coworkers message me “hi” with nothing else, younger coworker thinks I’m tech-illiterate, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Coworkers message me “hi” with no indication of what they need

I find myself very frustrated with many of my coworkers. We use Teams, and I often receive messages that just say “Hi Name.” If I’m available, I can respond right away and get to their request. But sometimes when I step away for my lunch hour, I return to see that right after I left, I got a “Hi Name” message. When I respond, they’ve often stepped away and it may take another hour for them to get back to me with their request, two hours from when they originally reached out to me.

To me, it seems that people think that Teams chats follow the social etiquette of walking up to somebody’s desk. You both say a quick hello, then get to whatever they needed. However, I view it more like leaving a Post-It note on somebody’s desk. It’s visible, but if they aren’t there, it might take some time to respond. And to leave me a Post-It note that just says “Hi” on my desk, then to expect me to go to yours to leave one as well before giving any details, frustrates me. When I reach out to people, I generally send them “Hi Name, I’m reaching out to you about X. Do you have Y information?” — closer to how I would write an email.

I’ve been at this company for two years, I like it and feel valued, this is just a big pet peeve of mine, as I feel that it is less efficient, and if somebody messages me when I’m away, I now have to spend time tracking them down for their request. I’m also autistic and there’s a chance that there’s something about social cues and unwritten rules that I’m just not understanding. This is a large company, and this communication style is common between people of all ages, managers, coworkers, and contractors.

I’m sometimes tempted to just not respond until they do send the information over, but I also don’t want to come off as rude or unresponsive. I also have thought about addressing it individually with the people that I work closest with, but I’m not 100% sure how I should say it.

Yeah, this is just a Thing That Happens in almost every office. The people who do it think it’s friendlier, and everyone else thinks it’s inefficient and a little annoying. It’s very unlikely that you will be able to solve it, so it’s easier to decide not to care. Write back “hi” and figure that if their communication style means it takes an extra day for them to get the info that they need, that’s on them; it’s not on you to draw their needs out of them.

That said, if you work frequently with someone who does this, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “By the way, feel free to just launch in with what you need when you first message me. If you just say hi and wait for me to respond, it could be hours before you hear back, depending on what else I’m working on — but if what you need is in the first message, I can often get it to you faster.”

how to respond when coworkers IM me “hi” with no indication of what they need

2. My younger coworker thinks I don’t know anything about computers

I am older (mid 60s) and on my way to at least semi-retirement. We have on our staff a new younger (30-ish) woman who is in a leadership role. I have no issue with that – she’s good and she knows her stuff; I’ve learnt new things from her. But she seems to have it firmly in her mind that I am a sweet little old lady who cannot possibly know anything, especially in the field of computers. When it comes to software, or tech generally, she
is very patronizing towards me and tries to hold my hand through elementary steps. The thing is, I have been working with computers since the mid 1970s and helped design and set up the system we currently use. In this area, I’m good and I know my stuff.

My manager has taken her aside (he tells me) and spoken to her about the way she is treating me, and others on staff have commented as well, so it’s not just me. How can I make her see that I am competent in this area, before the sweet little old lady turns into a cranky old battleaxe on the warpath (which wouldn’t be good)?

The next time she does it: “I’ve been working with computers for decades and helped design the system we use now.” Use an amused-sounding tone.

If it continues: “I’m not sure if you realize you’ve been approaching me like I need remedial help with anything tech-related. So to let you know, I don’t.”

If it continues after that, consider talking to HR about it and using the words “age discrimination.” Or if you want to give your boss one more chance to handle it first, have that conversation with him instead and ask if he wants to do a more serious intervention himself or if it’s time for you to bring in HR.

3. Should I correct students who address me as Mrs.?

I am a faculty member at a major state university where I teach large undergraduate classes in a male-dominated discipline. I have been teaching for quite a while and have achieved the highest faculty rank (Professor). While I am not particularly concerned about being addressed as Professor or Dr., which are correct given my faculty rank and education, I take issue with one way that I am increasingly addressed by students — about half of the hundreds of student emails I receive each semester. Rather than start their emails with Dear Professor Green, Dear Dr. Green, or Dear Ms. Green, students increasingly refer to me as Mrs. Green. To add an irrelevant fact, I am not married.

It has always been my understanding that “Mrs.” is used to refer to a married woman, or a woman who has been married, without a higher or honorific or professional title. And that “Ms.” should be used to refer to a woman of unknown marital status or when marital status is irrelevant. Of course, I believe Mrs. should always be used to address anyone who indicates that preference.

My students will see my name written as Dr. Jane Green on a variety of university and course materials, but that does not seem to change the frequency of emails addressed “Dear Mrs. Green.” I hesitate to correct students for fear that it will be taken as an indicator of self-importance and give me a reputation for being condescending or unapproachable. However, I am sensitive to the misogyny involved. While I don’t think students should call their instructors by their first name, I don’t want to insist that students call me Professor Green or Dr. Green. I would be fine with being called Ms. Green – it’s only “Mrs. Green” that really bothers me.

Do you see this as an important “teachable moment” for college students entering the workforce (in addition to being a personal pet peeve)? My thought is that students should learn not to use Mrs. as the default title for women in the workplace or in addressing professional correspondence since marital status should be irrelevant in these situations (and also that perhaps it is a good idea to avoid offending others like me when trying to be hired for or advance in a position).

I think that if I had confirmation that this reasoning is correct, I would feel more justified including an explanation in my course materials and providing reminders in my responses to student emails. I am willing to take the possible blowback if it will help students in their eventual careers!

Yes, absolutely. Referring to a woman as Mrs. without any indication that she uses or prefers it is a good way to alienate a ton of us — since it’s rooted in the sexist notion that a woman’s marital status is relevant when a man’s is not. It will also hit a lot of ears as old-fashioned.

These students should learn that now so that they don’t address their cover letters that way, greet networking contacts that way, or otherwise annoy and aggravate the many, many women who use Ms. who they’re going to meet in their careers.

I’d say it this way: “It’s Ms. or Dr., please.”

You could add as a parenthetical: “Mrs. is not a title used in professional contexts unless the person has previously indicated she uses it. Default to Ms., or to Dr. when that’s correct.”

4. Can I leverage interest from other employers into a higher salary at my current job?

I’m in an enviable position: I’ve worked my way up to a fairly senior position in a smallish industry, and I have a specialized role that’s currently in high demand. And now—after climbing the ladder and working hard for 20 years—recruiters and hiring managers are calling me nonstop to try to entice me to move. I know, poor me. But I really like my current job! I’ve been here six years, I’ve had some nice success and built a strong program from nothing, and I feel appreciated and—I think—am fairly compensated. I don’t want to leave, but I find myself wondering: Is there anything I should be doing to leverage this interest with my current job? What would I even ask for, assuming I am paid well and well treated?

So far I haven’t even mentioned anything about all this interest to my current manager. But last night a competitive manager took me out to drinks and told me she wanted me to come over to work for her and I should “name my price.” I don’t want to be a cliche of the woman who never negotiates. But I also don’t want to be unfair to my current, very appealing job, where I ultimately want to stay. Any advice?

I’m not a fan of counteroffers, but that’s not what you’d be doing. You’d just be saying, “I really like my work here and want to stay. I want to be up-front that I’m being approached about other jobs that pay more than I’m currently making. I really don’t want to leave, but I wondered if we can take a look at my salary.” You could even use that exact wording.

One thing to note is that it doesn’t sound like you necessarily know what these other jobs would pay; it’s possible some of them would actually pay less well or be less desirable than your current role in other ways. It could be interesting to talk with some of them and progress a little further with them to try to get a better understanding of how they really stack up against your current position.

5. Repeated weekend reminders from a reference-checking company

I want to see if I’m unreasonably annoyed by this situation.

I got a message on Friday after 5 pm from one of the paid student leaders in a program that I help manage. She was letting me know that she had been offered a full-time graduate role that starts next year and they wanted references from managers by the end of that day. She told me she had put me down as a reference and apologized for not being able to ask first.

I was okay with this and was very happy to provide a reference for her. I had seen the message as I often work a later schedule.

I come in on Monday morning and discover four emails from the reference-checking company that has been contracted by the employer. The first email was sent on Friday at 6:41 pm, the second on Saturday at 7:02 pm, a third on Sunday 7:02 am and the fourth on Sunday at 7:01 pm. I’m not in a U.S. timezone, but even in the U.S. all but the initial email would have been on a weekend. I’ve included the text of the reminder emails in a screenshot.

I felt very pressured by this and that if I didn’t get it done quickly I would be hurting the student’s chances of getting this role. It seems to only be giving you three days to respond and those days don’t seem to be business days.

I would expect a system that collects references to account for business days, no matter when the candidate submits their reference request. I completed the reference request (which was 26 questions long and a totally different irritation) but have a lingering irritation about the way this communication occurred. It seems very disrespectful of my time and also unprofessional. Am I wrong to be this irritated?


Those reminders were almost certainly automated messages programmed to go out about 24 hours apart, without anyone thinking to leave space for weekends. That doesn’t make it any less annoying, though, or any less demanding. They’re just asking for people to hit that “decline” link.

{ 856 comments… read them below }

  1. Nodramalama*

    I haaaate when people say hi and then nothing else. I also hate “hi,”, and then followed up with “can I call you?” and it ALWAYS seems to be clients wanting to speak about something totally out of the blue I do not have context for.

    I am so often absolutely slammed at work, I definitely do not have time to follow up with them about whatever their actual request is.

    As a form of petty revenge I just started not responding to the “hi” and waiting to see if they actually ask something and if they don’t Ive decided it’s not important enough to follow up on. I do not recommend this as a response, for the record.

    1. Zona the Great*

      I feel the same way about repeated missed calls from the same person. Either leave a message or leave me alone.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeeeees! Take five seconds to tell me what the topic is if you’re so desperate for me to respond!

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        My absolute biggest pet peeve in the world is people who email you and just say ‘call me’. ABOUT WHAT? If you are emailing me you could at least give me a heads up what to prepare so I know what we are talking about, have references available and know how important this is. It makes me crazy.

          1. Anonym*

            Same. But I will probably text back and ask if everything is okay first, because I need confirmation of whether it’s an emergency.

          2. La Triviata*

            I saw something online from a woman who said she received a call from someone saying her son was in a band that would be playing in the poster’s town but she didn’t have details and was trying to get the information, Her son wasn’t returning her calls. The woman posting didn’t know but, later that day, came across a group of young men unloading equipment and, when she asked, said they were in a band. The woman posting told them one of their mothers had called and they should call her back, Being not-bad sons, they all pulled out their phones and called.

        1. iglwif*

          If someone just says “Call me,” it had better be an emergency, and it’s probably best if you’re my mom, my spouse, my kid, or a very close friend.

          Because my anxiety disorder is always going to think it’s a catastrophic emergency, and you are not going to like my reaction if it turns out the “emergency” is a work-related non-emergency.

          1. kupo*

            Shortly after my mom retired she called and left a voice message if just “call me” and I was freaking out because before retirement she would *never* have called during work hours even if she had the day off, so I was certain something was wrong. Nope, just wanted to chat. Now I know not to panic when I see she’s calling me in the middle of the work day, though.

        2. JelloStapler*

          Yes! Especially when I need time to gather information or I am not the right person to ask! Or, I can’t tell you anything because you are a parent of one of my college students.

        3. Keep it Simple*

          Worse than that: Voicemails where the caller says, “This is Jane, call me back.” No. No, Jane, not happening.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Especially when they don’t leave a number. Okay, Jane; I’ll just start calling at random around town until I find you, I guess.

          2. Neil Strickland*

            I hate that too. During my working life (temporarily on hold), if I had to call someone about a work-related issue and had to leave a message, I would always state who I am, where I’m calling from, why I’m calling and when I expect a response. The same thing applied if I had to send someone an email.

            There would be workplaces where people had the same name (such as Michael). If I received a call and the caller identified himself as Michael (with no further details) I wouldn’t respond.

      3. i drink too much coffee*

        I like to call and if I don’t get you, I’ll just email you lol, or I’ll call the next person who may have the info. It’s pretty understand where I work that if you just have one missed call from a person, you can basically ignore it (if it’s internal of course!)

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah cold calls are pretty normal where I work too but if there’s not a follow-up teams message or email they’re pretty safe to ignore.

          (I always call my boss back but it would probably be fine if I didn’t. Just feels like I should.)

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        OH GOD YES. Especially businesses! I assume you’re taking time in your workday to call me for a reason, say what it is!

    2. Jen RO*

      One of ny coworkers does the ‘hi, can i call you?’ thing and it always emabs ‘I’m too lazy to read the documentation’.

      1. Nodramalama*

        Yeah it always seems to be either “can you summarise the thing youve already sent me” or

        “I want advice about a thing you have no idea about and definitely cannot answer off a cold call”

      2. VaguelySpecific*

        I get “please reach out to me when you have a chance” messages from one coworker who, when I do reply, insists on calling me to ask a question that could easily have just been asked in chat (and is usually something I have answered before and they should already know).

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          This would drive me nuts not only because of the lack of context, but also because I really hate “reach out” used in a work context. Like, irrational levels of hate on my part.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            May I ask why “reach out” bothers you so much? No judgment; we all have our peeves. I just haven’t heard that one before and I’m curious.

            1. I Have RBF*

              I’m not Elitist Semicolon, but the reason it irks me is that it sounds pretentious and advertizey. Like the old phone company ad “reach out and touch someone”. Plus “reach out” is ambiguous on the method of contact desired. Same medium? Or different? Who knows.

              Instead of “please reach out to me when you have a chance”, try “call me when you can”. Shorter and more to the point. If you don’t want a call, use “message me…” or “email me…”.

              1. Stipes*

                I tend to be “reach out” specifically as the medium-agnostic version of “call so-and-so”, “message so-and-so”, “email so-and-so”, “drop by so-and-so’s office”. I’ll say “Joe reached out to Sarah to find out what her team knew about the clusterfuck on the third floor”, without thinking about it, because I don’t know or care whether he called or emailed her. Is there an alternative phrasing that doesn’t hit someone’s pet peeve?

              2. Elitist Semicolon*

                All of this, plus “reach out” sounds more care-based than professional, so “please reach out to me” feels either like the person on the other end is going to overshare or like the person saying it is suggesting that I need some sort of hand-holding or emotional support. My former colleague who was a verbal and emotional bully used it that way; “you can reach out to me if you want help” didn’t mean “hey, let me know if you want a hand.” It meant “I know you won’t be able to do this without me so I’m expecting you to beg for my help.”

