Wise colleagues,

I am in need of your counsel, please. I am a retired professor requiring clarification on how to sign a professional email. Although I am happily retired, there remain certain occasions when one needs, or simply wishes to use one's professional title. After all, it was laboriously earned.

Although the answer seems simple enough, during my tenure I held a professorship in two departments. Both departments were in the Fine Arts division, but my job title (professorship) was different in each. And, I was never simultaneously professed. (Is that a thing?) I certainly don't want to appear as something, or someone I was not. But, all of this rigamarole makes for a very long signature, which feels rather ridiculous.

I'm quite sure there exists a precedent of which I am quite unsure. One of my dearest colleagues was a distinguished Professor of English. She always had an answer to these curious inquires. Alas, she is no longer with us. Would that I held her vast knowledge.

Thank you kindly for imparting your wisdom. Health, and prosperity to each of you! (I'm guessing the following format is incorrect, but I took a stab in the dark.) Cheers!

Complimentary close,

Name, Academic Credentials

Job title #1, Department of Theater (Do I place "retired" somewhere? And, should my last position come first?)

Name of Theater Center?

Job title #2, Department of Music

Division? (Not necessary?)

Not even close?

  • 1
    Were you retired from one before starting the other? Are you located in a relatively informal (US) or formal (Germany) culture?
    – Buffy
    Aug 19, 2022 at 12:56
  • 4
    How did you sign your emails right before you retired? Add “(retired)” in the right place and you are done.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 19, 2022 at 13:43
  • @JonCuster That's exactly what I've done.
    – Bob Brown
    Aug 19, 2022 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


Congratulations on keeping contributing after retiring!

I would say that there is no general answer to your question, but sometime, you can achieve a better solution by questioning the premises of the question, so let me have a try:

  1. Do you need to use the same signature for all your emails?

    • I would imagine that if one title was always "superior" to the other, you would not have this issue.
    • If which title is more appropriate depends upon your correspondent, you could adapt your signature to your correspondent, and omit irrelevant titles.
    • Sure, choosing which information is more relevant to the situation is more work, but it is a work which needs to be done amyway, either by your correspondent or by you!
  2. Can you point to a webpage with the complete information in your signature?

    • This would allow you to keep the signature short with the minimum information that anybody to whom you write might need, and a pointer to the more complete information for those who need it (hence not "lying by omission).
    • My email signature is pushing this to the extreme: I do not even put my family name in it, just my first name and a pointer to my webpage. I do extend it when I write to someone who does not know me (either in the text of the email, or in the signature), but 90% of my emails are for people who already know me, so they do not need any more information than my first name, and a reminder about where to find more information should they need it.
    • Getting a personal website is pretty easy nowadays, but I would assume that one of your two previous departments would be happy to setup and maintain one for you: it is very cheap, and adds a nice touch of continuity to keep contact with emeritus members.

The two questions are independent, and the solutions that such questions suggest can be combined in various ways, from the most complicated (e.g. maintaining two webpages and pointing to one or the other and having them pointing to each other) to the simplest (e.g. choosing one title depending on the correspondent and/or topic of the email, but pointing to a single webpage with all the information "omitted").

I hope it helps! Keep contributing, but take care of yourself first!

  • 1
    Some excellent ideas. Thank you! I don't use any titles on my personal emails either. I must admit that I don't have a personal website. I'm just old enough to not have even considered that as an option. Ha!
    – Prof.DA62
    Aug 21, 2022 at 6:06
  • @Prof.DA62 If my answer was useful, you might want to select it as the "Best" (and only) answer to your question ;o)
    – J..y B..y
    Nov 29, 2023 at 9:57

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