I am sending an email to two people: Prof FirstName1 LastName1 and Dr FirstName2 LastName2. The former has a PhD and is officially a professor (with tenure, if that matters) with whom I am not intimately familiar. He prefers to go by Prof or Dr LastName (I have no problem with it). The latter I have worked with for a few months now and strongly prefers not to be called Dr (much less Professor, as he isn't one; he does research and lectures but the institute at which he works does not grant that title). Instead, I call him FirstName2 as he has instructed me to do. The two are of a similar age and experience (as far as I know).

My question is, when emailing them, should I say "Dear Prof LastName1 and FirstName2," or a more formal (but possibly upsetting) "Dear Prof LastName1 and Dr LastName2," or something else altogether? Furthermore, what would be the most polite thing to call each of them in a meeting where both are present? I would like to respect both of their preferences, but not respecting FirstName2's title seems like it could be taken the wrong way (i.e. insulting).

I ended up going with "Dear all," even though there are only two people in the email but I am wondering what the most polite way would have been (for future reference).

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    I'm not sure there is anything wrong with it. My concern with it is that it might be seen as disrespectful to FirstName, if not by him then maybe by Prof LastName. It just seems weird to me, in the same way as a previous poster thought "Hello Dr. X, Mr. Y" would be "weird." Aug 14, 2019 at 19:30
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    If you're this worried about slighting FirstName2, you should probably just ask them if their preferences extend also to email or general situations involving others.
    – Anyon
    Aug 14, 2019 at 19:42
  • @ndpl Probably more like "Should I still call you 'Firstname' when X is present?". I guess it's a little unusual to do so when X is of higher status, but it's quite reasonable to establish such rules for the opposite case. E.g. if you're on first name basis with a professor, they might still prefer you using the title when students are present.
    – Anyon
    Aug 14, 2019 at 21:07
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    Just consider yourself lucky that you are not writing in a language with T-V distinction: it's even more awkward, because there is a difference in basically every sentence, not just the salutation. Aug 14, 2019 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


"Dear all" sounds perfectly fine to me, and using plural is an easy way out, especially if not all the recipients have a honorific. "Dear professors/ colleagues/ both" are other options, although in that case one of the recipients would not like the first one. For two recipients only, using both names as @vonbrand suggests is fine but I would avoid it for more than two.


I'd call them by "Prof A and Dr. B" or perhaps "Dr. A and Dr. B", in the extreme "Prof. A and Mr. B". In the letter itself, address the more senior, i.e., formally. Dr. B won't object; while Dr. A might be put off by informality.

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