                Even if they mean it well, it feels very buzzword-y to me, like the colleague is trying to pull a “we’re all family here and we support each other” sort of move. Maybe the workplace does support each other personally and professionally! But “please reach out to me” feels oily and insincere.

            1. Common Taters on the Ax*

              Then you run into the irrational hatred of verbification. (I don’t mind “reach out” anymore, but I remember a time when I thought it sounded icky.)

          2. Salty Caramel*

            I’m not fond of “reach out” either. Reminds me of the old sappy Ma Bell/AT&T commercials.

          3. Keep it Simple*

            Add me to the irrational hate of “reach out.” Also, “touch base” which catapults me into a seething inferno of rage.

            1. PMaster*

              +1000. I don’t hate “reach out” so much, but please do not ever “touch base” with me. (Mom, that goes for you too.)

        2. Random Bystander*

          Oh, I had a co-worker somewhat like that … except that she wouldn’t use IM at all before we went remote, she’d just show up in my cube (late afternoon, most everyone else was gone for the day), not say anything until I caught sight of her out of the corner of my eye or in the reflection from my monitor. (ugh!) When we went remote, she first tried calling me, but I kept hitting decline and kept working and then *finally* she would use IM.

          And it was always the same … “hi” pause. “I just wanted to check, I think I know what is correct, but I wanted to be sure…” waffle for about eight lines (which used to take five minutes of her talking at me) before finally getting to the request which *was* for information that she should have already known, and I knew had been answered for her multiple times because at least I had (and presumably others had) more than oncce already. Followed by a whole bunch more waffle about how she’d thought she knew the answer, thanking me, blah, blah (that’d have used up another 10 minutes in the in-office days, in IM I’d just ignore it until she finally quit typing and type back “yw”.

          I honestly think that if it is work content-related questions, an IM or email should contain the substance of the question “Acct number 123456, name; [insert issue]”. Because we’re all busy, but I’ll reply *much* faster to a request from a co-worker that gives me enough info to actually have an answer before I reply. Just send me a “hi” or “please call” in chat or “please call/reach out to me when you have a chance” in email … that is going to consistently slide to behind the next task (since I work 10 hour days and co-workers work 8, I have not been above waiting until *they* are gone for the day and sending an email “Happy to help, could you let me know what the question/issue is? Thanks!”

          1. Hannah Lee*

            “Oh, I had a co-worker somewhat like that … except that she wouldn’t use IM at all before we went remote, she’d just show up in my cube (late afternoon, most everyone else was gone for the day), not say anything until I caught sight of her out of the corner of my eye or in the reflection from my monitor. (ugh!)”

            I’ve got a co-worker who does that.
            He somehow manages to lurk just outside my peripheral vision, so I don’t notice until I happen to pivot in my chair to reach for something (and then at least 1/3 of the time it startles me that someone is Right.There.)

            That in itself is annoying but 9/10 out of 10 times when I say “what’s up?” he answers with “I sent you an email …” and then … nothing.

            He’s the only person here I find myself getting impatient with. I find myself biting my tongue to not answer “So?” or “And?” or putting on a Scotty from Star Trek exasperated tone “Jus spit ‘er out Man!”

    3. perstreperous*

      We had a “no-hello” Teams policy put in place, which caused much muttering about rudeness but stopped this issue.

      (One individual previously started with “Good morning” then “How was your weekend” or the like, as though they were there in person).

      1. FlyingAce*

        I have a couple of coworkers who go “Hi FlyingAce, how are you?” and immediately go into what they need from me without waiting for an answer… this may be an unpopular opinion, but if they’re not interested in how I’m doing, I’d rather they not ask, to be honest.

        My go-to is “Hi (name), happy (day of the week)! (insert question or request here, in the same message)”. I feel I’m giving the information they need right away while still saying hello.

        1. Mighty K*

          I often go with “hi, hope all is well, [thing I need to ask]” because I feel like that covers the small talk without actually needing a response to that part, and it cuts out them needing to ask after me too

        2. KateM*

          Maybe they *are* interested in how you are doing? They just put the information in their message just as they’d do with an email or snail-mail letter.

        3. Artemesia*

          no one is ever interested in how you are doing in such social contexts — it is a simple custom to grease the skids of discourse.

          1. Antilles*

            And for a decent number of people, it actually does grease the skids of discourse, even if the question is very obviously a throw-away pro forma social nicety.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              Once I called a colleague and opened with, “Hi Oxford Comma, it’s Elitist Semicolon. Do you have a moment for a quick question?” and they came back with a very pointed “I’m fine, thank you; how are you?” Whereas if if someone called me at work and opened by asking me how I am, my response would be, “Fine, thanks. What can I help you with?” I’m willing to chuck social niceties out the window if it means I can get us both off the phone more efficienty.

              1. I can read anything except the room*

                How very “I don’t know, *can* you use the bathroom?” of Oxford Comma. Yuck.

              2. Middle Aged Lady*

                In my super snarky youth I was a server and we had to ask customers of the hotel ‘how are you?’ When we first approached their table to get their breakfast order. One woman snarled at me ‘milk and an english muffin’ and I answered, “you are milk and an english muffin. Now what would you like for breakfast?” Fortunately she laughed and became less snarly.
                What I hate is the new protocol when staff says ‘how are you?’ You reply, ‘fine, and you.’ And they say ‘fine, thanks for asking’ like you are a grand lady who condescended to ask a serf how they were.
                I don’t mind people who get straight to business or people who want the exchange of pleasantries. What I don’t want is a long list of how they ‘really’ are, unless it’s pertinent. When I am working with someone closely and they say, OK but the baby kept me up half the night, that is good info to have as we proceed.

                1. Elitist Semicolon*

                  I learned the hard way with both a GP and one of my own constituents that only valid response to “How are you?” was “fine, thanks; what’s up?” Otherwise I was going to be there forever while the GP told me all about his new baby and lack of sleep and/or the constituent told me everything that was going on in his relationship with other professional contacts, none of which I had a part in, much less any actual control over.

                2. Lisa*

                  It may be chain-specific, but Taco Bell drive-thru used to start with “Hi, how are you?” and then wait for me to say “Fine,” before they said, “What can I get for you today?” WTH. Whoever decided that was better than “welcome to taco bell may I take your order please” was a psychopath.

                3. properlike*

                  Pet peeve: the service reps who want to chitchat “Any weekend plans?” “How’s your day today?” etc. etc. while ringing up your groceries or waiting for your coffee. It feels so invasive. We are not friends; you are not entitled to that level of information.

              3. Snobby Ampersand*

                Ugh, I would have been severely tempted to reply with “Oh, while I value you as a coworker, I don’t care about you as a person – hope I didn’t give the wrong impression!” That would probably nuke the relationship forever, but they started it.

            2. Michelle Smith*

              And for a decent number of us it’s grating and nonsensical. Don’t ask me if you don’t care.

              1. Lydia*

                I guess we should just guess which side people fall on? Nobody is going to win in this battle. and I’d rather err on the side of being at least somewhat socially graceful.

                1. Tippy*

                  Same. And unless someone can read my mind they have no idea if I “mean” it or not. and FTR, in almost every case I do.

                2. Zona the Great*

                  This! I once said good morning to a coworker only for them to shout back, “this isn’t a good morning! My steering went out on the way to work!”. I was so taken aback by it that I responded with, “Oh no! I can give you a ride home tonight if you need” and he answered that with, “I would NEVER leave my car here overnight!”.

                  What. The. Eff? Please just do your part of the social contract so I can get the TPS reports from you.

          2. Lenora Rose*

            I am interested, actually — as long as it’s brief. I want to know if you’re underslept or feeling good, had some mucky task show up on your desk before mine, or had a nice weekend. If you want to be analytical about it, it’s *useful* for my approach for the rest of the day. But, well, I genuinely like folks, I don’t like small talk to go overly long but I also don’t like it when people absolutely quash any opportunity to make small talk.

            (I am liable to ask “How can I help you?” instead of “how are you?” on the phone and nudge right to the task, but that’s both phones specifically, and a holdover from working reception.)

        4. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yeah, there’s no reason you can’t include a hello in a message with other content! When I’m messaging with people for the first time during the day, I’ll usually say “Hi Jane! I was wondering if you could help me with X.” When it’s someone I communicate with multiple times during the day, subsequent messages are usually just “Do you remember what we decided about Y?”

        5. Pizza Rat*

          This works for me. My colleagues are people, not computers, so I talk to them as such. A greeting and then right to the point. No need to prolong or build up anticipation (or annoyance)

        6. Cathy*

          I do this because I was informed that it was rude to start in on the business end of my question without saying hi first. I think it’s stupid, but whatever.

      2. Your mom*

        Omg I haaaaaate this. You’ve pulled my attention away and now it’s going to take you six separate messages with six separate notifications to get to your point. So my stream of thought for whatever I was doing before is utterly shattered and now I have to wait for you to make. your. damn. point.


        1. Chas*

          Yes! I have a coworker who uses WhatsApp to contact me urgently, and it feels like she hits the send button every time she wants to start a new paragraph! So I’ll often end up with three LOUD notifications in a row for something that could easily have been one single message.

          1. Lady Danbury*

            This is definitely a personal preference bc I (and most of the ppl I communicate with on WhatsApp) definitely prefer multiple smaller messages to one long message. Imo, texts should be relatively short, even if that requires more of them.

            1. Yorick*

              I have a friend who won’t even write a full sentence before she sends the text message. So there’s SO many notifications and it’s hard to read but it could have been one normal sized message.

              If it’s a whole paragraph then sure, make it 2 messages instead of one 2-paragraph message.

            2. BatManDan*

              In my world, one message is for one topic. Put it ALL in one message. There is NO reason for more than one. I’m very curious about why your cohort prefers this? Walk me through it – I’m willing to learn

              1. Eeeeka*

                For me, it’s a reading comprehension thing. Long wall of text, I start skimming and miss important points. My personal preference is one message with paragraphs instead of Giant Wall of Text.

                1. Your mom*

                  I work in a fast-paced, numbers- oriented industry and had to learn to distill things into bullet points for this reason. Example:

                  Hey there,

                  2 questions:

                  – are we moving forward with the refried bean initiative?
                  – if so, do we have a bean supplier or will we need to identify one?


            3. Stipes*

              I feel like you should hit “send” when you’ve reached the point where you might expect a reply. If you’ve sent a message but you’ve got a few more on the way and I would probably only muddle things by replying to the first message too quickly, then I didn’t need a notification until you were done!

        2. MassMatt*

          This is among the reasons why I really dislike chat programs for work.

          But I think the LW is overthinking it. If someone simply texts “hi”, that shouldn’t obligate you to do a lot of work to track them down and find out what they wanted, let alone their back up contacts. Reply “hi” or “yes?” or “can I help you?” back and let them tell you what they want.

          1. Yorick*

            LW should definitely go with “hi, how can I help you?” if she’s bothered about not getting to the point quicker

        3. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

          YES. Maybe it’s the ADHD talking, but I have an irrational spike of irritation-bordering-on-anger whenever someone interrupts my focus for longer than they need to. I’m happy to spend as much time as it takes to actually fix the problem, but please just tell me what the problem is.

          1. Llama lamma workplace drama*

            yup.. same here… it does not play well with my ADHD at all. Someone will text ‘Hello.’ And I flip to the window and sit there and stare at the and then the typing stops and then and then the typing stops. And then finally… 5 minutes later I get the ‘Can you tell me where the new TPR Report is?’

            1. Llama lamma workplace drama*

              oh shoot.. I guess things in brackets do not appear.. that should say (so and so is typing) then the typing stops (so and so is typing) and the typing stops

            2. Tally miss*

              I don’t have ADHD, but this drives me nuts too. You interrupted me, but can’t bother to have already prewritten your question? It is disrespectful to my time.

          2. I Have RBF*

            I’m happy to spend as much time as it takes to actually fix the problem, but please just tell me what the problem is.

            This. Whether it’s chat or text, if you are going to pull my attention away, at least give me a hint as to why.

            In general, chat messages like “Good morning” or “Happy Friday” in a general channel don’t require urgent attention. Things like “Hi RBF” or “Hi @RBF” will usually get my attention, because I’m being directly addressed. Even then, if you need an answer to something, say “Hi @RBF. Can you look at server It seems to be not displaying its web page.” IOTW, greet me by name, and in the same message tell me the gist of what you are asking my attention for.

            It’s not hard to do, and I try to do it for other people.

        4. Snobby Ampersand*

          YES. Had a coworker like this who, for every question, would send like 5-10 separate messages over the course of about 5 minutes. The entire time I’m just sitting watching the little dots wriggle because I know as soon as I try to start concentrating on my tasks again the message will pop up and derail my focus. So I’m just twiddling my thumbs waiting for her to get to the damn point when she could have sent one moderately long message, I would be distracted for about 20 seconds while I replied, and then I could get back to my work. And you bet your behind she’d get huffy with you if you tried to anticipate the point of her question and answer before she was good and done typing her avalanche of stream-of-thought IMs.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, I get that would be annoying if they’re approaching you with a work request, although I must admit that I enjoy non-work socializing with my coworkers, even when I’m WFH. Even I’ll admit that it’s easier and feels more natural in person, though.

      4. SarahKay*

        That sounds like a fabulous policy, and I wish my company would institute it.

        About a third of the people I work with do the “Hi” with no further request until I say Hi back and like OP#1 I find it annoying and time-wasting.

        For the ones I work with regularly I do actually say something along the lines of “please let me know what you need from me at the same time as you say ‘Hi’, so that I can respond as soon as I see it and we’re not playing ‘Hi tag’.” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
        Otherwise I go with replying “Hi, person, what can I do for you?” so that at least there’s a chance their next message will include useful info rather than just another “Hi”.

      5. Abundant Shrimp*

        Oh my god, there can be a policy? Oh this would make me so happy?

        When half of my team was offshore, almost all of my offshore teammates communicated like your one individual does. Judging by how many people did it, it might’ve been part of their training – maybe they were told they *had* to do it? Drove me batty. “Hi” (I reply hi, 5-10 min wait follows) “good morning” (my reply, more wait) “how was your weekend” ughhh what are we doing here? I started just replying “good morning Fergus, what can I do for you today” and that seemed to speed things up.

        1. Jamjari*

          Oh, that’s even worse. It might be the end of your day when you get the ‘hi’ so instead of being able to help them right away (and finish your day), you’re either waiting for them to follow up or you end your day anyway and say hi back the next morning at the end of their day. This could go on forever.

