9

I am wondering how to write email to both a professor and an assistant professor in the same email.

Shall I use "Dear Professor … and …" or "Dear Professor … and Assistant Professor … "?

I have found this existing question, which says that I should use "Dear Professor …" for assistant professors. However, I am wondering if it is appropriate to use "Dear Professor … and …"?

I am in Japan, but writing in English as the assistant professor does not speak Japanese well.

2
  • Please avoid writing answers in comments. Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Academia Meta, or in Academia Chat. Comments continuing discussion or containing answers will be removed.
    – cag51
    Commented May 9 at 15:32
  • 1
    Sure glad researchers are spending their mental energy on the important things...
    – Mentalist
    Commented May 15 at 1:05

8 Answers 8

65

You will be on the safe side if you write "Dear Professors Smith and Miller". They are both professors, and the fact that they have different rank is unimportant in the address. If one is junior to the other, put the senior one's name first.

In general, talk to how others (older) students do that. You have a support network for these sorts of questions around you. Use it!

9
  • 10
    Some of the older students might be cheeky enough to be firstnaming them already so don't take such advice !
    – Trunk
    Commented May 7 at 17:06
  • 10
    @Trunk Then ask them how they addressed the professors at the beginning, rather than right now. This isn't rocket science. Commented May 8 at 2:35
  • 2
    Unfortunately, some grad students will try it on from the beginning . . . and often be let get away with it. Might be better for the OP to ask themselves how this is best done from everyone's point of view.
    – Trunk
    Commented May 8 at 8:47
  • 9
    @Trunk You can't escalate every problem to the boss's boss. You're making life too complicated if you say that "ask older graduate students" is bad advice. Commented May 8 at 10:11
  • 1
    Graduate student => capability for independent decision. Otherwise ask the professor him/herself, surely ?
    – Trunk
    Commented May 8 at 12:49
13

In the UK, the title 'Professor' has historically been reserved for full professors, with lecturers (assistant professors), senior lecturers (associate professors), and readers generally addressed as Dr. However, the current University of Oxford Style Guide now notes that Associate Professors "may, if they wish, use the title of ‘Professor’, or they may keep their previous title of ‘Dr’. This demonstrates how non-uniform it is! It really does seem to depend on what country you are in, and even what university you're at! But I personally would address full professors as Professor, and everyone else as Dr. (In some places in Europe, though, everyone is called 'Professor', and I've noticed that in some places in North America, professors often prefer their Dr title!)

1
  • 5
    Make sure to draw a distinction between title and form of address. That is, what someone puts on their business cards is not necessarily the same as how you directly address them. "Professor vs lecturer" is a good example of this, as is "captain vs commander" or "doctor vs engineer".
    – Sneftel
    Commented May 8 at 10:12
9

Assuming you're in the UK:

If you know them: "Hi Bob and Dave".

If you don't know them and want to be formal: "Dear Dr X and Dr Y".

If you don't know them and want to be more casual: "Hi everyone".

If you want to play it safe: "Good afternoon/evening/morning".

Honestly, unless you're writing to someone very stuck-up, nobody is going to care or even notice if you just use their first name. If in doubt you can easily avoid names and titles.

4
  • 1
    If you don't know them you can also say "Dear Bob X and Dave Y". I don't think you can ever go wrong with that.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented May 9 at 6:58
  • 4
    @N.Virgo - Personally, I think full naming someone sounds awkward. It might just be a me thing though Commented May 9 at 9:43
  • 1
    @ScottishTapWater I agree - about the only time I've seen my full name in a salutation is in an auto-generated form letter or spam. Commented May 9 at 18:38
  • @ScottishTapWater you're probably right actually, I just got used to it because I have a lot of communications with academics where I don't necessarily know their title. In my experience most people sign off with their first name in their reply and then I use that from then on.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented May 10 at 3:26
6

Really depends on the country and even the people you are talking to (in countries like Canada and the US, profs come from all over the place).

Little anecdote: ten or so years ago, I was department head and had to obtain references for short-listed candidates to an assistant prof position (we hadn't started using mathjobs yet). One of the names rang a bell, but I couldn't quite place it. I sent my emails without paying any more attention. "Dear First Name, X has given your name as a reference and I am writing to request a letter". Emails come back with letters and I realised at that point that the reason the name rang a bell is that it was a Fields medalist (with an email from a different uni than his "canonical " one, hence my confusion). I was happy, because in hindsight, I probably would have agonised a long time on how to start my letter. He replied using my first name and didn't seem one bit annoyed that I wasn't more formal.

In short: don't overthink it. Most profs don't really care.

For a first contact, you can always play it safe and use "Professors X and Y" and see what they use in their answer.

4

More of a comment than an answer, but I think it's worth pointing out a couple of general rules of thumb.

  1. Academics are routinely referred to with a wrong honorific. I'm often addressed as Prof. (which I am not), Dr., Mr., or by first name. There's not a lot of risk of annoying someone this way, we're too used to it. The worst I would realistically expect is a chuckle or a raised eyebrow.

  2. When in doubt, it's always safe to err on the side of being more deferential. If you mistakenly address someone as Prof., they won't mind, especially if they're an assistant professor. It's almost always fine to use Dr. - that's a title that academics will almost universally have, and is a more clear-cut distinction than professor. Most people won't mind using first names, but some might, so it's best to exercise caution.

1
  • I think it's important to note that while it's very much true that academics are routinely referred to with the wrong honorific, standard practice is to correct the misunderstanding when the honorific implies an elevated station to which one does not actually enjoy. I am not sure how widely this custom is still observed, but as someone who has worked in higher education since 2004, I've done my best to correct any inflated titles -- as it disrespects those we actually earned such promotions. Many institutions (Harvard, for example) have very explicit in-house literature around this.
    – Ari
    Commented May 10 at 5:28
3

In the United States, you should never address anyone as "assistant professor" or "associate professor." To do so is simply rude. Anyone whose title contains "professor" gets the courtesy title of Professor; even instructional faculty whose title is something like "instructor" can typically be addressed this way.

3

Dear colleagues,

That seems intuitive. accurate, appropriate, and warm.

2

Assuming they are both Doctors, "Dear Dr. A and Dr. B" or "Dear Drs. A & B" should suffice.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .