more humane than e-mails. Bottom line, our professors are not dumb they know what is going on, late night parties and road trips. Be upfront and simply say I procrastinated and never finished my work. Imagine all the excuses they have heard, over 100 but with different tweeks here and there. Let’s say that we get snowed in for a week and can’t have class than Skype would be a perfect way to teach class instead of all this reading that drives us all mad. I suppose that is a whole other blog to write.

  • Saray

    I believe that e-mail is a great tool to communicate with a professor when you don’t have time to go to his office or you are taking an online class. But sometimes it’s hard to get your point across in an e-mail; therefore, I always try to meet my professors face to face so I can have them those questions that would be very hard to explain in an e-mail.