Emailing Your Instructor
Does typing "Dear Professor...." in your email make you freeze? Looking to communicate your needs and concerns to your professor in a way that lets you be heard? Have a question you need to send to your prof?
Whether it is for an urgent matter (e.g. family emergency), a request to discuss low-performance feedback before your next test, or if you’re struggling with a current project; you will need to send an email. If you don’t reach out, your instructor will not know you need to chat.
Lets walk you through how to send that first email to get the communication channels open between you and your instructor. Sending a professional email includes 9 sections to complete:
- Sending/receiving email address
- Subject line
- Identifying self
- Reason for email
- Describe the situation
- Action plan
- Closing line
- Sign off
Make sure to review our Extra Tips & Suggestions.
Check out our visual resource for "Communicating With Your Instructor" below!
Sending/receiving email address
Use your mun.ca email or your Brightspace course mail to communicate with your professor. This will help avoid potential filter issues that would push your email into junk, spam, or being blocked before reaching your professor.
If the online course on Brightspace hasn't opened and you don't have their syllabus yet, you can always search Memorial's staff directory to find their @mun.ca email.
Many email platforms will only show the first 5 words on the preview screen - make those 5 words count to catch their attention. Also, include your course name/code at the end of the subject line.
- “Requesting feedback about X, Course ABC-code123”
- “Interested in discussing X, Course ABC-code123”
This is your opening and means of showing respect to your instructor. We recommend choosing either “Hello” or “Dear” for your introduction, followed by the title and name for your instructor. If you are unsure of your instructor’s preferred title and have no syllabus to reference, begin with “Professor”.
- “Dear Professor Surname,”
- “Hello Dr. Surname,”
Brush away any potential confusion by a providing a brief intro that identifies your name as it would appear on their roster, the course name and course code.
- "Hello Professor. Smith, my name is Melissa Smith, I am enrolled in Accounting 2030-56”.
Reason for email
In 1-2 sentences, you should clearly link to the subject line information you had previously provided. Indicate any need for immediate response if applicable, how best to follow up with you, and any preference for virtual/in person/phone meetings.
Concerning immediacy, it would be considered immediate if something unexpected has arose, you have less than 24-48 hours to address it, and it will impact your grade.
- Emergency surgery two days before a presentation = urgent.
- “I was hoping to connect you with as soon as possible via phone/WebEx/email, I have an emergency appendectomy and my scheduled presentation is on Friday. I would like to discuss potential options such as XYZ”
- Clarification of a project or feedback on a test = not urgent.
- “I was hoping I could meet with you to discuss…”
Describe the situation
Your description will dive into the purpose of the email (e.g. topic/theme in a chapter that is confusing), the situation experienced (e.g. missing modules on Brightspace), or predicted upcoming situations (e.g. group member who has dropped out of the course and now your course load has doubled).
The length of this section will change depending on if you're looking to either
a) discuss the situation via email only (would be a lengthy description).
b) looking to book an appointment (would be a shorter description).
Avoid common mistakes that can be misinterpreted as entitlement, aggression, or assuming claim over your instructor's availability.
- Avoid writing, “I was given a 75 on my paper, and I disagree; we need to meet immediately. I’ll be coming on Tuesday during your office hours to discuss why you didn’t give me a 90 on my paper”.
- Instead, try writing, “I recently received a 75 on my paper, and I was hoping to book time on Tuesday, if you have availability, to receive feedback about my paper's shortcomings and areas I can improve on for my next paper ”.
Shows the instructor you have done your part in trying to solve the problem by describing what you have done already and what you're expecting to do next. Outline any resources, persons, or materials you used when attempting to address the problem yourself. Propose solutions you have considered or if you're looking for confirmation/reassurance. Offer a variety of available dates/times for a meeting to occur for you both to work collaboratively on your problem. List any applicable resources you can bring to the meeting (e.g. drafts, articles, course textbook, etc.).
Your closing line will mirror the formality you used in your greeting. Show your instructor gratitude for their time and consideration of your correspondence.
- “Thank you for taking the time to consider my request”
- "I look forward to collaborating with you on XYZ"
Your sign-off should be short and professional. After this, put your first or preferred name, then follow it with your identification block. An identification block consists of your full name as listed on the course roster, your email, and the course name and code. Consider also adding your program and degree.
Melissa "Lisa" Smith
Year 2: joint Accounting/Music: BBA"
Extra tips & suggestions
Reply vs Reply All
- Choose “reply” if responding to your instructor. Only choose “reply all” if your instructor has deliberately asked and your response is meant to be seen by everyone that was emailed.
- Always attach your file before beginning your email. Forgetting to attach a file is one of the most common email errors made. Attach it first, then it’s done.
- be prepared with a hard copy of the attachment if you will be attending a meeting.
Grammar & Proofread
- Use your email app’s spelling, grammar, and punctuation-checking tools before you send.
Emailing like a Text
- Avoid emojis, jokes, text lingo (ex. “U r”, “lmao”, "hahahahahah"), all caps (ex. “HELLLLLP”) or excessive exclamation/question marks (ex. "!!!!!", "????") usage. This can be interpreted as unprofessional or not taking your request seriously.
Communicating With Your Instructor [Visual Resource]
Does typing "Dear Dr...." in your email make you freeze? Review the ASC's WebEx Wednesday strategy session on effective emailing with your professor to help you learn how to properly write an email that professionally communicates your needs and concerns to your professor in a way that lets you be heard.
Carnegie Mellon University. (n.d.) Basic structure of an email. Carnegie Mellon University: Student Academic Success Centre. Retrieved March 1, 2022 from https://www.cmu.edu/student-success/other-resources/handouts/comm-supp-pdfs/basic-structure-of-email.pdf
Oregon State University. (n.d.). Anatomy of an email. Oregon State University: Academic Success Center. Retrieved March 1, 2022 from https://success.oregonstate.edu/sites/success.oregonstate.edu/files/LearningCorner/Tools/anatomy_of_an_email_-_sp_20.pdf
Purdue University. (n.d). Emailing a professor. Purdue University; Academic Advising. Retrieved March 1, 2022 from https://www.purdue.edu/advisors/students/professor.php#:~:text=Always%20start%20out%20your%20email,almost%20always%20a%20safe%20bet.
The University of British Columbia. (n.d). Interacting with profs. University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus: Chapman Learning Commons. Retrieved March 1, 2022 from https://learningcommons.ubc.ca/student-toolkits/interacting-with-profs/#
University of Victoria: Academic Week. (2012, October 2). How to speak to professors: a comprehensive guide. University of Victoria: Residence life and education. [YouTube]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BseHxtUiW98
Yale College. (n.d.). How to write an email to your instructor. Yale College: Advising Resources. Retrieved March 1, 2022 from https://advising.yalecollege.yale.edu/how-write-email-your-instructor