‘U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This‘ – interesting piece on academic etiquette in the New York Times. Here’s the beginning of the piece:
Chapel Hill, N.C. — At the start of my teaching career, when I was fresh out of graduate school, I briefly considered trying to pass myself off as a cool professor. Luckily, I soon came to my senses and embraced my true identity as a young fogey.
After one too many students called me by my first name and sent me email that resembled a drunken late-night Facebook post, I took a very fogeyish step. I began attaching a page on etiquette to every syllabus: basic rules for how to address teachers and write polite, grammatically correct emails. [continues here]
There are cultural and generational norms here, and I certainly don’t want to push for deference, but above all I think these problems come from a lack of politeness. I think this guide – linked in the piece – is much too prescriptive. I think that the first line of the author’s own guide is almost enough on its own: “When in doubt about how you should speak, write, or act, always err on the side of formality. You will never offend or annoy someone by being overly formal and polite”.
I’m fine with ‘Stuart’ but not with ‘Stu’; I begin messages to people I don’t know with ‘Dear’ and not ‘Hi’ or ‘Yo’; and if you use a title, get it right. On that last point I’m continually surprised by the ‘Dear Mr Elden’ messages, especially – and these seems really puzzling – from potential PhD students…
The other one: if you want someone to do something for you, ask.