        2. I can read anything except the room*

          Ugh, I especially hate when customer service chat reps do this. I already gave my name and explained my problem in the initial box I filled out, then a representative appears and just says, “hello.” I don’t know if the reason they aren’t saying anything further is because they’re juggling me with other chats, or they’re waiting for me to return the greeting and not going to say another word until I say “hi,” or the system is dumb and they didn’t get the summary of my problem automatically and are expecting me to repeat it, or some combination of all of the above!

          1. Michelle Smith*

            I assume with call centers like that that it’s company policy that they are required to follow a specific script, but it is extremely annoying.

          2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            I’m willing to cut CSR a lot of slack here because they’re almost certainly following a script, and because you KNOW there are people out there who will complain and probably get someone written up if they don’t perform the social niceties properly before getting to the point.

            1. I can read anything except the room*

              For sure, I don’t blame or take it out on them as individuals because I know these roles typically have no autonomy to make any decisions or deviate in any way from their instructions, it’s just a maddening lack of information to have to navigate. Should I just keep waiting? If I send “hi” back or I repeat my question am I being polite and helpful, or will it look like I’m being passive-aggressively impatient because I couldn’t wait for them to type a second message? And then eventually if enough time passes I become increasingly convinced they ARE waiting for me to say hi back, and I feel like I’ve just conveyed that I’m not paying attention to this chat and I kept THEM waiting…. ugh it’s just a mess and doesn’t have to be!

          3. one more librarian*

            I staff a CSR-adjacent chat service a few hours per week, and that “hello” triggers the system to recognize that I’ve claimed the question. Then I take a moment to read the question fully and pull up some resources before I ask for details.

          4. Distracted Procrastinator*

            most of them do it because they are chat bots. You have to get past a specific point in the conversation to get a real human.

      6. Hush42*

        I have almost always phrased my IMs on Teams as “Good Morning, Can you help me with X” because I also hate the “Hi” messages. However, a few years ago we had another manager in the company and I did that to him and he goes “Good Morning Hush”. Then sent a Second IM that said “How are you today?” and then whole thing felt slightly patronizing as if he was trying to show me that I shouldn’t start a conversation with a request. He didn’t last very long though so that problem went away fairly quickly.

        1. Lydia*

          That’s how I do it. It didn’t even occur to me that someone would send a “hi” first and then nothing. I think the majority of people I work with use it the same way, and I deal with a LOT of different department.

      7. MigraineMonth*

        I worked at a company where you could post suggestions to the intraweb. Someone wrote an entire article-length suggestion about how inefficient and disrespectful of your coworker’s time it was to IM someone with just “Hello” and therefore no one should do it. A lot of people liked it, to the point that if you IM someone “Hi”, a common response was a link to the suggestion.

        The correct response to the link, of course, was a link to the other suggestion that it was polite and friendly to IM someone “Hello” and it was weird to be so hostile about it.

        The amount of time we wasted at that company in the name of efficiency is hilarious.

    4. Spring*

      I don’t think ignoring a “hi” only message is a problem. I often don’t get back to people right away, and usually by the time I do, they’ve figured it out for themselves. I guess I wouldn’t ignore a message to make a point, but I genuinely don’t have time to chase people down who won’t tell me what they need.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        This. If I have a long day in the lab and come back to a message from you that says “hi” from 5 hours ago, with nothing else, I’m going to assume that you don’t actually want/need something from me. If that message says “hi, did you get a chance to check on X?”, then I will respond accordingly.

        1. Elsa*

          Yup agree, I don’t see any need to respond to a 5 hours old “hi.” I’ll assume the writer had a quick question at the time and worked it out themselves or asked someone else.

    5. allathian*

      I’m really glad that we have actual Teams guidelines for people. These include the request to state what you want from the other person in your first message to avoid unnecessary back-and-forth messaging.

      1. VaguelySpecific*

        I need to hear more about these Teams guidelines because my company desperately needs to put some in place….not that the major offenders would follow them but it would make me feel better about pushing back when they don’t.

    6. Gilgongo*

      Same. And I also just stopped replying to “hi.”
      If you need something, ask. I’m not going to chase you down to add to my workload.

      1. TheBunny*

        I always say hi. But I follow it in the same message with what I want. Something like this:

        Hi Mike, hope you had a great weekend. Do you know the access code to Teapot Building 2?

        1. Your mom*

          This is fine – it’s all in one message so it’s just one notification.

          At least for me, it’s the multiple notifications that annoy the heck out of me.

          If I do get the “hi (my name)” with nothing after, I’ll usually respond with a “what’s up?” just to move it along…

          1. My name is not Betty*

            I do this too. If someone sends me just a “Hi Betty”, I wait anywhere from two to five minutes to see if they’re going to send another message, and when they don’t, I send “Hi name, what’s up?”.

            1. Spring*

              I do too, but it irritates the crap out of me that they didn’t give the info in the first message.

              1. I Have RBF*


                If someone messages me “Hi @RBF.” and doesn’t immediate follow it with a question or problem statement, I assume it’s just social noise and not something I need to respond to.

                If it’s “Hi @RBF” and then immediately following is the question, by the time I see it both should be there. I still prefer it to be in the same message, but some people use the return/send as their only punctuation, like this:

                Hi @RBF
                Which file server didn’t get patched yesterday
                Can you take a look

                They don’t use periods or question marks, and each sentence is a separate message. Cringeworthy as hell.

    7. Brain the Brian*

      I always feel like people who message “Hi” without a request in their first message are just trying to rope me into a conversation and then spring an impossibly difficult, time-consuming, or annoying question on me in the third or fourth message of the conversation, assuming that I won’t say no because I’m already in a back-and-forth with them. It smacks of an attempt to steamroll over any kind of control I have over my day, and it drives me nuts. I usually just ignore them, figuring that if they actually care enough, they will send the actual question eventually.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Bait-and-switch. That’s the term I couldn’t find while first typing this comment, and that’s what it feels like when people do this.

      2. Anon for this*

        OMG, I just realized something hilarious. My company is rolling out an integration with our ticketing system and Teams. So if someone types just “hi”, they’re going to get an automatic message asking if they want to open a ticket!!! They can still use “hi name” but I hope this new system will cure them of just “hi”,

      3. nutella fitzgerald*

        I mean, is it really that deep? The Key and Peele sketch where Key is infuriated by everything Peele is blithely sending comes to mind.

      4. Distracted Procrastinator*

        that’s hilarious because I totally am more likely to start a message with just “hi, name! do you have a second?” if it’s more complicated. If it’s a simple request I just ask my question.

        I will make an effort to put a summary of my issue in the first text from now on.

      5. Katara's side braids*

        I agree. It reminds me of the “are you free this weekend?” conundrum – if you don’t tell me why you’re asking, I assume it’s because you want me to do something I won’t find enjoyable. If I tell you I’m free before I know, I can’t come up with an excuse.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Precisely this. If I say yes and it’s something I can’t actually do or help you with, I’m stuck doing it anyway because I’ve opened the door to it by responding to your initial “hi.”

          Just. Tell. Me. What. You. Need.


    8. Elan Morin Tedronai*

      My guess is OP1 is seeing a holdover from the days of MSN Messenger wherein you type “hi,” then wait for the other person’s greeting before getting down to conversation. Most of us still start a Teams chat with “Hi,” but we do start the work conversation from the second text onwards. For example:
      “Hi Jane”
      “Could you send me a draft of what you have so far for the teapot designs for the client? I know it’s not the deadline yet but they want to see if we’re on schedule and on the right track.”

      Regarding your reaction to “Hi, can I call you?” I have to say I see it as a mark of consideration rather than rudeness. The other party does not know whether you’ll be able to talk the moment they call you and the fact that they check with you before calling is a sign that they don’t want to be calling you in the middle of other things where you’ll be unable to engage. I’d personally be able to better engage with this party rather than with one who calls out of the blue since they’re both considerate of my time, and giving me time to prepare a rough context.

      1. I Would Prefer Not To*

        I agree asking if they can call beats the cold caller (whyyy are you calling me?? Especially when you can see from my status that I’m occupied?) but much better if they say “Hi there, I saw your email about abc – can I call you for a few minutes to understand xyz?” Although truth be told I’d prefer that people also articulate their questions before the call much as I’d expect them to send an agenda before a meeting. That way I know what I need to have at hand and roughly the amount of time the call will take, ie whether that is actually my priority right now. Often I find people writing the “hi can I call?” without further information or just cold calling are insisting on placing their issue at the top of my priority list where maybe it shouldn’t be. Teams chats are for quick back and forths/clarifying “hey when you wrote deadline was at 3 AM tomorrow did you mean 3 PM?” kinda questions.

        1. Hush42*

          I hate when people call me out of the blue about a question I couldn’t possibly have the answer to without some research. My team all feels the same way (we’re administration). I recently had a conversation with our Sales Directors where I told them that it would be much better to set 15 minute meetings with a description of what the meeting is about rather than cold call so that my team knows what they need to have ready for said meeting. My exact words were “It’s uncomfortable to be on the phone with someone who is just listening to you try to find all the information that you’re asking for.” and one of the directors goes “Oh, it doesn’t bother us to listen to you find the information”. It took me a minute to process what he had just said and my boss jumped in and was like “But it makes *them* anxious and uncomfortable”. Apparently this was something that had never occurred to them and every single member of the sales team in the room was incredibly surprised that people might not want to feel rushed into finding information with them sitting on the phone in awkward silence.

          1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

            This is such an excellent point – the awkwardness of researching with an audience and feeling like you’re wasting someone else’s time! I’ve gotten bolder (and been empowered in my role) to say things like “Hmm, I can get that information for you but it might take me a minute/I’m right in the middle of something/I’ll have to ask so-and-so. Let me dig into that as soon as I can and I’ll email it over — should be no later than X.” Telling people I’ll get back to them instead of asking if I can get back to them feels so good and works so well.

          2. Industry Behemoth*

            If someone tells me they need to look up an answer, I ask whether they want me to hold on, or do they need to call me back. That gets them off the hook.

          3. dePizan*

            My manager likes to call me out of the blue on Teams. Worse, she often sends me an email, then literally calls within a minute of hitting send to ask if I got her email that I obviously haven’t had time to read yet.
            So then the call is basically just a preview summary of the email and it’s always a project that she’s never talked to me about before that she doesn’t explain all that well on the call so I’m often confused until I get a chance to read the details. Drives me up the wall.
            (And we aren’t in a field with a lot of immediate deadlines, so there’s almost never a reason why it can’t wait until I’ve actually had a chance to read the email and come up with some ideas first. I’ve asked if I can call her back after I’ve read it, but she prefers her way.)

            And then we have an IT Tech manager who also calls without checking. Doesn’t matter that maybe your ticket was put in two weeks ago and he’s the top guy after they’ve escalated it several times, he’ll still call without checking. This guy works in a separate building, we have no contact with each other outside of tech issues; just because I’m showing available doesn’t mean I can just grab a call out of the blue! Especially on a tech issue where he may have to remote in to take over the computer or reboot it or whatever else.

        2. Snobby Ampersand*

          I’m an accountant and I dread the constant “Client has a quick tax question he wants you to call him about” messages with no further context. Bro, I don’t have the whole tax code or your depreciation schedules memorized. Leave your question in the message, I’ll research it, then I’ll call you and we can potentially get everything wrapped up in a single call.

          Unless your question truly is something incredibly basic, there’s almost no chance I’m going to be able to answer offhand during a cold phone call without doing a heck of a lot of figuring first. Just save us both some time and leave your question with the callback message.

      2. Nodramalama*

        I want them to say what they’re calling me ABOUT. I have heaps of clients. Unless we’re right in the middle of something, I don’t particuarly want to take a call when I have no idea what we’ll be discussing.

        Imo a polite and useful teams message that you send once and not over the course of four messages is is “hi! Do you have a moment to chat? It’s just about x”

      3. AngryOctopus*

        “Hi, can I call you?” is obnoxious. “Hi, I have a couple questions about the X account, can I call you about them?” gives me a chance to be prepared even if the call takes place right then.

        1. djx*

          Obnoxious or not depends on the relationship and how much the other person respects your time and how much they need to be “prepared” for a call. I’m on a team of two and there is zero problem “Hi, can I call you?” among us – we don’t waste each other’s time and have a sense of what each other knows. Typical answers are “Yes” and actually dialing to start the call and “not now – how about TIME?”

          1. amoeba*

            Yup. It’s just a nice way of making sure the other person is actually available for a quick call and not just, I don’t know, about to go to the bathroom or in the middle of finishing an e-mail.

            Of course, for us it is then typically really only short questions that are easily answered on the call – if it’s something more elaborate, people will set up a meeting.

        2. Lydia*

          Eh, this doesn’t bother me. Within our organization, nobody is going to ask to call me about something that I don’t work on. I do the same, but I always ask if they have time for a Teams call. If they don’t, they don’t.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            It’s not that someone calls you about something you don’t work on. It’s saying “can I call you” and then launching into a call where the other person may be saying “oh wait, I have to look that up”/”let me check where I saved that file and send it over”/”oh, I have to open the numbers file and find that data”. If you say “Can I call you about [topic X]”, then you KNOW what you’ll be looking for, and can even be prepared to say “give me a sec to open those files and then I’ll give you a call”.
            Ideally of course you ask if the other person has time. And you also give them the topic, so they can figure “oh, that’s a 3′ call, I can do that now” vs. “hmmm, that’s probably going to take 15-20′ and I have [X] in 10′ “. How do I know I actually have time now if you don’t tell me what it’s about?

            1. Lydia*

              Well, the people I work with also feel comfortable saying what they need or, if we’re on a call, letting other people know they’ll need to do some research and get back. Usually, a request for a call is because I can’t actually describe it as well in an email and it would be better use of everyone’s time to describe it with my human voice. YMMV.

      4. DyneinWalking*

        “The other party does not know whether you’ll be able to talk the moment they call you and the fact that they check with you before calling is a sign that they don’t want to be calling you in the middle of other things where you’ll be unable to engage.”

        The important information to answer the question “do you have the time” isn’t whether someone has the time (people are at work! assume that they’re working!) but rather, whether what you’re asking about is important enough to stop whatever you’re doing. If what they’re doing is very low/high priority that’s fairly easy to decide, but a lot of the time the priority is somewhat in the middle. In that case, the tie-breaker is: how important is your question?

        Refusing your coworkers this important context is unfair. If you spring it to them in the middle of the conversation, after they told you “sure, I have time I guess” it’s going to be hard for them to say “actually, that question was much less important then what I was working on, so go ask someone else while I spend 15 minutes getting back into the work flow”.

