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I sent an edited volume proposal to a series editor, and she replied, starting her email with: "Dear [my first name] (if I may?)". She also signed with her first name.

I'm fine with first-name basis, so I would certainly say that she may. Now my question is, should I address her by first name too?

My dilemma:

  1. If I do, I'm afraid that I might sound disrespectful, since:
  • She's a very senior professor (there is a "power imbalance" between us)
  • She doesn't invite me to do so (but maybe this is tacit, since she signed by first name?)
  1. If I don't and keep addressing her Prof. [Last name], I'm afraid that I might sound aloof.

What is the etiquette in academia? I've worked with volume editors before, but they're about my age and position, so we reverted to first-name easily.

My instinct is to stick with "Prof [Last name]" until I get an obvious invitation (e.g. "please feel free to call me [first name]").

Thanks for your insight.

P.S. She's based in the UK, if that means anything.

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    Reverse the question: why would someone sign a message with a name by which they refuse to be called?
    – Alexis
    Jul 23 '21 at 18:14
  • I'm not sure that that question is suitable as a dupe of this one. It might well be suspected that more formality is required with an editor who may have to reject your paper/proposal, than with a professor from your own institution who you may work with on a semi-permanent basis.
    – user96809
    Jul 24 '21 at 14:28
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It should be fine (and likely correct) to use her first name. AFAIK signing with one's first name is typically a signal that you can (even preferably) address them by their first name, and the fact she specifically asked to address you by your first name in my opinion strengthens this. If you stick with Prof., she may feel uncomfortable addressing you by your first name, or may even consider it a subtle rebuff toward her request to address you informally.

Anecdotally, I also found this fairly difficult when I first started out in the UK - I stuck with using Dr., Professor, etc. regardless of familiarity early on, until one of my supervisors directly asked me to address them by their first name.

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TL;DR: You already received an invitation to call her by her first name.

In (modern) western cultures, if you are an adult and someone more senior (in standing) addresses you by your first name, you follow their guidance and address them by their first name. Not doing so is usually rude. Exceptions apply, e.g., if you are communicating with the Queen.

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