I have contacted a supervisor (call him Dr Thomas Riddle) to chat about an advertised PhD project, writing

Dear Dr Riddle,

to which he replied with

Hi Luis,

and he signed off with


In my reply, should I stick with

Dear Dr Riddle

or is it ok (or better?) to write

Dear Tom/Thomas

  • 3
    Whatever you decide, don't use "Thomas" when the professor has signed with "Tom." Although my birth certificate says Robert, I much prefer to be called Bob, or maybe Dr. Brown, depending on the circumstance. It would annoy me if I signed "Bob" and were then addressed as "Robert." I suspect I'm not alone.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 22:14
  • 2
    I suggest searching our archives, this has been discussed many times. For example here and here and here.
    – cag51
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 6:40

1 Answer 1


I think there's no wrong choice.

! would reply starting with Dr. Riddle (without the dear) and sign as Luis.

In the next round (if there is one) or if you become his student, then move to Tom, which is what he probably expects at that point.

  • 3
    This seems like a good balance. But there are cultural considerations. I'd guess this works in US or UK, but maybe not some other places that expect a more formal response from students. There is a story (apocryphal?) about a famous German mathematician who told his student (and mistress) that it wasn't necessary to call him "Dr. Professor X" when they were in alone in private. (or is it "Professor Dr." - I can never remember).
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 14:35
  • 1
    @Buffy The professor's first response is an implicit invitation to informality. Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 14:40
  • 1
    Yes, I agree. But I have my own cultural understandings.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 14:42

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