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I want to know, since I am not a native English speaker, whether or not it is appropriate to reply to a thank-you email from a professor?

For example, if every time you get an email from a professor saying "Thanks," you reply "no problem" or "you are welcome."

Could it turn out to be annoying or offending if one replies to every "thank you"?

I realized sometimes misunderstanding may unnecessarily arise because of cultural differences. If one does not reply to a thank-you email from a professor, then would the professor be accordingly offended? On the other hand, if one constantly reply "you are welcome" or something like this, would he be instead considered prudish?

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    It can't hurt to say "You're welcome." – Bill Barth Sep 11 '14 at 2:04
  • @BillBarth: Ah, I see. Thank you so much :). Just want to get some feeling about how people in a different culture would feel and think :) – Megadeth Sep 11 '14 at 2:07
  • @BillBarth: But could it turn out to be annoying or offending if one replies every thank-you? – Megadeth Sep 11 '14 at 2:09
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    How many thank you emails do you get from your professors? Is it really that many? – Bill Barth Sep 11 '14 at 2:18
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    @JeromyAnglim: Totally consistent with what I was trying to say if you say "reply 'no problem' or 'you are welcome' to a series of emails from a Professor saying 'thanks'"! – Megadeth Sep 11 '14 at 2:38
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Email exchanges need to end at some point. If the professor's email is a simple receipt of correspondence, then I don't think there's a need to reply. However, if the professor has initiated a larger email then a reply is probably appropriate. See these examples:

Thanks sent as a form of receipt:

Student: Hi Professor Smith, I've run the analyses you have suggested (see attached), Cheers, Mike

Then the professor replies:

Pofessor Smith: Thanks for that

In this case, I think there is no need for the student to reply "You're welcome".

It wouldn't be a big problem, but it would be mildly distracting for the professor. Email exchanges need to end. The professor's "thank you email" was already a confirmation email indicating receipt of your original message.

Thanks sent by professor as part of a larger email initiated by the professor

Imagine the professor sends you an email that provides detailed information that also includes a thank you.

Professor Smith: Hi Mike, well done on your work in the lab the other day. You did a really good job of fixing that equipment. I really appreciate it. Cheers, Professor Smith

In that case it might be appropriate for the student to reply: "you're welcome".

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    Ah that is a great explanation and exemplification.:) I think I am getting some feeling about the etiquette. Much appreciated. It scratches where it itches. – Megadeth Sep 11 '14 at 2:49
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    Alternatively, in the final example you could reply "thank you" to acknowledge that you appreciate the positive feedback and being appreciated instead of "you're welcome" which sounds a little like the Professor owes you one. – StrongBad Sep 11 '14 at 7:48
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If the entire content of response is "thank you," there is absolutely no expectation that you will respond to those emails with "you're welcome" or "no problem" or anything else. As I've used them, the point of the "thank you" email is usually just to acknowledge that the email being replied to you has been received and read. There is no need to acknowledge the acknowledgement.

In this sense, an email reply that consists only of "thank you" can be used as an invitation to end an email thread. Saying your "you're welcome" will be read as polite but it might get annoying if it seems like you are always trying to get the last word on every thread. If it's really just "thank you", you can safely skip the reply.

  • Thank you, a great answer that resolves the issue. :) You catched my question, and, yeah, if nobody ends the conversation first then we have a loop of infinite length... But now I can see what is to be tacitly understood. – Megadeth Sep 11 '14 at 6:34
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I'm not a native speaker either but generally speaking "thanks" does not mean "please waste another 2 minutes of my time".

  • Thank you for your interest. But did you read the question? – Megadeth Sep 12 '14 at 8:16
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EDIT: Apparently, I'm wrong, and some professors write a lot more "thank you" emails than I do.

I think you mean "Is it appropriate to send a thank-you email in response to every email from a professor," and I'm answering that question.

It probably depends on the professor, but I think it's a reasonable approach toconsistently send a short reply to acknowledge emails from a professor. It doesn't have to necessarily be a thank you (for example, if setting up a meeting, you can just write "See you there.", but it's always helpful to receive a reply showing you an email was read.

  • The question you answered has already been asked and answered here; since your answer does not apply to this question, I suggest editing or deleting it. – ff524 Sep 11 '14 at 2:29
  • Thanks so much. I got what you mean. Nevertheless, my question may be viewed as the converse of the question you answered... :) Your answer is still very helpful for me. – Megadeth Sep 11 '14 at 2:30

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