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Using first names


indydream

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I recently attended an interview weekend at one of my top choices. I'm about to send out a few quick thank-you emails. At the interview weekend, it became clear that people expected us to refer to the faculty by their first names - all of the graduate students did, and the faculty introduced themselves using their first names. Also, I have corresponded with two of the professors who interviewed me and they both signed their emails with their first names only. Is it appropriate for my thank you emails to begin: Dear (FIRST NAME ONLY), etc. at this point?

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I think if you spoke with them in person and they introduced themselves by first name, that's totally fine. You are in warm acquaintance mode, and the campus probably has a casual culture regarding this. However, if you wanted to write "Dear Dr. X," I'm sure no one would be offended.

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I'm going to be honest - I always use "Mr." or "Mrs./Ms." when emailing a person of "authority" (boss/professor/future professor/connection) who I've been introduced to on a first name basis. It leaves room for THEM to correct me using their first name in their replies. This actually stems from an awkward personal experience - a former professor of mine was first a friend before I signed up for his class (we literally greeted each other by first names around campus) but when I addressed him by first name in an email, he VERY quickly corrected me. Some people are just more formal when it comes to official email correspondence. It's up to you to weigh the cons of either one, but it won't hurt to use the last names initially and allow yourself to be corrected.

Just my two cents wink.gif

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I'm going to be honest - I always use "Mr." or "Mrs./Ms." when emailing a person of "authority" (boss/professor/future professor/connection) who I've been introduced to on a first name basis. It leaves room for THEM to correct me using their first name in their replies. This actually stems from an awkward personal experience - a former professor of mine was first a friend before I signed up for his class (we literally greeted each other by first names around campus) but when I addressed him by first name in an email, he VERY quickly corrected me. Some people are just more formal when it comes to official email correspondence. It's up to you to weigh the cons of either one, but it won't hurt to use the last names initially and allow yourself to be corrected.

Just my two cents wink.gif

I hope that you are using "Professor" or "Dr." rather than "Mr." or "Mrs./Ms." when it comes to people with PhDs. Since Mr./Mrs./Ms. is simply incorrect, I would interpret it as ignorance or disrespect rather than primarily formal were I receiving the email.

Addressing the main topic of this thread: If all the professors used their first names, and all the students called the professors by their first names, and you are looking to become one of those students, I would use the first names. In my grad program, sometimes I get a little confused if someone comes in and says Dr. C and Dr. G all over the place. I have to take an extra mental step to associate all the last names to the profs I always think of by their first name. At the same time, one prof that I interviewed with at a 'first name program' always signs emails with his last name so I reverted to Dr. A for the thank you note to be safe.

Edited by LJK
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I usually play it safe in e-mails, even if I'm calling them by their first name in other situations. It doesn't take long to type out, and I've never seen anyone be offended by it.

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Thanks guys - I ended up using Dr.-- for one, since one I couldn't remember how he'd introduced me and I couldn't remember how other students referred to him (he was in a different subfield), so I decided to play it safe. The others I all used first names. Thanks for the advice!

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I ALWAYS refer to professors as Dr. when I talk to them and I am very reluctant to call anyone by their first names. However, I met with a bunch of various professors at my interview last week and this changed slightly. Every professor introduced themselves as their first name and I sent thank you letters to everyone I met with. The professors (both my POI's) who I had very nice chats with I thanked them using their first name. For the one's that were more professional chats I used the Dr. title in the thank you email. That's just how I went about it. I felt like since I really connected with the professors and they introduced themselves as (first name), I had to call them by their first name in the email and in further correspondence.

That's just my story though and it doesn't matter much since you sent the emails already :)

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I don't have a problem calling the prof's I work with regularly/closely by their first names, it's just the ones I know more casually that I can't seem to do it with.

My boss and collaborators are definitely first names, though.

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Touché, it's only appropriate to use Professor or Dr. and to never use Mr./Ms (although I am curious about those who would see it as purposeful disrespect, I would think it blatant ignorance- and perhaps an obvious sign that the email-er has not done his/her research.) To be honest i was reflecting how I have followed up with employment interviews, hence my mistake. Thanks for catching that : P

Edited by skeedy
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Touché, it's only appropriate to use Professor or Dr. and to never use Mr./Ms (although I am curious about those who would see it as purposeful disrespect, I would think it blatant ignorance- and perhaps an obvious sign that the email-er has not done his/her research.) To be honest i was reflecting how I have followed up with employment interviews, hence my mistake. Thanks for catching that : P

I would agree that the wrong use of titles is generally ignorance rather than purposeful disrespect, but it can feel disrespectful. I f*ing hate being called Miss; it implies that I'm a little girl. I know that the students probably don't mean anything by it but that doesn't mean I don't end up annoyed while reading the rest of their email. Similarly, the prof I TA for has gotten Mrs. She is a professor, has a phd and is unmarried. It shows the student's stereotypes and feels disrespectful even if it is cluelessness.

On a somewhat related note, my roommate was joking that she and her fiance could be Dr. & Drs. --- once they graduate. I forbade it. I think the whole Miss, Ms., Mrs. business leads to people using the wrong one and giving unintentional disrespect. She actually wants to put her marital status on par with her degree in her title! Ugh.

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