    9. londonedit*

      I’m so glad that (for whatever reason) this doesn’t seem to be a thing where I work. People start messages with ‘Hello!’ or ‘Hi londonedit!’ but they also include the rest of the actual message, so it’s ‘Hello! Quick question – do you know how to order books on the new system? I can’t get it to work. Any ideas?’ They don’t just leave it as ‘Hi’. That would drive me mad. Just ask the question!

      1. Good Enough For Government Work*

        This is how I operate. It seems rude NOT starting with ‘hi!’ or similar, but I then go straight into what I want.

        (Sometimes it IS just a friendly check-in and not a work request, in which case I do just leave it at “How’s it going?”, though)

      2. Nonanon*

        Similar; I’m a “Hi! Request for information.” person, but not all of my coworkers are. The most infuriating is when I just receive a greeting in return, without the information I requested; if I’m sending you a message asking for something, I need that information. Appreciate the greeting, but need the information.
        (Less infuriating but still peevy; sending out a message first thing in the morning. “Good morning! I am running late please let me know if there’s anything urgent” and getting a “good morning” in response. I understand it’s an acknowledgement of my message, I have no idea why it irks me so)

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Because while it is confirmation of receipt, it doesn’t indicate they actually read it as it is not responsive to your actual reason for sending the message in the first place.

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          It would annoy me because I just TOLD you I’m running late — if my phone makes noise after I told you to tell me if something is urgent (assuming this is a setup that proactively pings me when the other person responds) I feel obligated to check it, and if the response is just “Good morning” I’ve interrupted what I was doing and am now even more behind.

          (In my job, the correct reply to that message would be an emoji-react, which is generally something someone will see when they pay attention again, but won’t send a notification.)

      3. Sunshine*

        “Quick question” kind of bothers me too. It makes me feel put on the spot. People have said “Quick question…(question)” and I’ve said, “The question was quick. But it’s going to take me a while to figure out the answer.” I feel like calling it a “quick question” is trivializing the time and effort it’s going to take me to answer it. It’s fine if I do know the answer offhand! I can just answer! But sometimes it is NOT a simple or straightforward question and sometimes I have to research or test something out to find the answer.

    10. Michigander*

      Whenever I get a “Hi, how are you?” message I always think “Just tell me what you want, I know you didn’t message just to say hi”.

      1. Argonaut*

        Has no one had tales of screen shares gone wrong, where the message that popped up got the sender in hot water? That’s why I always do some version of introduction before I say what I have to say, to be certain my message isn’t being broadcast to a whole bunch of other people. (Though I wouldn’t never just do a “hi.”)

        1. ecnaseener*

          Then you do “hi, do you have a minute to talk about X?” or something more cryptic if necessary — at the very least, convey that you are asking for confirmation that they’re available to talk about a work topic, rather than just saying hi or making small talk.

        2. JM60*

          Unless you’re about to send them very sensitive information (such as info about upcoming layoffs), I think it’s on the recipient to disable notifications if they’re sharing their screen.

          BTW, I’ve never got into trouble because of a notification that came up during a screen share.

          1. I Have RBF*

            So, here’s the thing: When people share their entire screen is when you get message pop-ups.

            It also can make it hard for people to see, especially if you have a monster monitor and you are only actually working with one small window. Yes, if you are doing a presentation that includes a live demo, you might need to share multiple windows, so the entire screen is needed, but that’s maybe a quarter of the time.

            When I screen share, I try to only show what I need to, so people don’t get distracted from the subject.

            1. Katy*

              Well, sometimes. I teach, and use a presentation station to run powerpoints, but Teams will still manage to a. open itself, several minutes after I have started presenting a powerpoint, and b. pop up notifications over the powerpoint even though I am very clearly using the presenter mode and not showing my whole screen. The only truly safe solution I’ve found is to mute every single Teams chat I’ve ever had.

    11. Snow Globe*

      People in my workplace always start with “hi”, which I found annoying, until I heard that there was an incident when someone was sharing their screen in a large meeting and an IM with some confidential information came in and showed up on the shared screen. The point of “hi” is just to make sure that it is ok to continue a conversation. It’s still annoying to me, but I can understand the reasoning.

      1. JM60*

        Most information shared over IM for most jobs isn’t sensitive though. In the exceptions where you are discussing sensitive information, you can often include a little more information than just “hi” to give them an idea of what it’s about.

      2. Nodramalama*

        That is not the reason most people in my experience say hi and nothing else.

    12. SeeReeves*

      I also hate the “hi.” I had a colleague who used to do it all the time. My problem with the hi is I don’t know the urgency or simplicity of what you need from me. I am working on something right now. If that you need is urgent, I can stop what I’m doing to respond to you. If what you need is simple, I can take a second to respond. But if it is neither, I can ignore it until I am available. That’s what work chat features are for. However, if you just say “hi,” now I have to respond to figure that out. And by responding, I have indicated, maybe falsely, that I am available. So now, when you finally do send me your not urgent or not simple request, I have to tell you that I cannot respond to that right now cause I’m in the middle of something else. Otherwise, it looks like I ghosted you.

      All that to say. Just use work chat as it was intended. For work conversation and send me the work purpose message up front.

      1. anotherfan*

        I ordinarily respond to ‘hi!’ with ‘hey!’ — just acknowledge i saw their slack (or whatever) and then put it on them to tell me what they’re about. ymmv, of course.

    13. Bast*

      Yes! When someone just says, “Hi” and nothing else, I am mentally sitting there waiting for the next part, as it is usually followed by a request for something, or a question. I’d much rather someone just say, “Hi Bast, how do you run ABC report?” rather than “Hi Bast” followed by an hour or two later, when I am now trying to focus “How do you run ABC report?” Granted, my office moved to being mostly in office after our initial few months of WFH, so this has become worse as what happens will now happen is a message/email followed by 30 seconds later, “Hey Bast did you get my message on X?” which is even worse in terms of distractions.

    14. My name is not Betty*

      I don’t mind “Hi” followed by “Can I call you?” because the folks who do that to me usually have a good reason to call and an easy issue to fix.

      But I used to work with someone who would message me “Hi. Can you IM?”, I’d respond “Sure!”, and she’d respond “Do you have time for a quick call”…this drove me absolutely nuts. Do not ask me if I can IM if the only thing you want to IM about is whether or not you can call! Just start with asking for a call!!!

      She was an absolutely lovely person to work with in every other way, though. She got laid off last year, and I genuinely miss her.

    15. sometimes I give clear feedback though*

      My toxic trait is that I answer “hi” type missives with “yes?”

      1. AmberFox*

        …Yeah. If it’s someone I don’t know, they get, “Hi, can I help you?” (People I work with regularly don’t tend to do the “hi” to me for some reason.)

    16. Mouse named Anon*

      I hate this as well. I don’t mind a ” Hi Mouse! Could you please upload the cheese consumption report by 12pm?”

    17. AngryOctopus*

      I do that with the IT department here. Often they’ll message “hi” and then nothing. I come back to my desk and think to myself “what do they want? How important can it be if they didn’t follow up in the 3 hours I was in meetings and the lab?”. So I started to ignore it. And really, in this case, it’s 99% them needing me to say “issue is fixed” so they can close the ticket–but in that case, they should message “Hi, is the issue resolved?”. My record of them messaging “hi” over and over again is 10 days. Just tell me what you want in the first message!!!!! I don’t have time for your nonsense.

    18. MCMonkeybean*

      I honestly think that’s a perfectly valid response. We have an “overseas” (read: outsourced) team and they do this a lot. Sometimes I respond but sometimes I just don’t, it depends on what I’m working on and whether I’m willing to pause it when I have no idea how urgent or not their request would be.

      If I don’t respond they will either 1) never follow back up so it can’t have been very important, 2) eventually send another message that actually contains a question or at least a topic or 3) send an email with much more information that I can actually fully address.

    19. ItsAllFunAndGamesUntil*

      We have a person who does that, and also the voice mails that consist of just “hey call me back” because they don’t want any sort of paper trail as to what they are about to say. Because this person is known for 1-being wrong about things, 2-changing their mind, and 3-acting offended because that is absolutely not “what they said at all!”.

      So if I can’t get them to say what it is they want on a voicemail or email, and just ant to talk to me with no record, I follow-up with a “just so we are on the same page after that talk” email to CYA.

    20. Baunilha*

      I gave up on hiring a service provider once because our conversation (text messages) went like this:
      Me: “Hi, Person! I’m interested in a, b and c services, could you tell me more about them?”
      Person: Hello!
      Me: …
      Me: Hello!
      Person: How are you?

      I stopped replying and found a different provider.

    21. iglwif*

      Yes. PLEASE just tell me what you need. I beg of you.

      (Exception: My late grandboss z”l had a debilitating terminal illness that meant he gradually became less and less able to type. When he needed something from me / needed to talk to me, he would skype-chat me a “hi” with the understanding that I would respond when I had time for a call. But he told us this up front! It wasn’t a mystery.)

    22. kiki*

      I also hate the standalone “hi” or “hello kiki” with no fast following message with the actual issue they wanted to talk about.

      I’m in a role where I get A LOT of pings throughout the day. If I responded to them all immediately or as I see them, I wouldn’t get any actual work done. Being able to quick read over what the ask is lets me know if this is a question that needs a response within the next ten minutes or something I can wait until EOD on.

      I’ve been pretty successful at asking folks to send the full request in full rather than breaking it up. To me, it seems like a lot of folks break up the messages because they think it comes across as rude not to, but are happy to be reassured that one message with everything is fine with me.

    23. Kes*

      The hi with nothing else is also my pet peeve. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to say hi but follow it up with what you need so I can triage. Personally, I don’t ignore hi altogether but if I’m in the middle of something I will wait until it’s a good time for me to reply, whereas if they tell me upfront and it’s easy/quick I’ll often be able to answer immediately, while more complex topics will have to wait

    24. IHAS*

      I think it’s perfectly fine not to respond to a “hi” message at work or in RL Unless it’s from your boss.

    25. n.m*

      Yeah I don’t reply to messages that just say “hi”. This seems to be fine, perhaps because I’m not terribly important XD

    26. Pinto*

      This is exactly my strategy. I do not respond to messages of “hi”. Send me your actual question and I’ll respond.

    27. Katara's side braids*

      100%. Same with voicemails. I’m absolutely slammed with them, so I have to prioritize which ones to respond to first. The ones who give me a sentence or two about why they’re calling get called back before the ones who just say “this is X, please call me back.” Otherwise I have no way of budgeting time for the call back – I have no idea whether this will be a 5-minute chat to go over something simple or a 45-minute long call about something complicated and serious.

    28. Common Taters on the Ax*

      I dislike this also, but at least in my work culture, it seems that the people who do it are often (1) slow at writing or typing or both, and (2) bad at boiling down a question into a general topic (such as, “Are you familiar with the new inquiry process?” as opposed to “I got to step 3 part b of the new inquiry process and I don’t know what to do when it asks me my favorite pet’s name because I don’t have any pets. Should I make one up or name my favorite fictional pet or is there some way around this?”). And sometimes (3) embarrassed to have to ask for help and therefore not wanting to reveal the question before they know if I’m around to help. It still bugs me, but thinking about these qualities makes me feel a little sorry for them, so I get over it.

    29. goddessoftransitory*

      This is a huge bugbear for me with phone calls at my job. When someone has placed an order and they call back, I can see immediately on my screen that they have an active order. So I say something like Hi, is this so and so?

      They say “yes,” then dead silence.

      “I see you’ve placed an order with us?”

      “Yes.” DEAD SILENCE.

      “Do you need to change something?” Why the hell are you calling me back, customer? Because a lot of stuff on this order is time sensitive and if you need to make changes we need to hop to it!

    30. Jamoche*

      Even worse: someone on the other side of the world sends you a “hi” at 7PM your time. Of course you say “Hi, what’s your question, and please in the future just start with the question.”
      But when that repeatedly doesn’t work, you just say “hi” back to see if they’ll ever figure it out, and the conversation, stretched over several days, goes:
      them (Monday): Hi
      me: Hi
      them (Tuesday): I have a question about X
      me: OK, what’s the question
      them (Weds): question
      me: answer

    31. Tiger Snake*

      The flip side, however, is that “Hi” is easily ignorable.

      Many people find that if you put the question or what you need to talk to them about, it really does distract them from what they have going on. So ‘Hi’ tells you its not urgent – you check and move on without the rest of your synapses having to process anything. If you check if its urgent and have to stop to understand what’s being asked; now it doesn’t matter if it was urgent or not. The low priority eats into the high priority because your brain got hijacked.

      Me; I suffer both sides of it. ‘Hi’ is not useful and I’m too busy for these back-and-forth games. But if you put your question in – I’m going to glance to see if it’s important, and if it’s not important but pedantic then that’s all I’m going to be able to focus on until I deal with it.

    32. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I found that people who’d just start with “hi” would then ask open questions like “are you free”, when I really don’t want to admit to being free if it means I’ll get saddled with something nobody wants to do. So I would just say “I might be able to fit whatever you have in, but please email it to me”. Otherwise they’d give me the info in drips and drabs and I’d find out the catch only after wasting several minutes. They would have to send me an official PO email anyway for me to take the job on formally, so why not just do it?
      These were people working in a different city, and there were only two remote employees, so I get that they may have just wanted to replicate a conversation. But I’d have treated an oral conversation the same way, being guarded in my responses and saying I’d need to see the file first.

    33. Berkeleyfarm*

      Yeah if I get the “hi Berkeleyfarm” in chat … I tend to ignore it.

      I understand that in some cultures not my own it is considered more professional to do the back and forth before getting to business. I will cut those people some slack but say that I appreciate being said hi to first but they should get immediately to business afterwards.

      Most of the people doing this are probably asking for something my team could answer.

  2. Gretta Swathmore*

    I think they’re coming off high school norms, where a lot (though not all) of the female teachers go by Mrs. So yes, just correct them the first time. They’ll get it and it is your job to teach them, so seems appropriate.

    1. Heidi*

      It’s interesting that the OP says it’s an increasing problem, though. Like there was a point in the past where people were using her correct titles more often, and now it’s reverting back to Mrs. being the default. I wonder what might be causing that.

      1. Undine Spragg*

        I don’t know what’s causing it, but I feel like I’m hearing Mrs. more, when I’m calling banks and other bureaucratic entities. Sometimes I let it slide and sometimes I don’t, but I always find it frustrating.

      2. allathian*

        A reversion to more conservative ideas about women’s place in society in some circles, I expect. Alison’s had several letters in the past about male professors being addressed as Dr. or Professor, while women get gendered titles denoting their (assumed) marital status. One great advantage of academic titles is that they’re gender-neutral in English.

