Deconstructing a professor’s email response


It’s that time of the year again: when Gmail becomes our best friend (as if it isn’t already). Internship season is here, and midterms are right around the corner, so it’s time to bombard our dear professors with emails asking questions that range from, “Could you please clarify this passage from the reading?” to “Could you please help me figure out life?” The waiting period is always pretty stressful because you never know how they may response, or if they’ll respond at all.

Practically Olaf


Look for: 🙂  😉 😀 ha haha !!!

These professors bring so much joy to my life. They give us hope that adulthood doesn’t always mean complete disenchantment and a darker soul! It may not be appropriate for a student to fill his emails with happy faces and other trendy emoticons, but remember, your professor probably has a bunch of degrees and went to every Ivy League plus Stanford just for kicks, so he can pretty much do whatever he wants. It’s also totally acceptable (and highly encouraged) if he wants to attach a .gif of Beyoncé going berserk at the Super Bowl.

The Mom

Look for: “Stay warm!” “Hope you had a great weekend” “Take care” “Remember to get enough sleep before the midterm and eat a good, balanced breakfast”

Be careful not to call these professors “mom” or “dad” in class, because it totally could happen. You can tell that these professors truly appreciate their students (they actually remember your name!?), and they will make you feel extremely loved. And, as college students who most likely live miles away from home and our pet cuddle buddies, we need all the love and kindness (and free pizza) we can get.



Look for: “Hola” “Toodles” “No prob” “Please, call me Jim”

These professors are obvi 2chill4u.  Reading these types of responses might be a bit discomforting at first. I mean, how can someone be this #rad? You have to understand that these professors spend so much time around disoriented quasi-adults young people that they naturally pick up on our slang. Though, now that I think of it, I’m not sure many people use “groovy” anymore…

Grouchy McGroucherpants

Look for: “ok.”  “See you then.” “Refer to previous email.” and “We covered this in class.”

These responses are unnecessarily curt. You’ll be wondering if the professor hates you after reading his email. Don’t worry. He most likely is just busy attending to other matters, like saving the world. However, it’s pretty irritating considering you spent 30 minutes proofreading your email and spent most of your time googling “how to use ___ in a sentence” just to make sure you were using your trophy SAT prep words correctly.

Up in space

Look for:

The truth is, you don’t even know what you’re looking for. You asked a question about photosynthesis, and the professor responded with information regarding the melting glaciers in Greenland. Of course, the professor means well. He just wants to connect things to the bigger picture. The day before a midterm isn’t exactly time for the bigger picture, though.

Slightly Loopy


Look for: “HEY THERE” “ahhh!” “?????” “Okey dokey!” “grrrreat question”

Much like enthusiastic responses, these types of responses are endearing and will make you smile. Still, you might start to worry about these professors’ caffeine-levels after reading their emails. All in all, it’s refreshing to see that someone can be so in love with what they teach, and so dismissive of formal email-writing conventions. The force of no-fucks-given is strong with this one.

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