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How to write emails

Guidelines “How to Write Emails”



Emails are the preferred means of communication between students and lecturers, outside face-to-face interaction in class or during office-hours. Emails are usually short and to the point, but often they contain grammatical mistakes, stylistic infelicities which students can avoid by adhering to some basic guidelines.


  1. Forms of Address and Titles

Greet the addressee with “Dear” and then use “Mr.”, “Ms”, “Dr.” or “Prof.” and the persons last name
  o   e.g.: Dear Prof. Schmitz

  Do not write “Hallo X” (as you might in German). The English equivalent might be “Hi”, but that is very colloquial and would be normal among students but not appropriate between students and their lecturers. You must be on first name terms to say “Hi” to someone.


Do not write “Prof. Dr.”, this is not done in English. Note that although it is normal to address a doctor or professor as “Herr X” in German “Mr. X” is used only for people who are neither doctor nor professor.


  Do not use the name of a lecturer unless he or she has offered this.


Do not use the term “Miss”. It is an older method of referring to an unmarried woman.



  1. Body of Email

      Clearly state your question, concern, matter

o   Why are you writing the mail? What is the purpose?

       Include enrollment number, your study programme, and the module / course you have questions about




  1.   Salutation

   Use “Best regards” or “Best wishes”


   Do not leave out the salutation



  1. Identifying Yourself


       Use your own first name and surname, except if you know your lecturer well then you may use your first name

o   e.g.: Max Mustermann



And don’t forget:

  use your university email address, e.g.

Always specify the topic of the email (German: Betreff). Some spam filters will not allow emails through which do not have a subject matter.

If you are sending an attachment, give it an explanatory name,

o    e.g. “Shakespeare_Mueller_essay.doc”, but not “mein_referat_final_2.doc”




Some typical vocabulary you might need in an email to a lecturer:

Outline (German = Struktur)

References / bibliography (German = bibliographische Angaben)

Thesis (German = schriftliche Abschlussarbeit)

Term paper (German = schriftliche Semesterarbeit)

Written exam (German = schriftliche Prüfung / Klausur)

Oral exams /orals (usual in the plural) (G. mündliche Prüfung)

Mark (British) // Grade (American) (German = Note)



Think about your lecturers…

We all get lots and lots of emails (not just from students) so do not expect us to always answer within minutes. Consider a reasonable time frame for an answer. If you do not get a reply within this time, then just send the email again. It may well be that the receiver of the email did not notice it in among all the others or that it was suppressed by the spam filter (see above).
















Some of these ideas are taken from Raymond Hickey, English Lingustics (Campus Essen)