I have a friendly, close relationship with these professors - we are research collaborators and communicate daily. Our communication scope on emails is never personal, it's strictly about research progress.

I notice that when math and physics professors send me emails that start with the greeting

Hi D.Hutchinson!

such emails evoke happy feelings and enthusiasm, rather than the more formal

Dear D.Hutchinson,

Is the usage of exclamation points in email greetings, in academic settings, appropriate to use, if I am not in a position of authority, e.g. I am not the professor responding to a student's email regarding research progress? For example, would saying

Hi Professor Thompson!

be considered appropriate etiquette? Or does it risk sounding unprofessional?

The goal is to sound more upbeat and to convey enthusiasm, when replying to professors.

Personally, I've never used exclamation points for email greetings in any professional settings before, but I would like to do so and match the enthusiasm of the professors.

If the culture matters, I would like to restrict this question to the United States.

  • This seems like less of an interpersonal skills question and more of a question about how to format an email. – sphennings Apr 11 '18 at 12:21
  • 1
    @sphennings etiquette questions are on-topic. – A J Apr 11 '18 at 12:22
  • Might it be on topic on EL&U, maybe? I'm not completely sure about it... – LinuxBlanket Apr 11 '18 at 13:11
  • Related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/94033/… ... not about your precise issue but the answers address the underlying concerns about determining the appropriate way to address a professor via email. – Em C Apr 11 '18 at 16:41
  • 2
    To clarify, being about etiquette does not automatically make a question on-topic. Related meta discussion indicates that this is not on-topic. – Beofett Apr 16 '18 at 23:52

This is from a german / european perspective.

No, it is not. If you're communicating with professors, you're aiming for your email to be professional. That generally means:

  • Using the appropriate honorifics, e.g:

Hello Professor Thompson,

  • Avoiding extraneous or unintended formatting
  • Keeping your email concise and to the point
  • Not being overly personable

The standard formatting for this is:

[Hello / Greetings] [Title] [Last Name],

This has been the standard I've experienced so far in all forms of professional email conversations.


The exclamation point is used for exciting news, like "we won!". In your case, it seems that they might be excited to reply to you ;-).

However, whatever you reply with, use exclamation points sparingly in cases when you have to tell something exciting, but not in the greeting of course.

So, I'd suggest that you keep greetings professional (since you're talking to your professors) like,

Hi, Professor Thompson.


Hi, Professor Thompson:

From this LinkedIn Blog,

If your email has a formal tone, use Dear and a colon at the end your email salutation. Dear Ms. Watson:

If your email has an informal tone, insert a comma between the greeting and the name, and use either a comma or a period at the end of the greeting. Hello, Kathy, (followed by your message) or Hi, Kathy. (followed by your message).

From Hubspot article,

There are a few different ways to punctuate your salutation (the first line of your email where you address the recipient by name).

If it’s a formal email, use a colon.

Dear Ms. Frost:

If it’s a relatively casual email, use a comma.

Dear Aja,

Many other articles also don't suggest to use exclamation point in greeting.


There are a couple of factors to consider here:

  • The relationship between the parties
  • The tone you want to set
  • Your personality
  • The likelihood of the communication being forwarded

That said, there's not a hard and fast rule regarding this. I don't have a problem saying "Hey there boss!" to my boss at work - he and I know each other quite well and have a good relationship. If I were sending something to my boss' boss, then I'd be a little more formal because of the power distance and the fact that we aren't that close to one another - something like "Hello Alice:"

Also it depends on how formal I need to be. Were I informing my boss of another team that is underperforming on a project, then I'd start with "Bob:". I know that e-mail is going to be seen by others, including the manager of the underperforming team, so I want to be more professional there.

From the Interpersonal skills perspective, erring on the side of formality is a safer bet (especially in a work scenario)- your recipient can tell you to lighten up and that doesn't really create the impression of excessive informality. However, being excessively informal has several risks associated with it.

I suspect that in academia, the rules are somewhat more relaxed. There's not a boss/subordinate relationship; it's teacher/learner. I'd suggest this: if it's informational or the mood is light, go ahead and say "Hi, Professor Thompson!" If you want to convey a more serious tone, inform of something affecting your studies, or propose something, then a more professional greeting of "Professor Thompson:" would be more appropriate.

  • 1
    "I suspect that in academia, the rules are somewhat more relaxed" - At least in some cases, I would say the exact opposite is true, especially for undergraduates, and some cultural contexts put professors on an incredible, effectively untouchable pedestal above their students, whereas the workplace can be more informal. – Bryan Krause Apr 12 '18 at 21:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.