How to Write a Proper Letter to a Professor
Writing a letter to a professor can be nerve-wracking. Students often wonder if they could be penalized on their course grade if they make an error in the letter, or if the letter will come back with red corrections. However, most professors understand that you are learning and that the letter is an attempt to communicate in a professional manner. If you plan ahead and do some research, your letter will get the point across in a correct and professional manner.
Research the professor's full name and title by looking at her entry on the Faculty and Staff page of her department's website. Professors have three ranks: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor or Professor. In addition, the professor might have an additional title, such as "Chair of the Literature Department." Use these titles appropriately or you may offend the professor that you are writing to.
Begin the letter by typing your address. Skip a line and type the date, then skip a line and type "(Full name), Ph.D.," the professor's title and any additional titles, the professor's department, the university, and the department address. For example, your header might look like this:
1214 Rock Creek Dr. San Angelo, Texas 76901
April 22, 2011
Dr. Sheila Arlington, Associate Professor Chair of Biochemistry Biology Department Texas A & M University 1234 University Drive College Station, TX 74545
Type "Dear Dr. (Name)" followed by a colon.
Start the first paragraph by introducing yourself and explaining the purpose for the letter. Even if you are in the professor's class, he might not remember you offhand. Identify yourself and explain which course of his you are attending.
Follow up with relevant details. Maintain a respectful tone throughout the letter, and keep the details brief and relevant.
Thank the professor for her time. Provide your telephone number and e-mail address in case she needs to contact you about the letter.
Type "Sincerely," and skip three line spaces. Type your full name. Print the letter and sign your name over the typed name.
Never call a professor "Mr. (last name)" or "Mrs/Miss/Ms. (Last name)." This will irritate most professors. Always call professors "Dr. (last name)" as befits their advanced degree and expertise.
- Never call a professor "Mr. (last name)" or "Mrs/Miss/Ms. (Last name)." This will irritate most professors. Always call professors "Dr. (last name)" as befits their advanced degree and expertise.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.