        Except for the year in a UK school and my two trimesters on exchange in France as a university student, I’ve always addressed my teachers by their first name or their nickname if that was their explicit preference.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          There was an article published in 2017 showing that in medical Grand Rounds (big important all-department lecture) men were more likely than women to be introduced by their professional title – especially when they were introduced by men. In that case the professional title was used <50% of the time. When men introduced men, they used the professional title 72% of the time. I'll include the link in a reply.

          1. NotBatman*

            I’m a female Ph.D. married to a male Ph.D. In my class on gender, I bring in dozens of letters I’ve received addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Wayne. I wouldn’t care about being Dr. Wayne if I didn’t constantly hear students refer to female colleagues as “Mrs.” and male ones as “Dr.” — sometimes in the same sentence.

            I just really wish people would use Ms. instead of Mrs. My marital status is none of your business, and you shouldn’t be making assumptions about my age when deciding which title to use.

            1. AnotherOne*

              I guess this is something I don’t understand. I constantly send letters to people, most of whom are MDs and/or PhDs, and I just refer to everyone as Dr. Even if someone may not be doctor, I err on the side of Dr.

              It has 2 benefits. No one is ever upset as being called Dr. when they aren’t. And I don’t have to look up genders for people. (And even if I looked up genders, I’m enough of a millennial, I’d use Ms. and not Mrs. because when I was growing up that was sorta the generic if you didn’t know marital status.)

              1. iglwif*

                This is 100% what I did when I worked in an editorial office in academic publishing. Nobody ever got mad at me for awarding them a PhD they hadn’t (or hadn’t yet) earned.

            2. Underrated Pear*

              Even more frustrating: when you (the wife) are the PhD, and your husband is not, and your mail still comes addressed to “Dr. and Mrs. Lastname.” Nope!

              Like you, I don’t really care about being called Dr., and I’ve never corrected (and have scarcely noticed) anyone calling me “Ms.” outside of a professional setting. I DO care about the fact that people see “Dr.” and automatically assume it’s a man.

              LW, it’s definitely fine to ask not to be called “Mrs.,” since that is straight-up incorrect. And while it’s totally up to you whether you want to call out the title, it’s not at all out of line to politely say, “It’s ‘Professor Green’ or ‘Dr. Green,’ please, whichever you’d prefer.” Gender inequity is still so pervasive in the academy, from tenure practices to student expectations.

            3. Nina*

              At my alma mater we had two professors (married to each other) with the same surname, in the same subject.
              It was fine when they were Dr. and Mr. Person. It was less fine when they were Dr. and Dr. Person, but that only lasted a year or so because she got promoted and then it was Prof. and Dr. Person. When he got promoted to match, there was a fairly even split of people switching to their first names, and people switching to ‘Mrs. Prof.’ and ‘Mr. Prof.’ Person.

            4. goddessoftransitory*

              I’m Gen X and have used Ms. since I was a teenager. I’m always taken aback to see “Mrs.” on things–it’s correct since I am married, but it’s not my preferred title. I would really be sending out sparks if I had a title like Doctor and people just defaulted to Mrs. I’m not the housekeeper at Manderley.

            5. Dr and Mr Please*

              My mom used to get Dr and Mrs in the dozen or so years between when she got her doctorate and my dad got his. It was one of the very few things that could make my otherwise very mild mannered mom lose her cool.

        2. not nice, don't care*

          As someone who works with hundreds of faculty, it can be tough to balance the gender-based discrimination non-male faculty face vs the socioeconomic discrimination sometimes perpetrated by faculty. Some just like to lord it over non-faculty, and it’s gross.

          1. kt*

            As someone who was really poor thru all of her Dr- and Professor-dom, I think this is off the mark.

        3. lefteye*

          I think also just enough time has passed that the fight for Ms. as an option isn’t culturally present anymore. As in, I distinctly remember it being a point of contention as a kid that my mom used “Ms.” and kept her last name after getting married, and people had Big Feelings about what those choices said about her/me/our family (and sadly I’m not even that old). People were very aware of the difference between Mrs/Ms/Miss and those differences felt significant to them.

          I don’t get the sense that is the case as much anymore, seems like many of my peers having kids have kept their names, or at least thought about it enough to not react negatively towards another woman who does. There’s also so many adults who are nonbinary, and increasingly adults don’t even go by honorifics just first names. I think Ms is just not something that evokes big thoughts from majority of people, and kids are growing up today having no idea that there is really a difference between any of those M words that just mean “adult”.

          It’s overall a good thing, but like the LW it does drive me nuts when people call me Miss instead of Ms, and I’m shocked by how few people seem to understand why it matters to me.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Since the entire premise behind “Ms.” as a title was to not be able to prejudge a woman by her marital status, it’s especially gross when people try to play the “no biggie” card. It is, in fact, such a biggie that there’s an entire magazine devoted to the subject!

            1. lefteye*

              kids (and a shocking number of adults!) don’t seem to associate it with marital status anymore, is the thing.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                Don’t associate what withmsrital status? I’m not sure I understand your comment, but Ms. was never supposed to be associated with marital status. That’s the whole point.

                It’s been over 50 years now since second wave feminists introduced Ms. as the female equivalent of Mr.: a title for all women that is not associated with marital status. In a more rational world, Miss and Mrs. should both have been supplanted by Ms. and fallen into disuse by now, but old habits die hard, obviously (and unfortunately).

        4. Ann Nonymous*

          I disagree with the LW that she doesn’t want to insist on being called “Doctor.” Why not? All women with doctorates should insist on this hard-earned title. It both brings respects to the person, but also signals to the world (and especially women and girls) just how many women doctors there are and that it is achievable for them too.

      3. John*

        It’s funny, I thought the reverse of OPs idea was happening – I thought Ms. was being phased out (for the same reason – not using separate terms for married/unmarried women) and Mrs. was bring used as the equivalent of Mr., because Ms. sounds much more old-fashioned. But calling anyone Mr, Ms, or Mrs seems incredibly old-fashioned in general unless you’re a child talking to a teacher.

        1. datamuse*

          Ms. as old-fashioned? The debate about whether to use it at all was still going on when I was a kid, and I’m not THAT old.

          1. Nodramalama*

            I think they’re saying in general referring to someone as Title Lastname is being seen as more old fashioned

            1. NotBatman*

              Out of curiosity: what region do you live in? I’ve lived in the northern U.S. (in a mostly-white city) where it’s true that almost everyone uses first names for almost everyone else, even kids addressing adults. But I’ve also lived in the southern U.S. (in a mostly-Black city) where titles are used for everyone most of the time, to the point where if you’re a kid very close to an adult, you *might* get friendly enough to start calling them Ms. Jane instead of Ms. Doe.

              1. Nonanon*

                I will say, the “Mr FirstName” does extend to different demographics in the South. I am White and grew up in a diverse but predominately White suburban region (I would say upper middle class, 50% White and the “largest” minority Hispanic) for most of my life, and adults were always Ms or Mr, first name or last name was depending on their preference/relative rank (eg. Mr. Smith would be your best friend’s dad, but Mr. Mark would be the high school student who was a volunteer tutor).

        2. It’s Suzy Now*

          You make me feel ancient by suggesting that Ms. sounds old fashioned. It was introduced in my lifetime. (1970s). It is the gender-neutral term meant to replace both Mrs. and Miss. The fact that people just started using to it to indicate an unmarried woman ie as a replacement for Miss but not Mrs is infuriating. Can anyone even imagine addressing men by different titles depending on whether they were married? Grrrrrrr.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Me, too, It’s Suzy Now! What’s this world coming to anyway (to use an admittedly old-fashioned phrase)?

            Ms. was new in the 1970s, as you mentioned. I was in college at the time and felt quite audacious adopting its use. The idea of anyone regarding it as merely a substitute for Miss is indeed infuriating as it misses the entire point. Grrrrrr is right!

            1. PhyllisB*

              Yep, I remember when Ms got started. Now being older and Southern, I always preferred traditional titles, Miss when I was single, Mrs. when I married, but I’ve always respected people’s preferences. I don’t really care now which one people address me as, EXCEPT it drove me crazy in my younger days to get correspondence addressed to Ms. my husband name. That is incorrect on all fronts. Recent years it seems no users titles on correspondence anymore. Even I don’t use it unless it’s to someone who has OPINIONS about it.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Do you mean something like Ms. John Doe”? (Addressing women with their husband’s first name is so sexist and old-fashioned that I’m having a hard time understanding how someone decided to do it with Ms. as the honorific.

                1. Lydia*

                  There’s a place on the Columbia River Gorge that’s an amazing viewpoint. It’s gorgeous and can be less crowded than Vista Point just up the road. It was put together by a women’s auxiliary or club or something. Anyway, my point is the women who worked on the committee to create this public spot are all listed on a plaque and there are a few of them listed as Mrs. Husband’s Name and it’s so frustrating. Somebody knows who they are, but you can’t look them up by their names.

                2. goddessoftransitory*

                  I remember in the Dorothy Parker short story “Big Blonde,” the dubious marital status of many of the female characters is reflected in their using “Mrs.” and then a combination of their own first name and their maybe-ex husband’s last name. It’s meant to denote the half-shady, kind of respectable world they run in.

                3. PhyllisB*

                  Yes. I haven’t seen that for years but back in 70’s when Ms. was just getting to be more common, I guess people just didn’t know how it was supposed to be used. I didn’t really mind getting mail addressed as Mrs. Husband Name Last Name (like I said, traditional Southerner here and I did take his name upon marriage) but Ms. Husband Last Name just made me want to scream.

              2. Bumblebee*

                Our alma mater kept addressing fundraising letters to Dr. and Mr. [husband’s first name]. I finally called them in a rage and said, that should be Dr. Bumblbee and Mr. [husband’s name]. They tried to convince me that their software “was not set up that way.” After receiving a bit more feminist ire they agreed to set us up “specially.” Note: I know more than 1 additional couple who are also Dr. and Mr. from this very university, it can’t be that uncommon. Don’t try to tell me your fundraising software can’t adapt . . . and then ask me for money!

                1. Lisa Simpson*

                  My husband got his BA and PhD from the same university. It took them four years or so to start sending him alumni solicitations to Dr. Made me laugh, I’m sure it’s the same database.

                2. Emikyu*

                  Yeah, I would only donate with the stipulation that my money must specifically be used to fix/upgrade/replace the software so that kind of nonsense doesn’t happen anymore. Petty, perhaps, but that is seriously ridiculous.

                3. Keep it Simple*

                  That is infuriating. I’ve worked in higher ed alumnae/i offices for thirty years, and there is NO reason to address anyone as Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. Dr. John Doe and Ms. Jane Doe. Jane Doe, MD and Mr. John Doe. That part about their software was a blatant lie. All addressees and salutations can be specifically configured.

            2. anotherfan*

              Ms is actually much older than that; it went out of fashion and then back in in the 1970s but it was around in the 1800s or earlier, iirc.

            3. goddessoftransitory*

              I remember Gloria Steinem’s quote “No longer will I be referred to as “Miss” Steinem of “Ms. Magazine” when The NY Times finally caught on and started using Ms. as a title. It is not some boring, meaningless old convention, at all.

          2. kalli*

            Uh, since when is Ms gender-neutral? I especially note you don’t state it’s meant to replace Mr/Messrs at all.

            Mx is gender neutral. Dr and Prof and A/Prof are gender-neutral. Ms is… not that.

          3. Djinna Davis*

            I don’t think you mean “gender neutral” — it’s marital status neutral.

          4. Orange You Glad*

            In my elementary school in the 90s, we were taught to always use Ms. as a default if we were unsure of someone’s marital status or preference. Some of our teachers were Mrs. Jones and some were Ms. Smith.

            Now as an adult unmarried woman, I prefer being addressed as just my first name, but if we need to be formal I’m ok with Ms as the default.

            1. Tinkerbell*

              I will be eternally grateful to my high school English teacher who addressed this: “Please do not call me Mrs. Smith. That would mean I’m married to a man whose last name is Smith, and I am not. It’s Ms.”

              I’d never heard it laid out before like that – I’d only heard Ms as “that newfangled thing some uppity feminists do” (or sentiments similar) and I had a lot of respect for that teacher that year!

            2. LunaLena*

              80s/90s kid here, and I was taught the same thing. I now work in higher ed and almost everyone addresses me by my preferred name, but occasionally I’ll get an email from a student who addresses me as “Mrs. Lena” and I instantly feel about 30 years older and crumble into dust.

              I usually just respond back with “please call me Luna :)” and the problem is solved, though.

            3. Lydia*

              As a married woman who didn’t change their name, I will accept Ms. LastName. My preference is first name, but the number of people who call me Mrs. LastName is surprising.

              1. A Significant Tree*

                Same, and throwing in that my professional title is Dr, I have three acceptable titles:
                Ms. Lastname
                Dr. Lastname
                Mrs. Hislastname (socially)

                Mrs. Lastname is incorrect, as I’m not married to someone with Lastname, but I’ve occasionally had people persist in using it in work-related emails where I always sign off with my first name and my sig block has PhD in it. All you can tell from my first name is that I’m probably female, and that seems to be enough for people to write Mrs. I prefer if they use my first name, but if they insist on using a title I expect it to be the right one – that information is just as available as my name.

            4. Emikyu*

              Same. Also, one of the things I’ve appreciated in my legal career is that people basically always default to Ms. (or sometimes, Attorney Lastname) even when they know your marital status. It’s just not relevant, after all – there is absolutely nothing you could say to me in court or about a case that has anything to do with whether I have a spouse.

          5. Momma Bear*

            I have long preferred Ms. for exactly that reason – my marital status is not their business. It’s still the default here, unless someone clarifies that they are Mrs. I would remind the students that the preferred address is Dr. or Ms., not Mrs. Even if the “norm” is weirdly changing to Mrs., it’s not what LW wants.

            What’s really old fashioned is Mrs. His First Name Last Name. The only person who ever used that for me was my grandmother.

            1. properlike*

              I especially love the woman who looked at my wedding ring after I asked that she list me as “Ms.” in the official file.

              “But you’re married.”
              “But you don’t go by Mrs.”
              “That’s right.”
              Long pause. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
              Me: “I don’t know what to tell you.”
              The woman was not that old!

              As a fellow college-level instructor, this is something I put in my syllabus and address on the first day of class. “You may address me as Ms. Properlike or even Professor Properlike.” My pet peeve is being called by my first name… especially by older male students. To me, that’s an effort to bring us into a peer relationship, and I’m not having that. Even with younger students. We are not friends; this is a professional relationship with a status difference.

