I am a graduate student. Some part of my master thesis requires me to contact a professor from another university. In the first email I addressed him as "Dear Professor Smith". He started his reply with, let's say, "Dear Emily".

Does it mean that he also asked me to call him by his first name? He didn't do it explicitly. How should I address him in my next email?

We are going to meet face to face in the foreseeable future.

Edit: My question isn't about addressing a professor in the US. If it were, I'd have pointed it out. It's about general politeness. Enlish is the first language either for me nor for the professor. I don't have the problem in my mother tongue. So if English were my mother tongue, I'd have so much experience, that it would be obvious for me.

I don't care what is customary in the US or the Great Britain. All I want to know is how to be polite if we communicate in Enlish, so my inquiry refers to the English language, not the (English or American) culture.

Edit2: Let me rephrase the question: dis the professor suggest that I we should be on first name basis by addressing me as "Dear Emily" in his email? That shouldn't be country-depenent.

The email was sent to me and other members of my group. It started with "Dear Emily and all" and ended with "Cheers, John". The professor is on first name basis with the rest of the group.

He doesn't teach me.

  • 1
    How did he sign his letter to you? That should give you a clue. Nov 24, 2015 at 21:16
  • "Cheers, John". I forgot to mention that I wasn't the only recepient of that mail, so the full header was "Dear Emily and all". The rest of my group is on first name terms with him, Nov 24, 2015 at 21:22
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of How should I address a professor in the US? Nov 24, 2015 at 22:07
  • FumbleFingers, my concern is about addressing a professor generaly, not only in the US. If I lived in the US, I wouldn't have any problems with that, just like I don't have any problems with that in my home contry. Nov 24, 2015 at 22:14
  • 1
    Well, maybe your real question is not "How to address a professor if he starts his email with 'Dear Emily'", but rather "How to address a professor if he ends his email with 'Cheers, John'". I believe this question has an easy answer: address him "John". Nov 25, 2015 at 15:04

3 Answers 3


I think it is rather a question about human interaction than about English. Based on your edit, what you are asking is in fact

How shall I address a professor who signed his email with "Cheers, John"?

This gives you full right to call him "John".

The only fact that he addresses you as "Emily" would not be (unfortunately) sufficient, there are still lot of people with that patronizing attitude. However, by signing as "John" he most probably expresses his wish to be addressed in such a way.


If they are a professor I assume they have a PhD. I often check if that's the case and then begin with

Dear. Dr. Whoever.

  • But then you neglect the fact the professor is a professor (he must have had some achievements to get this title), he's more important than just a PhD. So it seems to me that it is quite rude. It's like writing "Dear Mr. Whoever" to somebody who has a PhD. Nov 25, 2015 at 0:57
  • I suppose this is a question of epithet hierarchy Nov 25, 2015 at 1:14
  • 2
    A professor always is more important than just PhD, isn't it? My question is whether I should address him as "Profesor Smith" or "John". I don't intend calling him "Doctor Smith". Nov 25, 2015 at 1:20
  • I think John would be more than appropriate honestly. Professor Smith does have an air of youthfulness if you want to work that angle. I don't think either is inappropriate or offensive. Nov 25, 2015 at 1:26
  • @user2738748 in general, being a professor doesn't mean you have a PhD. Nov 25, 2015 at 3:56

Probably repeating answers....

If he has a Ph.D. you address him as "Dr. Smith."

If he does not have a Ph.D., you address him as "Mr. Smith."

He is not inviting you to be more familiar by writing "dear Emily." You must wait for him to say, "Please, call me John" before you may address him by his first name.

  • Not Mr. Smith if he is a Professor! Please, no. But you are right about not calling him John.
    – ab2
    Nov 25, 2015 at 18:35
  • Ah perhaps it's because I'm in California? I should ask my roommate. She is a professor without a Ph.D.
    – Patrick
    Nov 25, 2015 at 18:38
  • If you want to be polite, you should never address somebody who is a professor at an American University as Mr. Smith (assuming you're talking to him in his academic capacity). He may think you are deliberately trying to insult him by going out of your way to point out the fact that he does not have a Ph.D. And there is no reason not to call him Professor Smith; addressing somebody as Professor is perfectly acceptable etiquette. Dec 13, 2015 at 2:28

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