Today I suddenly found that my email server requests a read receipt every time when I send emails. Since I am recently exchanging messages with a potential Phd supervisor, I wonder if this will make him feel that I am rude and annoying? I have already turned this feature off!

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    That sounds annoying to more than just your potential PhD supervisor. Maybe just use a different server? – Pete L. Clark Nov 12 '14 at 16:11
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    Well, what's done is done. As long as its disabled, the professor will not notice it any future emails, right? – Compass Nov 12 '14 at 17:27
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    Sorry, I missed the fact that you have already disabled the feature. I agree that what's done is done, and this is not a super big deal. If you're concerned, maybe dropping a line that you were unaware of the (extremely weird) feature of the server would set you at ease. – Pete L. Clark Nov 12 '14 at 18:27
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    Maybe a datapoint of interest here: Did you ever receive a read receipt back from him? – O. R. Mapper Nov 12 '14 at 21:23
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    In my opinion, a read receipt is rude in any context, not just when mailing a professor. – Uwe Keim Nov 12 '14 at 23:04

Unless you have reason to suspect that emails are not being delivered successfully, email receipts are pretty much useless. Here's why:

  1. Not all email clients support read receipts - Mail on OS X doesn't, for one prominent example. If some of the previous emails you sent requested a receipt, and it wasn't returned, obviously either the prof's email client doesn't support it or he didn't bother clicking that button.

  2. Unless the receipt is returned, you can never be sure if the email was read or not.

  3. Unless the email is replied to immediately - which is unlikely if the reply will take some effort - it can easily be forgotten about. Receiving an email receipt is no guarantee that you'll get a reply.

If you have no response to an email after a reasonable period of time ("reasonable" can vary between 3 days and a month or more, depending on what is required), just send a quick reminder email.

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    “Not all email clients support read receipts” – I haven’t even heard of the existence of those up to today. – Wrzlprmft Nov 12 '14 at 18:53
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    @Wrzlprmft its used in industry a lot. Time-critical stuff such as emergency technical support to ensure that the issue has been received. That being said, I usually don't send them in favor of writing an actual email confirming it, because a sending a read receipt doesn't actually guarantee you read the entire thing either. – Compass Nov 12 '14 at 19:07
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    Gmail ignores them too, and it is one of the major providers of mail to universities. – Davidmh Nov 12 '14 at 19:25
  • @Compass IMO, anything critical should be responded to with an automatic email reply (or administered via an online ticketing system that doesn't rely on email). Doing so provides an equivalent guarantee of receipt, that does not depend on both parties using software that actually supported receipts. – Moriarty Nov 13 '14 at 9:41
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    @Moriarty I agree, but some places don't have the infrastructure or workflow to require that. University Help Desks, for example, need it for sure, and most have the canned "Got your message, put in queue." A smaller company that gets maybe three tech support emails a week, not so much. – Compass Nov 13 '14 at 14:27

I do not think that this is rude. If it even mildly irritated him he might have mentioned it to you at some point. Even if he didn't, he still corresponds with you so it probably didn't bother him that much. Regardless, if you disabled the feature, he should not be getting those any more.

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