              1. ToTitleOrNotToTitle*

                I am the child of two educators, both of whom taught at universities (although also in public schools) and both of whom have doctorates. I went to college and grad school in the late 80s and early 90s expecting to call everyone Dr so-and-so. It turns out my school had a policy of using first names for professors that blew my mind and that constantly got me in trouble with either my profs (when I messed up) or my parents (when I remembered). I found navigating this incredibly fraught. Ironically, it was another 30 years before I actually worked in an environment that used titles, and that only because our office admin had a hissy fit if you addressed a medical doctor as anything but doctor even if they asked (we interacted with them outside of clinical settings). She also had a hissy fit if you addressed a Ph.D. as doctor “because they haven’t earned it” which drove me bonkers – apparently she wasn’t looking to be formal, but rather she was overly deferential to medical doctors.

          6. MigraineMonth*

            I think John may have meant that “Miss” sounds more old fashioned and spelled it wrong? I recently learned that some people my age don’t actually know the difference between “Miss” (Miss) and “Ms” (Miz), probably because it’s less talked about as we move away from the 70’s.

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          Are you thinking of Miss rather than Ms? Traditionally Miss was for a younger or unmarried woman and Mrs. was for married women. Then Ms. started to be used for married women who didn’t take their husband’s name and then began to be used by women who thought it didn’t matter professionally if they were married or not. (There are probably a few mistakes/missing usages there, but Mrs. and Miss were always both considered more traditional than Ms.)

          1. Snow Globe*

            This is incorrect. Ms. was always a term for adult women regardless of marriage; it was never about married women who didn’t take their husband’s name.

            1. ecnaseener*

              I mean, it is also that. Idk which came first, but it’s incorrect to call someone “Mrs. Warbleworth” if she’s not married to a Warbleworth.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Huh? This isn’t a rule I’ve ever heard. My mom is “Mrs Hername”, and she’s married to “Mr Hisname”.

                (Of course, most of the formal etiquette rules got jettisoned the moment she decided not to change her name.)

                1. ecnaseener*

                  Idk what to tell you — my mom also kept her last name and she’s always told me Mrs. Hername is simply incorrect because she’s not married to anyone with that name, whereas Mrs. Hisname is an understandable mistake. Other commenters and sources say the same.

                2. 1LFTW*

                  Huh. That’s never how I’ve heard the rule described.

                  I used to be married, and I never changed my name. I have always been “Ms MyName”, not “Mrs MyName”, not “Mrs Ex’sName”. “Mrs MyName” would be my grandmother and one of my aunts.

                  My mother married my father at a time when the woman’s name was automatically changed, so she is also Ms MyName – because her marital status was not relevant to her professional life.

            2. Lily Rowan*

              Yes, my mother changed her name upon marriage in the 60s and has always been Ms. [LastName], as soon as that started becoming a thing.

            3. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              Hear, hear! I’m a married woman who took my husband’s last name, because it suited me to do so at the time. (Most women were still doing that in 1974, when I got married. Keeping your name was starting to be a thing, but it was pretty unusual.)

              I have always used Ms., both before and after marriage. Ms. is for all women, married or not, whether they change their name upon marrying or not. I flinch a little at being called Mrs. Grizzbella Marriedname, but I loathe being called Mrs. John Marriedname, which fortunately has became an extremely uncommon occurrence. I am Ms. Grizzbella Marriedname, but I am NOT Mrs. Him.

          2. Worldwalker*

            “Who thought it didn’t matter”????

            It shouldn’t matter.

            Unless you’re planning to ask a woman out, it doesn’t matter if she’s married, in an exclusive relationship, single, or anything else.

          3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            I bet part of what’s happening is that people who could properly be called Miss generally will not complain if they’re called Ms, but at least during my adolescence there were people who went by Mrs. who would get VERY offended to be called Ms. I assume some of them are still around (and still have Opinions on the matter), though I admittedly almost never use titles for anyone anymore.

            So the overall effect would be that it’s pretty much always acceptable to replace Miss with Ms, but only sometimes acceptable to replace Mrs. with Ms, and therefore Ms. is more universally used in place of Miss than in place of Mrs.

            1. properlike*

              No. Ms. is the acceptable default to all. If someone who’s a “Mrs” really cares that you address her as a Married Individual, she should let you know.

              It’s to your benefit. I think poorly of people who assume I’m a “Mrs” when they could use “Ms” and avoid the issue entirely.

            2. MissPlease*

              I am an unmarried woman who prefers Miss. I hate Ms. I hate the way it sounds. I was in my 30s before I learned that some people find Miss infantilizing. I like it better and am unmarried so I didn’t see the issue.

              I almost solved this by becoming Dr. but ended up ABD.

          4. NotAnotherManager!*

            The entire point of Ms. was that women were not titled based on their marital status and that it wasn’t anyone’s business if they were married or not. It is not intended to be a convoluted system for married women who chose to keep their birth names; it was intended to entirely replace Miss/Mrs. just as men are Mr. regardless of martial status.

        4. bamcheeks*

          Where are you based, John? This is the default in much of France and Germany AFAIK (using Frau/Madame for all adult women regardless of marital status, and Fräulein/Mademoiselle as cute terms for children), but I didn’t know anywhere was doing it in English!

          1. Finn*

            German here – Fräulein in german is certainly not common anymore (the exception being parents/grandparents telling me to stop refusing to do my chores or so, and even then it’s rare). Given that it’s relatively normal in old books, it must’ve been common a while ago though.

            1. Myrin*

              bamcheeks was talking specifically about a cute term for little girls, though, and that’s definitely something that’s still in use (I don’t know if I’d refer to it as “common” anymore – it’s certainly less so than when I was a child – but it’s not strange).
              And it just used to be the default which is why you encounter it everywhere in old literature, but they (officially! legally!) did away with it in the seventies.

              1. bamcheeks*

                Wow, I didn’t realise it was actually got rid of in the 70s! We were certainly still taught Frau/Fräulein as correct at school in the 90s, and then as soon as I first lived in Germany in 1998 I was told that I was a Frau and so was everyone else. School was well out of date!

                1. Myrin*

                  Oh, that goes both ways! I was well over 20 when I heard/read “Ms.” for the first time, and I even believe it was here on AAM, so around 2014. Even if it was on Captain Awkward – which I don’t reckon it was, but I could remember wrong – that would’ve been 2013 at the earliest.

                2. Varthema*

                  Really? At my (rural Maryland public) high school we used Ms. with all our high school teachers in 90s-00s.

                3. bamcheeks*

                  @Varthema — honestly, I think the UK is out of sync on this one. Ireland is way more likely to use Ms as well. But out of like 8-10 of my school friends, born late 70s, there’s only two of us who changed to Ms at adulthood and kept our names, and we’re both gay. As far as I know all my kids’ teachers are still Mrs or Miss.

                  Outside of schools, we don’t use titles that much, so there have been times when it’s come up that one of my colleagues is a Mrs or Miss and I’ve done a double-take because in my head adult women are Ms until they tell me otherwise. But I am pretty sure my head is the outlier!

                4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                  My first grade teacher (US east coast, early 90’s) was VERY insistent that she be called Ms. and not Mrs. (She did so in a way that left first-grade me thinking it was spelled Miz, but that’s a different story.)

          2. allathian*

            The one that really throws me, though, is servants addressing clearly minor
            male children of the family they serve as Master Firstname. Of course, I assume that went out of style by the Edwardians, if not earlier. The equivalent Miss Firstname for girls hung on a bit longer, because I don’t remember seeing any references to Master Firstname in any of Agatha Christie’s books, but certainly Miss Firstname, even if it applied to adult women, sometimes married, who either remained in or returned to their family mansion. After the Funeral is one example.

            1. bamcheeks*

              It was the convention for post when I was a child in the eighties– my grandparents always sent birthday presents addressed to Master B Cheeks to my brothers, and Miss B Cheeks to me, which was considered a big treat. But my brothers were switched to Mr at about 10 or 11 and I stayed as Miss until I changed myself to Ms at 19!

              1. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

                My grandmother also addressed things to my brother as Master in the 80s/early 90s.

                1. Phony Genius*

                  Same with me. I never really understood it as I thought I was too young to be a master at anything.

              2. Flor*

                My British granny continued to address post to me as Miss until the day she died (which was about 6 years after I’d started using Ms). My older relatives still address Christmas cards to Mr and Mrs J. Smith. I have a different first initial and surname from my husband.

                I don’t open them because they’re not addressed to me and it’s illegal to open post that’s not addressed to you.

              3. PhyllisB*

                0kay,interested in a (very) old fashioned etiquette lesson? Regarding addressing children: the correct form for a little girl was Little Miss and for boys Master. At about the age of 12 or 13 titles are dropped and you just use their name with no honorific. At 18 girls were then called Miss (or Mrs. if they had married by then) and young men were called Mr. Also if you addressed something to a married woman you were supposed to adress her Mrs. Husband’s Name. You only addressed a woman as Mrs. First Name if she was divorced.
                Now all this is WRITTEN correspondence, in person it was fine to say Mrs. Mary Smith. And of course we all know about us Southerners addressing our elders as Miss. Mary or Mr. John.

                1. Charlotte Lucas*

                  Most of the Boomer women I knew in the Midwest (my mother’s generation) did not appreciate being called by their husband’s first name. That standard was considered old fashioned by the 70s/80s in my community. (If it helps, they were often second or third generation immigrant families who weren’t up on their Emily Post.)

                2. Bumblebee*

                  But also in the South, Ms. and Miss [and even sometimes Mrs.] both come out “Miz,” so we elide the difference sometimes, I think.

            2. Never the Twain*

              I think the standard was also that a butler was always addressed by his surname only (e.g. ‘Carter’), even by the youngest members of the family, although staff always called him ‘Mr’. Oddly, cooks and housekeepers were given the courtesy title ‘Mrs’ whether or not they were married, but maids below that level were just first or (occasionally) last name

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                It’s because they were all on the same (top) level of household management. They were the VPs, and the lady of the house was the CEO.

            3. Michigander*

              I live in the UK and if we get official mail addressed to my 1 year old son, it comes to Master Firstname Lastname. It’s pretty rare right now because most of the mail is either from family, who don’t do that, or is addressed To the Parent/Carer of Firstname Lastname, but it has happened and it is hilarious.

            4. Jennifer Strange*

              That reminds me of a gala at my old job. The event’s co-chairs purchased two tables, one for them and their friends and one for their children (13 and 16) and their children’s friends. We had escort cards for folks to pick up when they checked in which showed their table number, and the cards were always marked as “[Honorific][Last Name]”. So we had a couple of cards that had to be made out to “Master [Last Name]”. I get it, but it still felt VERY weird to me.

            5. MigraineMonth*

              I’ve always liked that in the Batman comics, Bruce Wayne’s “butler” (not actually a butler, probably a valet) Alfred Pennyworth calls him “Master Bruce” even though he’s a grown-ass adult. That isn’t formality, that’s his foster father telling him he might have saved the world a bunch of times but he will always be Alfred’s little boy.

            6. LunaLena*

              I definitely remember references to “Master [Name]” in Agatha Christie books, but I think it was mostly meant sarcastically when a man (usually a young man) was being snotty. A few of the older servants would also sometimes refer to characters as “Master [Name]” if they had known that person since childhood, or to differentiate them from their parent “Sir/Lord [Name].”

              The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett definitely referred to Colin as “Master Colin” several times, but I guess since that was Victorian lit it makes sense for that time.

            7. Petty Betty*

              My first two MILs would address my sons as “Master” Firstname in all correspondence. My first MIL would cheekily call my oldest two boys “sir” when they were acting all high and mighty as toddlers (which was adorable to have a 2 year old and 9 month old babble at this 60-something woman acting like she was inconveniencing them when she was stopping them from eating dirt and would enthusiastically and sarcastically say “well yes sir, I can see how that would be a problem, but you still aren’t going to eat that!”)

              2nd MIL and my grandmother always addressed things to me as Mrs. Husband’s Firstname Lastname *eyeroll*

          3. Mice is different than good*

            My French bank card default was to note my title according to marital status “Mlle” for mademoiselle… in the 2010s. It was seen as strange by coworkers from elsewhere in Europe. So I guess everyone who saw my bank card to see I was unmarried?

        5. Sharpie*

          Whereas I’m used to Miss for unmarried workmen, Mrs for married women and Ms if you don’t know or they prefer it.

          I prefer to be Miss Sharpie because I’m not and never have been married and I’ve never liked Ms. But that doesn’t mean I think people who say Ms Sharpie are rude, they just done know my preference. Calling a PhD or Professor ‘Mrs’ is rude because that’s not her title, which has been given – I wouldn’t dream of calling a female PhD anything other than Doctor because she earned that title exactly as a male PhD did, and these people wouldn’t call him Mr. So yes, it’s sexist and that is rude.

          1. Apples and oranges*

            I’m with you. Mrs. versus Ms. is annoying but I feel like the most egregious part is calling someone with a PhD anything other than “Doctor” or “Professor.” Even calling her by her first name would be better if it were a more casual environment where people routinely did that.

            I’d feel it equally inappropriate to call a male PhD “Mr.” but we all know that’s just less likely to happen …

          2. I Have RBF*

            Whereas I don’t GAF what someone’s marital status is. Unless I’m working on something where that knowledge is essential, I don’t need to know.

            I tend to get irked when people try to address me by my assumed gender and marital status. It’s Mx, I’m enby, and my marital status is nobody’s business except my accountant and maybe my medical people. When people call me Miss or Mrs, they are slamming me into a very gendered role – female “open to wooing” or wife – of which I am neither.

            Unless they are a medical professional, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what my private bits are or whether they have a regular playmate.

        6. Part time lab tech*

          Maybe this is a regional difference. Miss/Master denotes children, Miss/Mrs marital status woman, Mr man, Ms used to mean divorced woman and I’ve always thought it was now marital status unknown woman. I’ve never thought Mrs meant anything other than married woman in Australia.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yeah but I agree it was always crappy because it means unmarried women have the same title as children, while unmarried men become Mr at a certain age regardless of marital status.

              1. I can read anything except the room*

                One curious manifestation of this: I remember reading about an old Celtic tradition in one of the tribes, where a bridegroom traditionally presented his bride with a sword or other weapon on the night of their wedding. This was because in the tribal traditional all adults carried weapons, but while boys received theirs at a coming-of-age ceremony which marked their ascension to adulthood at a certain age, a girl ascended to adulthood upon becoming married, and thus her wedding night was when she started to be expected to carry a weapon.

