In my department, professors go by their first names with students and each other. My colleagues in some other departments go by their title and last name. To convey their preference, when referring to such a colleague in conversation with a student, I will use the professor's name and title (e.g., "You should ask Prof. Walker.").

If I am on a 3-way email involving such a professor and a student we are jointly advising, do I address the professor by their first name, title, or not at all?

  • 2
    I have always heard people in this situation called by the name the addressee would use. Mom says "Go ask Dad," not "Go ask Jim." So if in your department, it's proper for the student to call them Professor Walker, that's what I would use. Aug 29, 2018 at 17:41
  • Would you know how to address that professor if the 3 of you were having an in-person conversation together? Honestly I think this is personal preference/situational, and you can always do something like address the professor by first name but mention to the student privately how to address "Prof Walker".
    – Kimball
    Aug 30, 2018 at 5:03

1 Answer 1


This answer is a bit meta, I guess. I would probably use a form of address that would seem comfortable to the student, since you are jointly teaching him/her. It would seem to make things like reply-all in an email more comfortable for the student. I'm sure your colleague will understand. If you are being a bit formal with the colleague you can echo that with the student. Ms. James and Prof. Smythe.

However, some places are first name only and always. Then it would be different.

One option, of course, is just to ask each person how they would like to be addressed and go with that. You will want to give your own preference as well when you ask.

Just note that whatever you do, you will be either emphasizing or de-emphasizing the authority structure. Either could be appropriate depending on other factors.

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    At our liberal arts college, students are always called by first names. Aug 29, 2018 at 18:43
  • When I was teaching I was always "Buffy" to doctoral students and "Prof. Buffy" otherwise. Mostly this was student choice and it was hard to get even the doctoral students to use given names. Some undergraduates used informal titles only in person, such as Doc, or Prof. but never given names. But it was asymmetric. Students were mostly called by given name unless they were in trouble.
    – Buffy
    Aug 29, 2018 at 18:59

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