Addressing an email to a faculty Dean

zirosky

Member
Italian/French - bilingual
Hi there,

I need to send an email to my faculty's Dean in the US but I don't know which salutation I should use.
  • Dear Mrs. LastName?
  • Dear Dean LastName?
  • Dear Dr. LastName?

Thank you for your help! :)
 
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  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I did read a piece written by an American dean complaining about students beginning letters to her on academic matters with Dear Mrs. X. I don't recall her having any preference for Dear Dean X or Dear Dr X.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It’s Dr. with a period in US English.

    It occurs to me that Mrs. only works if she’s married.
    Oops. I forgot you like periods with abbreviations in US English.

    She was, apparently, and wasn't complaining that the person used Mrs. when she was really a Miss. In all honesty it struck me as rather pompous. I hate to think what she would have thought about being addressed as Ms. X, let alone Mx. X.:)
     
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    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The general principle is, when you have a choice, (a) to use a title that is relevant to the current context*, which doesn't help here because they both are, and next (b) to use the most prestigious title that a person has.

    At one university I'm familiar with, it was assumed that anyone with a professorial rank would have a doctorate, but there were lots of people around with doctorates who did not have professorial rank. Being a professor was more prestigious than having a doctorate. Therefore, in addressing someone who is both a professor and a Ph.D., one would write "Dear Prof. Smith."

    At another, professors can't be assumed to have doctorates, especially in fields like accounting and law. Having a doctorate conveys more prestige than simply having a professorial position. In that university, the same person would be addressed as "Dear Dr. Smith."

    So, you should ask yourself which qualification is considered more prestigious in this person's institution. Do all its deans, or the great majority, have doctorates? In that case, since it surely also has many faculty members with doctorates, being a dean is more prestigious and you should write "Dear Dean LastName." (An odd last name, but never mind.) If, on the other hand, doctorates are rare but this dean has one, that is probably a more important distinction. In that case, I would write "Dear Dr. LastName."

    I agree with previous posters that either is acceptable, though, and that "Mrs." (which, aside from implying that she is married and being a form that many women dislike for that reason even if they are married, does not reflect either of her professional designations) should be avoided.

    _________________________
    *For example: a colonel in the army has a doctorate. He or she would be addressed as "Colonel" by fellow soldiers, not as "Dr.," for this reason.
     

    zirosky

    Member
    Italian/French - bilingual
    Thank you for all your answers. Indeed I am not sure if she has a Doctorate but I am sure that she is married. So I will go with "Dear Dean X"!
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Thank you for all your answers. Indeed I am not sure if she has a Doctorate but I am sure that she is married. So I will go with "Dear Dean X"!
    Since you cannot use "Dear Dr. X," then "Dear Dean X" is the best choice.

    Separately, most professional women in the U.S. today prefer the title "Ms." to either of the traditional titles (Miss, Mrs.) that depend on their marital status.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    How you address the dean depends also on who you are - someone from outside the university, a student, a staff member in the university? And again it depends on which variety of English you are using.

    If I don't know whether she holds a doctorate, it is not a bad strategy to flatter her by assuming she has one.
     

    User With No Name

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    If I don't know whether she holds a doctorate, it is not a bad strategy to flatter her by assuming she has one.
    Maybe, or maybe not. It might well have that effect. On the other hand, it might be taken as evidence that the writer hasn't done his/her homework.

    Go with "Dean." It's a title you're sure of, and it's professional. It's the safest choice.
     
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