      4. Molly Millions*

        I suspect it’s largely because younger generations just haven’t had as much practice with formal letter-writing and may not grasp the different meanings of the various honorifics. (FWIW, when I was younger I had it in my head that it was somehow more respectful to assume “Mrs.” Facepalm.)

        I could also see people just starting college being confused about when it’s appropriate to use “Dr.,” as every PhD has a different preference.

        1. MsM*

          I usually just defaulted to “Hi Professor” and let them correct me if they wanted something else.

      5. Caramel & Cheddar*

        It’s odd. I was booking tickets to something yesterday and the only titles available were Mr, Mrs, Miss or Other. I was genuinely shocked to not find Ms as an option on 2024!

        1. Lady Lessa*

          I had a similar challenge at a vendor website. I was using their contact form, and the only titles available were Dr. or Mr. I happen to be neither.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            OTOH, if you book a trip on JetBlue, the list of possible titles is absolutely endless and fun to read through. When I booked tickets for me and my friend I asked her if she wanted to be a Baroness, because it’s an option.

            1. I can read anything except the room*

              Be careful with those. My younger self once booked my boss, a lawyer, for a flight and in a moment of irrational whimsy I for some reason decided to enter her name with the suffix Esq, because she was a lawyer admitted to the bar and I don’t know, I guess I thought it was a fun choice?

              Decidedly not fun was trying to explain that decision to my boss later, after she had trouble getting through TSA because her ticket was either printed as, or being parsed by the security guard’s eye as, FIRST LASTESQ and her ID did not match the last name!

        2. Allonge*

          I have worse: I found a job application system (or a big!, international! company) that has the same.

        3. MsM*

          A lot of CRMs have really archaic defaults for how to address people. Which isn’t an excuse for not going in and customizing.

          1. Observer*

            A lot of CRMs have really archaic defaults for how to address people. Which isn’t an excuse for not going in and customizing.

            In fact, one of the reasons for those ridiculous defaults is because they are often seen as a placeholder, and that companies will OF COURSE want to put in their own list. So you start with the very minimum and let the company do whatever it wants.

            1. Lisa*

              The minimum though I would think to be Mr and Ms, not Mr and Dr, unless you are assuming all women interacting with a system will have an MD/PhD/etc.

              Honestly though I’d be good just getting rid of gender-based titles entirely. Gender is so rarely actually relevant to the communication. If you want to keep honorifics like Dr, fine, but I’d rather be Firstname Lastname than Ms Lastname.

      6. Artemesia*

        it is also part of the increased sexism in the culture over the last decade. It is not uncommon for students to address men as ‘Professor’ or ‘Doctor’ even if they don’t have those degrees but to address women with Mrs. or even Ms. Ms is fine if ‘Dr.’ is not the norm in this institution, but often it is ‘Dr.’ for men and ‘Ms’ for women.

      7. Annie*

        I’m a high school English teacher, and my experience is that students literally do not understand what the distinctions are between Mrs/Miss/Ms. Inevitably in September someone will write an essay naming a character as “Ms. Eyre” or “Ms. Prynne” or whatever, and I explain to the class why this is an anachronism, and it’s the first time they are hearing this (some of them say that they though “Ms. was the way to spelling “Missus”). They aren’t trying to be disrespectful–I think Ms. has, ironically, been around for long enough that few people think to teach them explicitly any longer.

        1. djx*

          I also think that we may think we hear a younger person saying Mrs. when actually we’re just hearing some random composite of Ms/Miss/Mrs which itself some from them hearing the different words and not realizing they are different.

          1. 2e asteroid*

            I would believe this. My son’s first-grade teacher was Mrs. Bennet in writing but I would have sworn she was Ms. Bennet when she introduced herself in person. His kindergarten teacher was Ms. Woodhouse, and the two of them pronounced their honorifics completely identically so far as I could tell.

            (Currently in second grade with a male teacher, so I only have two-ish data points)

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, definitely. I think the abbreviations are pretty terrible, too. MisteR=> MR. Kinda arbitrary, but you can see a connection.

          But how on earth do you get MRS from Missus? Or MS from Miz? Why isn’t Ms pronounced Miss?

          I tried to explain to my eight-year-old nephew that “Ms” is pronounced “Miz” and he thought it was hilarious. “Mzzzzzzzzz”

      8. Etcetera*

        I think it might be an age thing? Older women get addressed as Mrs. way more often.

      9. Worldwalker*


        I’ve seen a definite push on their part to return to defining women by their marital status.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Even if I got married, I don’t ever plan to change my surname, so “Mrs.” will never be correct for me.

          I might reconsider if it stops being tied to marital status, and start being pronounced “Mistress” again.

          I vote we go back to “Goody.”

          1. Apples and oranges*

            Even though I *DID* change my last name, I *STILL* prefer “Ms.”

            “Mrs. Mylastname” is my mother-in-law

          2. LunaLena*

            Yeah, “mistress” sounds way cooler than “missus.” I always thought Granny Weatherwax in the Discworld books insisted on being called “Mistress Weatherwax” because it just sounds more intimidating, but then I learned that “Mistress” was the equivalent of “Master” and it made a lot more sense that she would choose that honorific.

            For those who are curious, “Mr.” started as “Master” (as in, “the master of their craft,” especially since many last names originated from people’s trades), and was pronounced as “Mister” before getting contracted to “Mr.” So having people call you “Mister [name]” was a sign of deference. “Mistress” was the equivalent of “Master” before getting contracted to “Missus” and “Mrs.”, and it too was an honorific that referred to a woman who was at the top of her game. And that’s why there’s an extra “r” in “Mrs.” even though we pronounce it “missus.”

    2. Lozi*

      Yes, this was my thought, too, if you teach many freshmen.
      I would suggest at the beginning of the semester/quarter, include a note about this in the syllabus or introduction section of the class. Say it in a way that is a teaching moment for what they will need to know if the work world!

      1. WeirdChemist*

        My first day of classes as a college freshman, I had multiple professors give a short lecture on college norms, including “always default to Professor Lastname unless specifically instructed otherwise” (as well as “here’s why you should look at the class syllabus” and “how to behave in office hours”).

        Student-faculty interactions are very different in high school than in college! It was helpful to have some things spelled out for me before I accidentally stepped on some land mines.

        1. Lily Potter*

          Same here, WeirdChemist. Spelling it out on day one solves much of this problem. One of my first undergraduate professors started out the first day of class noting “I’m Sally Smith. You can call me Sally, or Dr. Smith, or Professor Smith. Just do not call me Mrs. Smith. Even though I am married, my husband’s last name isn’t Smith!” As an oblivious 18-year-old, it hadn’t even occurred to me that my teacher wouldn’t have changed her name when she got married!

          1. chocolate lover*

            my syllabus explicitly says “please call me Chocolate or Ms. Lover if you’re not comfortable with Chocolate” and I still get “Mrs. Lover” on a recurring basis. I have to correct at least 2 students every semester, if not more. I do think I will have to add explicitly to NOT call me Mrs. Lover. (I’m now feeling a bit icky about the ‘chocolate lover’ moniker when I break it down that way.)

            Having read Annie’s comment above, I do find myself wondering if they simply don’t know/aren’t taught what the distinctions are anymore.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            Ha! This is almost my exact spiel on Day 1 of my class! (I doubt it, but wonder if you were a student of mine…)

            Also, when answering emails addressed to “Mrs. Counter,” my first sentence is always, “I am not a ‘Mrs.'” and then I answer their question. If another email from them is addressed to “Mrs. Counter,” the entire answer of my email is, “As I said, I am not a ‘Mrs.'”

            It’s always jarring when I get an email starting with, “Hello Butterfly,” but I say to myself, “At least they didn’t call me ‘Mrs.'”

        2. Smithy*

          Agree with this.

          I also think the OP may have more success when correcting people if they just give one option. Let’s say my name is Elizabeth, and my preferred name is Liz but I’m fine with Lizzie or Elizabeth but not Beth. In a more transactional setting (i.e. a more distant coworker or student with multiple professors), remembering that middle ground can be harder than just remembering to only use Liz. So giving a more black and white instruction (i.e. only use Dr., only use Ms) can be easier than “I prefer X, but Y&Z are also okay, but ABC is wrong”.

          Both of my parents were PhD’s, and my dad’s desire with students and colleges was to go by his first name or Mr. as a way of reducing stratified hierarchies. For my mom however, repeating that she was a Dr. was really important as a way of reasserting her authority and qualifications when she regularly had them “forgotten” or downplayed. I don’t think that either approach is wrong, but just to flag that this struggle is often one that women have to balance far more than men. Not that there’s a right or wrong answer, but the burden of choice is unevenly distributed.

        3. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

          Interesting, as here in the UK, and certainly in post-1992 universities all teaching staff, even the most senior, go by our first names.

        4. Albatross*

          I’ve been factually incorrect with “Professor Lastname” (it really amused TAs who were only a few years older than me), but I’ve never offended anyone.

      2. ChemProf*

        This is what I (university professor) do. I used to get called “Mrs.” all the time and I hated it! Then I specifically started introducing myself at the beginning of the semester by asking students to call me Dr., not Mrs., and it basically hasn’t happened since.

        1. Yorick*

          I always introduce myself as Dr. Lastname and they STILL frequently address me as Ms. or Mrs. Lastname.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        I agree – an announcement that you are PROFESSOR X would be the best thing. You can work it into the introduction you give to the class. Write it on the chalkboard and in the handouts. DO correct people who are using the wrong title – use it as an educational moment.

        I remember being terribly embarrassed in grad school to find I had been addressing people incorrectly. I was used to calling everyone “Doctor”, but that apparently implied the person to whom I was speaking was a sessional professor (ie. not permanent, didn’t have tenure). Apparently my undergrad school was the only one that called people “Doctor” (perhaps they were more equitable in their approach to staff). Anyway, once it had been pointed out to me, I certainly made the change to call the relevant people “Professor” and to ask how people should be addressed, when I didn’t know.

        1. Ariaflame*

          Whereas in Australia, at least where I work, most lecturers have a PhD and thus are Dr Whoever, but the top two levels are associate professor and Professor. Those not at those levels aren’t called Professor (or at least it feels wrong when students call me that because I’m not that level).

          1. RegionalDifferences*

            professor here is anyone teaching a college or graduate class. they may or may not have a doctorate. I did not finish my doctorate (am ABD) but I have been a professor.

        2. not nice, don't care*

          So glad I’m not a student forced to perform socioeconomic obsequiousness like this. I find instructors who insist on the jot & tittle of their titles are often on the karen spectrum.

          1. Nesprin*

            I disagree strongly.

            It’s important to me that I am seen as equivalent in authority to my male colleagues, and using my correct titles is part of that. There’s a common cultural understanding that female faculty are somehow less than, and using Ms. instead of Dr. or Professor feeds into that.

            You may also want to consider the sexist connotations of “Karen”.

            1. Engineery*

              Agreed, Nesprin, and I think this is also a reason for male faculty to insist on Dr./Prof./Whatever so as to normalize the professional separation between student and instructor.

              Male instructors have the option of going on a first-name basis with students while still maintaining authority, partly because they can derive authority through their male coded appearance and behavior. Insisting on using peer language between faculty and students, or just showing disregard or disinterest toward “obsequious” formal address, has the effect (intended or otherwise) of encouraging students to see female instructors as peers, while continuing to see male instructors as authority figures. And, IME, I think this effect is intended more often than not.

          2. Yorick*

            This isn’t socioeconomic obsequiousness. People often call my boss Dr. Lastname, but in the same sentence I get Yorick or Ms. or even MISS Lastname to my face (I’m 40! But still sometimes get “young lady”). We’re not being picky to want to be called by our appropriate titles, especially when nobody thinks it’s weird to use these titles for men.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            A white man who is normally given the full respect of their position who insists on using that respect where it isn’t appropriate is obnoxious. I don’t think it’s “Karen” energy (since I consider Karens to be white women who weaponize white fragility against POC, particularly black people), more like snobbery.

            However, there are a lot of people who have to insist on titles because they are routinely denied that respect. If the members of your department are introduced as “Doctor Cooper, Doctor Smith and Jenny”, and you are the latter, there’s reason to fight to be introduced by your title. This is frequently the case for POC and women.

          4. Lydia*

            Interesting use of “karen” as dismissive when so many of the comments here are from women who are talking about the obvious sexism in ignoring their titles or assuming they couldn’t possibly be a Dr. It’s almost as if you’re proving their exact point.

            1. properlike*

              I’ve found that people who routinely throw around “karen” so dismissively are men who use that label whenever a woman says something he doesn’t agree with or like.

              And that college students who don’t understand why titles are important also tend to ignore the syllabus and then show up on the last day arguing they “deserve an A” for lackluster, if not entirely absent, work product.

      4. lilybeth*

        I actually include a graphic of Jodie Whitaker in her Dr Who getup with the caption “I’m the Doctor” in my Day 1 powerpoint, because I have this problem too. It gets the point across without seeming joyless. (I also remind them of the correct spelling of my name and ask them to correct me if I misspell theirs in turn.)

      5. A Little Bit Alexis*

        In one of my classes my first semester of college, the professor included the etiquette of Dr./Professor/Mrs. as part of her “welcome to this class” presentation on the first day. I’ve spent almost a decade working at universities (on the non-academic side) and have still never forgotten that presentation. It was really helpful, especially right at the beginning of my university experience.

      6. FuzzBunny*

        I do this! Most of my students are in their first semester of college (or often still in high school), so I’ve got a whole “Emailing professors: Etiquette and guidelines” page in my online course shell that basically says “I find that a lot of students don’t know their professors’ expectations, so let me spell them out for you.” I address titles (Prof. is always a good choice), using clear subject lines, telling me which class you’re in so I don’t have to look it up, etc. I also make sure to emphasize that it’s ok to follow up if they email and don’t get a reply in a day or two – I added this because many students feel like this would be disrespectful or whiny, when it totally isn’t. The key is to make it clear that I know most students have good intentions, and to get them thinking about how norms vary based on context.

      1. Flor*

        It me!

        I could never tell if I was supposed to call them Dr/Prof Surname or Firstname, so I just opened all my emails with “Hello!”

        1. djx*

          Don’t call teachers by their first name unless they tell you. In high school the default should be Ms or Mr Last name. In elementary school it’s often the same but using Ms or Mr First name. In college it’s Prof Last name.

          Other stuff is fine if they well you! But if you don’t know, these are safe.

          1. Flor*

            I went to uni in the UK, where Prof Lastname wasn’t safe because a professor is someone who leads a research team there, so a lot of my tutors actually introduced themselves as just Firstname Surname without an honorific, and that was why I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to use their first name or not when they didn’t actually tell me the right honorific XD

            1. djx*

              Thanks, I was writing about college in the US and should have indicated that.

