Prof. Dr. Kilu von Prince
Heinrich-Heine University
Institute of Language and Information
Department of General Linguistics
40225 Düsseldorf

Email etiquette


I personally like to open emails with “Hello Firstname Lastname”. You can do likewise as with “Hello Kilu von Prince”. I also respond to other salutations and combinations of my name/titles though.

Content recommendations

  • Keep it short. Only include what I need to know in order to respond adequately.
  • If there is a longer backstory, preface your email with one or two sentences stating what kind of reaction you expect from me (ideally with a time frame) as in “I need this letter of recommendation by day X”.
  • Especially for all non-standard issues: Be as explicit as possible regarding what response you need from me. Either ask a concrete question (bonus points for yes-or-no questions), or tell me what you need from me.

If you haven’t heard back within a week…

  • I generally try to respond to emails from my students and staff within a week. If I don’t, feel free to re-send. You can put my secretary in CC for additional accountability. You might first want to check, however:
    • Is the intention of your email straightforward for me to understand? If I can’t figure out what you need from me, your email might fall to the bottom of the pile before I get around to responding to it.
    • Does your request fall squarely within the range of our professional context? I am very happy to perform my duties as your supervisor, teacher, mentor, or colleague, but I do not necessarily provide services or counselling beyond our specific professional relationship.
  • For clerical questions, it’s usually better to ask the secretaries’ office first.
  • For journalists, interested laypeople, citizen scientists, artists, colleagues without pre-established commitments, or anyone else who is not my student or staff, or a colleague to whom I have explicitly committed to collaboration/contribution etc.: I will try to get back to you, but might not be able to, depending on how busy I am. There is no harm in re-sending your email, especially if you optimize it according to the content recommendations (see above). The more concise your message, the more likely will I respond in a timely manner.
  • If the only response you got was an automatic vacation response, I might not get back to your email. Please re-send it.