1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Addressing a professor in email with first name

  1. Aug 12, 2013 #1
    Hey,

    Not sure if this subforum is the ideal place for it, but in some way I am asking for academic guidance, so...

    I was wondering: if a professor concludes his email to me using just his first name, is it then good etiquette to start my reply with "Dear [first name]"?

    I suppose the fact he ended with his first name is an indication I shouldn't worry about formality, but even if not just in this case it's something I like to know for sure for future reference, cause I don't want to shoot myself in the foot.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2013 #2
    I have no idea about this one. My research supervisor always ends his emails with his first name, but I've never felt comfortable calling professors by their first name unless they specifically ask me to.
     
  4. Aug 12, 2013 #3
    if he ends his email with his first name then I see no issue with addressing him as such.

    Until I know a professor and can gauge how casual they are I do not address them by their first name. I try to keep things formal.
     
  5. Aug 12, 2013 #4

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Unless you and him have been working closely for a long time and know each other well enough, you should continue to address him as Dr. So-and-so. Most prof. are seldom conceited enough to call themselves or sign their letters/email with their title.

    Zz.
     
  6. Aug 12, 2013 #5
    Alright, professor [last name] it is!
     
  7. Aug 12, 2013 #6

    Integral

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yep, and even then I would call them Dr. XXX, one once said, damn it Integral* my name is Dave!

    *not the name he used, but close enough.
     
  8. Aug 12, 2013 #7
    One other thing, all of you say "Dr". But in my previous email I addressed him as "Professor" because I was mailing in relation to a course he was lecturing. Just to make sure: this is also okay?
     
  9. Aug 12, 2013 #8

    Choppy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Dr. or Professor are usually fine - although, just because he's teaching a course doesn't mean he's a full professor. That's a common mistake though and not one that you're likely to receive any grief over.

    This is just my opinion, but I feel that when you're an undergraduate student, it's title and last name unless you're told otherwise. This changes by the time you become a graduate student. Generally it's acceptable for graduate students to use first names with the professors they work with on a regular basis. Although in a formal or semi-formal environment, such as when presenting a poster at a conference, you should still refer to your supervisor by last name.

    That said, you also have to read the person. Some people are offended by formality. Others are offended by a lack of it. In my experience those who don't like formality will tell you up front. Those who prefer it will passively take mental notes about those who fail to use it. So when in doubt, go with the more formal route.
     
  10. Aug 12, 2013 #9

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    "Dr." versus "Professor" can vary from one school to another. At my undergraduate school and at the school where I work now, it's "Dr." At the school where I first taught after grad school, it's "Professor." (assuming both titles actually apply to the person in question, of course)

    At the undergraduate level I think it would be very unusual for a student to address a professor by first name. I didn't address my former undergraduate physics professor by first name (on return visits) until after at least after I'd been in graduate school for a few years, maybe not until after I finished my Ph.D.
     
  11. Aug 13, 2013 #10

    eumyang

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    At my undergrad it was "Dr." for those with PhD's and "Mr."/"Ms." for those without. At the time I don't think I ever heard anyone addressed as "Professor".
     
  12. Aug 13, 2013 #11
    At my university, most of the professors/people with formal titles just get referred to by their first names. But if you're speaking/e-mailing someone you haven't met before, just use their title. Worst case scenario is that they just tell you to use their first name.
     
  13. Aug 13, 2013 #12

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    If in doubt, it is ALWAYS better to "over-respect" someone than "under-respect" him/her.

    Zz.
     
  14. Aug 13, 2013 #13

    Curious3141

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    It is very common, even in a hierarchical setting for people to sign off with their first names - this applies not just to Academia, but also to other organisations. They may either completely dispense with titles or sign off with their first names and place their full title, contact info, etc. in a canned email signature that appears below this. It's considered fairly pretentious, even pompous, for people to sign off with their full titles in an email unless the setting is absolutely formal and serious - e.g. a letter of reprimand.

    But just because people commonly dispense with their titles, it doesn't entitle (forgive the pun) you to do so. Unless you really know the person (e.g. you've worked closely with him/her over a long period and developed a warm, collegial relationship), you definitely should use the title in any form of written communication. This goes double for any correspondence which is, or may be, cc-ed or forwarded to others.
     
  15. Aug 13, 2013 #14

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    My approach has always been (given I work with/for them) to call them by first name in private interactions or when with a third party that we both know well. But if there's a third-party that one of us doesn't know well, or in public, I address them by their formal title.
     
  16. Aug 13, 2013 #15

    HallsofIvy

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    When I was a professor, I always preferred "Oh Great and Holy One" but, now that I think about it, no one ever called me that!

    More seriously, when I was a graduate student, I would not have assumed anything from the Professor using his first name- my belief was that it was his call, not mine (after all, he was the "Great and Holy One"!). He could use my first name as often as he wished, but I would not use his first name until he had specifically invited me to.
     
  17. Aug 13, 2013 #16
    Thanks for the clear answers everybody, I really didn't have a clue.
     
  18. Aug 13, 2013 #17
    This is very interesting. In Norway, no one calls their Professors by their titles. The Professors dress casually and allow computers, cell phones (with sound off) and moderate talking in large auditories. I was used to this.

    Then, I signed up for a class in academic writing. The Professor here was American. The first thing he said to us was, "I will not be called by my first name. My name is Professor, Mr., Sir, or Coach.". He allowed no cell-phones. If discovered, you had to leave. If the door was closed when you arrived late, you had to wait until the break. No making oral sounds in class - unless you were laughing from his jokes. He dressed in nice pants, sport coats, ties, and shirts. He demanded respect in the classroom, but was really nice in office meetings.

    Bottom line: he is the best Professor I have ever had.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Addressing a professor in email with first name
Loading...