Not being a native speaker of English, I would like to know how to best introduce myself, what sounds too formal, and what is maybe a bit too colloquial. I have a few questions I want to ask, but I am not sure how to start the email in the first place.

Since many people have pointed out the culture dependency of the question, I would like to make clear that I am concerned with the US / UK, or roughly the English speaking academic world.

Also, for future, subsequent emails, can I just start the email with things like:

Dear John,
How are you? ... 

Dear John,
I hope all is well in Brighton. ...

Dear John,
I hope you are doing good! ...
  • 5
    This is really a general etiquette question. The answer depends on your culture, your recipient's culture, the relationship between you, your mood, the tone of your message, etc, etc. But it has almost nothing to do with academia; the recipient just so happens to be a professor, but that has little effect on the answer. There isn't some universal email etiquette followed by professors throughout the world; they use the same etiquette as others in their culture. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 13:34
  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about etiquette and not specific to academia. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 13:35
  • 3
    Just want to point one thing out (and this may be the only thing that's academia-related): until the professor asks you to address him/her differently, always address them as "Prof. [Last name]". Don't just "Dear John" him because it can come off as disrespectful to some people. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 13:50
  • 1
    As Nate pointed out it's culture dependent. If you have been calling him John, then no need to shift back. But if you have never wrote to the person, it's safer to be more formal and address them with Prof. first. At least that is the case in the US. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 14:13
  • 2
    #ProfessorsAreJustPeople. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 15:20

1 Answer 1

  1. For the first communication, address the person as "Prof. [Lastname]" and keep doing so until the person says something like "Please call me John."

  2. In the US, a common first liner for initial communication is "I hope this e-mail finds you well."

  3. "I hope you are doing good!" should be "I hope you are doing well." Try to suppress the use of exclamation marks and save them for things that are really worth exclaiming about.

  4. As for subsequent e-mails, what you're saying in the main message is a lot more important. A "Dear Prof. [Last name]" followed by a succinct statement about the main points would usually be sufficient as the start.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. As regards 4): so I would just jump straight into the issues / topics? as regards 1): I have already addressed all of my professors by their first names. Surely, I cannot switch back now? Or what would you advise? Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 14:13
  • 1
    It's like a "level up" system. Once you have reached the first name phase you don't need to shift back in personal communications. Most, and I cannot speak for all, faculty members are busy and their inbox overflowing. It's usually better to hop onto the main point so that the person know if he/she can deal with it now or triage for later. (And I'm speaking based on my experience in the US). The same behavior, however, can be seen as rude in other countries. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 14:17
  • I am talking about US/UK, so I find this quite valuable advice. (I myself am from neither of these countries). I will also change my question to state that I am focusing on the anglo-american / english speaking world Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 14:19
  • I'm in the UK. If the email is about "work", I would skip the "How are you"/"I hope this finds you well"/etc and get straight to the point. Otherwise, I might read as far as "How are you", decide this was just "social chat", and move to the next email in my inbox! (And if the email is about "work", make sure the title is a clear description of what it is about).
    – alephzero
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 16:32
  • 1
    The "Hope you are doing well" is unnecessary for someone you don't know. Get to the point. (Northern American prof here) Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 19:00

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