How to start (and finish) your email based on how much you like your lecturer

Because it’s a bit unprofessional to open with ‘Hey Girlboss xx’ or ‘Yo, whassup’

We’ve always had our lecturers who we do and don’t like, but it’s become more difficult to determine if you’re actually fond of them in this pandemic. Regrettably, the primary ways we communicate are through Microsoft Teams (God help us!) and email.

These are the ways we reach out to our educators and get a sense of whether we’d get on with them because most of us, especially first-years, have never met our lecturers in person. Besides, we’re not really paying attention to them on a screen with many other names without cameras or mics because be honest, most of us would rather do something else than actually engage in the seminar.

You can tell a lot about your true feelings towards your lecturer by how you open and finish your emails, whether consciously or subconsciously. We’ve narrowed down the most popular openers and sign-offs to help you figure out what’s actually going on and to help you write that dreaded email about your essay next week.

The ‘hi’ opener

You are on good terms with your lecturer or just can’t be bothered writing out the whole schtick about “dear (insert lecturer name here)” because you’re in university and you think you’re on equal ground with them. Well yeah, this either means you like them, or it’s a very quick question that would end with the classic “Sent from iPhone/Android” and a very trivial question like “Is this an academic source?” or if you’re a film student “OneDrive Link has expired for x film”. It’s more likely the latter of the very quick question.

This starter is very simple, effective, and gets the point across without the formality of a letter because we have places to be and things to do. But this opening is usually a very common method and one that we can personally endorse. Most people use this since it is very easy and effective to convey your point. This format is a jack of all trades situation to use towards your lecturers (assuming you’re on civil terms with them) or if you can’t be bothered writing a fancy email.

Oh ‘dear’ oh dear, you’re very sincere

Not many people use this format of email since it’s deemed too formal. You use this starter to impress the lecturer because you think that’ll get them on agreeable terms. This is what we call the “I want to prove that I am an intellectual” strategy. Some people would use this opener in their first email to their lecturer, thereby setting a solid foundation between you both, then reverting to the “hi” opener afterwards.

If your lecturers ever reply to your emails, this is most likely what they’ll open with. You feel honoured that they replied with “dear…” and then immediately realise that it’s a very short paragraph about your question.

The other situation you would use this format is to email your lecturer if you were after the coveted extension towards your assignment since you spent a lot of time procrastinating instead of actually doing your task needed to be done yesterday. This doesn’t necessarily mean you like nor dislike your lecturer; all preconceived notions go out the window when you need that extension.

You can use this introduction in a passive-aggressive tone if you had a bad day and need the question answered fast. In my experience, it is usually an email that starts with “dear”. Oh, dear…

“Hello There”… you know the real reply to this…

This is purgatory between the “hi” and the “dear” starter for the email. You low-key know they won’t have the “correct” reply unless they’re a fan of a certain franchise, and they know you have an interest in that franchise also. Anyway, this opener has two interpretations. You can use this if you’re wanting to sound intellectual without sounding really pretentious (because you don’t want the lecturer to think you’re tightly wound up.)

The other situation is that you want to change up your starter emails from “hi” because you have so many questions to ask that particular lecturer to prove that you aren’t just like everybody else. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.

‘The ghost(s) of Lancaster’

There isn’t really much you can say about this, as it’s not so much a greeting as not emailing them in the first place. You really don’t like your lecturer because you think they have done something against you, whether the teaching is awful or the content is tedious.

There are many reasons that people can fall into this category:

1. You know yourself the lecturer does not reply within a reasonable time, or even at all, and;

2. There is not much point in emailing them since they don’t have much chance of being helpful or during the holiday.

However, many people know about their lecturers’ email habits and decide whether to email them depending on how urgent the matter is. Ghosting your lecturer is probably just a response to them ghosting you last time anyway.

Starting an email is one thing, but finishing with some flourish is another ballpark. The ending to the email is the final nail in the coffin about whether your lecturer reads your email as amicable or passive-aggressive.

The ‘thanks’ finisher

A neutral but very good way to end an email. Most students would end their emails with a classic chameleon “thanks”, regardless of how trivial or serious the content is. This is very harmless for both parties and won’t really curry much favour from your lecturer since they won’t really think too much about how you’re sending your email. If you really like the lecturer or very courteous towards them, you can convert this to a ‘many thanks’, not as camouflageable, but a nice little touch to let them know you appreciate them.

The “thanks” is a decent finisher at the end of a courteous email to your lecturer and pairs really well with the “hi” format.

“Best,” said literally no one, ever

obviously, this is mostly used in goodbye emails at the end of a module. This is the kind of sign-off you’ll use if you respect your lecturer a year of putting up with you turning up to lives hungover, and if you found their lecture content engaging despite the circumstances being less than ideal.

Besides the goodbyes from the students’ side, most lecturers usually reply with “best” for the sake of formality, unless you’ve never interacted with them before, in which case you’ll probably get an impersonal “regards” or equivalent.

Regarding “Regards”

The “best” ender’s more impersonal cousin when it comes to replies to emails—still the same meaning as above, but slightly more formal. Even fewer students will use this unless if their lecturer is a stickler for formality. Most lecturers will use this for a mass email to claim that they regard our well-being plus many spam emails from an automated mailbox, whereas many people don’t sort out their spam and whichever’s important.

You might be courteous enough to put in “kind” regards on the ender if you like your lecturer and respect their loyalty to tradition. Otherwise, the “regards” feels a bit too formal.

“Good day”, sir, I said good day!

Okay, Willy Wonka, you’re not yelling at Charlie and his grandpa, saying: “You lose, sir, Good day!”

This passive-aggressive ending to the email really implies that you’re writing this email at 12 am and need to sleep or that you’re really annoyed at the lecturer about something you’re (allegedly) taking too personally. Sometimes there are times when you need to let your lecturer know that you’re mildly irritated.

So your lecturer has committed an egregious act against you. You think to yourself: “I am not playing any games anymore. Screw being courteous with email enders. I shall remain civil to them, but in a passive-aggressive manner.”

It’s understandable why Wonka said this. But we think lecturers would be quick to pick up on what this sort of ender really means, and they’ll probably play the ghost of Lancaster on you. Karma does bite back.

Recommended articles by this writer

We asked Lancs students to send us the last photo in their camera roll

‘There’s no accountability for the lecturers’: Lancs students respond to delayed marking

Lancaster University Library opens new extension