              So what do you call one of your teachers in a class where they have not told you what to call them? Mr or Ms Lastname?

              1. Flor*

                Sorry, I should’ve been clearer in my first comment I was talking about the UK.

                But as to your question, that’s why I just avoided addressing them by anything!

                In primary/secondary school they always told us Mr or Ms Lastname, but at university you’d go to a lecture and they’d introduce themselves as something like Robert Brown or Professor Jane Smith, and give no indication as to what subset of those you were meant to use (because you probably aren’t expected to open an email with, “Dear Professor Jane Smith”). So I just, uh, didn’t address them by name because I was 17 and awkward.

    3. Ariaflame*

      I either get called by a title way way over mine, or sometimes ‘madame’ which I assume is some cultural thing since it’s largely international students.

      1. datamuse*

        It’s French, perhaps they’re coming from somewhere where French is or was commonly spoken?

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            A few of those were colonized by the French–could it be a holdover? I have no idea, just spit-ballin’

        1. Agnes*

          I was going to suggest if it’s increased it might indicate more international students. I get “Mrs.” from my south Asian students sometimes.

    4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Even at the pre-college level this varies regionally, and it’s changing. I’ve been teaching in a liberal city for 15+ years; when I started, my older female colleagues were Mrs. if they were married while the younger ones were Ms., but by now all the Mrs.-using women have either switched to Ms. or retired.

      1. Cascadia*

        Yes, I work at a high school and can’t think of a single teacher that uses Mrs. Even though many of us are married. All of us Ms. Or Dr. if relevant. Very few of my students use Mrs, it’s pretty rare to see. I hear more Mrs from my male colleagues referencing me in front of students. Ugh. Also live in a large liberal west coast city.

        1. katydid*

          ha, I teach high school in a smallish city in the southeast, and have exactly the opposite experience! Many of my students are totally unfamiliar with “Ms.” as an option. I overheard a student asking an older (but definitely not geriatric– I’m talking like early 60s) colleague of mine about it, and the colleague told her “It’s a women’s-lib thing” like we were back in the 70s or something. As if a student in 2024 would know the phrase “women’s lib” at all!

        2. just a random teacher*

          I teach high school in a city in the PNW, and I seem to be the only one using Ms. rather than Mrs.! One of the other teachers goes interchangably by [firstname] or Mrs.[lastname] with a preference for [firstname], the rest seem to go solely by Mrs. [lastname], and I get Mrs.’d all. the. time. by students who probably have no idea what any of this stands for even though I have never introduced myself that way. I’ve started to refer to all of the teachers as no-honorific [lastname] in casual references with students, which is also wrong but I’m just so done.

          (To add to the “fun” of all of this, I actually really hate being expected to Have A Gender at all, particularly in a professional context, and would prefer to go by Mx., but have decided that it would be even more annoying to have a title that told my fellow school adults “ask me all of your weird gender questions” than it is to have a title that I don’t like and that my students get wrong a lot. Explaining 1970s feminism to students feels less exhausting and less personal than explaining anything about gender to adults.)

          1. Cascadia*

            We have 3 Mx’s at my school in large PNW liberal city! It’s definitely becoming more popular, but ever so slowly…

        3. Double A*

          I’m 40 and in my teaching group 3 women younger than me have gotten married, changed their last names, and go by Mrs.

          I’m married but I did not change my last name (and the headaches I’ve seen all of them dealing with because of their name changes vindicates me) and have always gone by Ms. but I get Mrs. a lot. I don’t bother to correct it because I think using honorifics is stupid anyway and I’m not going to fight a battle where I feel like the battleground is dumb.

        4. anon for this - long story why*

          This. Marriage status is BS. If a woman wants us to use that for herself, I will.

          But in the long run we need just Ms and Mr. Maybe Mx for everyone regardless of gender in some dreamy future.

          Plus Prof, Dr etc in certain contexts.

    5. Rara Avis*

      My middle school students are pretty much incapable of distinguishing or caring between Miss, Ms. or Mrs. — we all just pretty much end up “Mizz.”

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, here in the UK most teachers would use ‘Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss Lastname’, but the male teachers end up being called ‘Sir’ and the female teachers end up being called ‘Miss’, regardless of marital status.

        I also wondered whether it’s a hangover from school – where you would call teachers Mrs Green or whatever – but it’s odd that it seems to be happening more often than before. I’m not sure why that would be.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I’ve seen that here in the south. Men are addressed with a term of respect (Sir) but women are not addressed by the corresponding word (ma’am) anymore, at least not by men; we’re addressed as “Miss” — which is borderline demeaning.

      2. doreen*

        I was in a conversation online where someone was talking about always using “Mrs.” for older , married women because in his experience, they get offended by “Ms.” After a lot of back and forth, we figured out why. He was shocked to discover that “Ms” is pronounced “mizz” – he thought it was pronounced the same as “Miss” ( His reasoning made no sense – he thought “mizz” would lead to confusion between “Mrs” and “Ms” but didn’t think or care about confusion between “Ms” and “Miss” when he pronounced them the same. )

        1. TX_Trucker*

          As someone who is not a native English speaker, I can’t hear the difference between the three. I sometimes can distinguish a highly stressed mizzzz, but they usually all sound the same. No clue what I sound like when I say any of these words

          1. doreen*

            That’s understandable but this guy was a native English speaker – and judging by the fact that he said he didn’t have an accent, he probably didn’t speak any other language ( people who speak multiple languages tend to know everyone has an accent, it’s just a matter of which one )

        1. Lydia*

          I think Ms is slightly shortened, so you get less of the “i” sound in the middle.

    6. Roland*

      One of my first classes freshman year had a female prof give almost this exact message. She said she didn’t even care if you called her Jane without any honorifics, just stay away from Mrs Smith!

      1. collateral damage*

        I say, “You can call me Jane or Prof. X or Dr. X, whatever you are most comfortable with. But please do not call me Mrs. X; I do not have any titles related to my marital status.”

        It helps (most of my students ultimately call me Jane), but it does not solve the problem.

      2. Goldie*

        I remember being shocked by being called a woman, instead of a girl in college too.

      3. Nobby Nobbs*

        Ma’am will do in a pinch, but I prefer Captain.
        I dearly hope we’re not actually still dealing with this problem in the twenty-fourth century.

          1. Trekkie*

            Starfleet captain, so based more on naval rank. It’s a reference to a line Captain Janeway says to Ensign Kim in an early episode (possibly the pilot, can’t quite remember) of Star Trek: Voyager.

            1. MsM*

              Yep, it’s from Caretaker. I always preferred the “Mister Kim, at ease before you sprain something” bit.

          2. Texan In Exile*

            My dad was a retired AF captain who, after he retired, became a Dept of Defense school system teacher on a navy base in Italy. He got sick and was in the base hospital and they thought he was a navy captain.

            He did not correct them. :)

      4. Frieda*

        I prefer my students call me by my first name, or Dr., or Professor. I’m not married and when I was I did not change my name and thus Mrs. Lastname has never actually been accurate for me.

        I get Mrs. Lastname all the freaking time, despite having a whole routine at the beginning of each semester about how Mrs. Lastname is my mother, not me.

        Some complicating factors: for many of my Latino/Latina students, “Miss” (no last name) is the default and it’s perfectly polite. I’m find with “Miss” from students of any background.

        Other factors: the place where I teach includes a fair number of people who think their doctorate entitles them to be snide to faculty and staff who don’t have a terminal degree, *and* I was educated at a university where Mr./Ms. Lastname was the default for everyone from students to faculty to staff. So some of the people insisting pedantically on Dr. Lastname are really annoying about it.

        Insisting that students call me Dr./Professor ends up being kind of snotty, in context and is often used to wield something over colleagues which is ruder than mis-titling me, IMO.

        Also some of my colleagues of color with terminal degrees absolutely insist on being called Dr. or Professor and I understand that! Many of my students’ female instructors are appropriately addressed as Mrs. Lastname and are fine with that and do *not* want students using their first names. Asking students to call me Ms. Lastname just leads them to call me Mrs. Lastname, which I actually don’t prefer.

        It’s the least of my concerns but every time a student calls me Mrs. Lastname it’s a tiny grit of sand in the gears of my week.

    7. Cambridge Comma*

      If you read elsewhere about the phenomenon, the students usually get the title right for male staff.

      1. Shellfish Constable*

        Exactly. Strangely, all my male colleagues are automatically “Professor Ridcully” while I am often “Mrs. Weatherwax. “

    8. Storm in a teacup*

      Totally agree. I think it’s a good, teachable moment for them.
      I would also ask them to reflect on how they address male professors – is it Mr or do they use Prof. or Dr honorifics. Could potentially be quite revealing for a few of them if it differs.

    9. tg33*

      I have two children in secondary school (high-school approx.) and all teachers seem to be called “miss” but that is very much just for school, in ‘real life’ I would address an unknown woman by their first name or full name (Jane, or Jane Doe). I don’t meet a lot of new people obviously!

    10. Not Mrs. T*

      High school teacher here. I have found a LOT of my colleagues (including our Vice Principal!) prefer Mrs.

      I find it very frustrating because I think it does our students a disservice — I definitely get lots of emails from students (And! Their! Parents!!) addressed to “Mrs. T.” even though I sign all my emails “Ms. T.”

      It’s a spot where my “obviously we should call people what they want to be called” bumps right up against my “why are all these professional women so obsessed with making sure people know they’re married?” I definitely refer to other teachers as they prefer, but it rankles.

      1. Not Mrs. T.*

        (Just to clarify — I sign all my emails to the students “Ms. T.” To the parents, I always go with “Anna,” but it doesn’t always stick. It really doesn’t help that our school asks us to refer to parents as Mr. and Ms./Mrs… with no indication of what they prefer or if they’re a doctor, reverend, etc. I’m sure I’ve unwittingly offended some of them as well.)

      2. Sloanicota*

        I definitely know people who go out of their way to correct “Ms” to “Mrs” – I guess they are very proud of being married – so I suppose that’s why the confusion still exists. If they feel this way, it would be a kindness to at least explain the logic and meaning behind Miss/Ms/Mrs because otherwise the student may come away with the misunderstanding that “Mrs” is more respectful across the board and they should always default to “Mrs” with older women, which is … not correct.

        1. Not Mrs. T.*

          Yeah, there’s definitely a LOT of that going on here — especially when a teacher gets married and changes her name. I assume some of that is because I’m in the south, but it’s really frustrating — the kids have definitely learned “young teacher is Miss, older teacher is Mrs.” whether explicitly or implicitly.

        2. noncommittal pseudonym*

          I actually had an academic department assistant argue with me that it was perfectly correct to list the two male candidates for a faculty chair position as Dr., and the female as Mrs., because Mrs. is the highest title a woman can have, and therefore trumps merely having a Ph.D. She was dead serious.

    11. gracialight*

      It’s not just high school norms. I have a PhD, 30+ years of professional experience, and I now run a research grant program so I decide who gets funding. I still get people (university administrators, grad students, faculty) emailing me as “Mrs. X”.

      1. I Have RBF*


        All of your accomplishments reduced to a gender and assumed marital status? That’s demeaning. If it were me, people emailing “Mrs X” would get shoved to the bottom of my priority list. No respect for me, no soup for you. “I’m sorry, but there’s no Mrs X here. There’s Dr X, or maybe Ms X, but no Mrs X.” But I’m petty like that.

    12. Rock Prof*

      Yeah, I’ll just add on a little more to an email response that corrects them. I’m married and kept my name, but for some reason I don’t use Ms. professionally. I use Dr., prof/professor, or just my first name. I’ve had lots of students default to just my last name, which I also don’t mind. The assumption of Mrs. and calling me just miss (which is common at some high schools that I’ve been around) are the only titles really bother me.

    13. Observer*

      where a lot (though not all) of the female teachers go by Mrs. So yes

      I don’t really buy it. There are more than enough women who do not go by Mrs. for it to be unreasonable to make it a default, to start with. And one would have expected that by the time you’re in college, you also understand that there is such a concept as a professional title. Even high schoolers, for instance, are well aware the fact that they don’t call their doctor Mr. or Mrs. but “Dr.”

      So yes, just correct them the first time. They’ll get it and it is your job to teach them, so seems appropriate.

      Agreed. I think that Allison’s verbiage is good.

    14. WantonSeedStitch*

      Weird–when I was in high school, everyone was “Ms.” I didn’t really know whether most of them were a Miss or a Mrs. (except for those teachers who were married to another teacher in the school, which we found highly weird), because we just kind of slurred it all into Ms. anyway. Then again, that was almost 30 years ago at this point.

      1. Clisby*

        In my part of the US South, “Mrs.” and “Ms.” are usually pronounced about the same. If someone is deliberately articulating clearly, you can tell the difference, but most of the time they aren’t.

    15. Former professor*

      My response to that was always to add a ps:
      “PS: Like most faculty in the Department of [Llama Studies], I go by Professor Green or Dr. Green. Some faculty see the use of Miss/Ms./Mrs. instead of their academic titles as a form of sexism, and since I’m sure that wasn’t your intent, I wanted to let you know so that you can avoid future misunderstandings.” I actually has a number of students thank me because they had just had the high school norm of “female teacher = Mrs.”
      I think you could also add Alison’s point about Ms. being the preferred term for women in a professional context.

      1. slmrlln*

        This. I teach a huge intro-level class at a big state university and, in my experience, making announcements on the first day of class doesn’t stop the Mrs. emails if only because of add/drops during the first week. Instead, I have a one-sentence gentle correction that I use for all Mrs. emails. Copy in the correction, then answer the question that they actually asked. If the tone is “of course you didn’t intend to make this mistake, here’s what you should do going forward,” it works like a charm.

        What I hope they learn going forward is to check how people refer to themselves – in the syllabus, in their email signature, in their CV, in their online bio. This is a useful skill in any context, professional or not!

    16. Semi-Anon Career Advisor*

      I also hear/see it from international students a lot, and I think that may have something to do with how English is taught in certain countries and/or whether their home language has gendered pronouns. I’ve gotten “Mr.” sometimes even though I am visibly female-presenting. (There don’t seem to be any other regional/identifiable patterns, though.)

      Employers have told my colleagues that they are frustrated when new grads/hires refer to bosses or colleagues as “Mr.” and “Mrs.,” so we’ve started explicitly asking students in our professionalism course to call us by first names. We explain why and then tell them it’s for practice. We still get students who don’t or who say they were taught to always use a title to show respect, and those folks get a gentle lecture from me explaining that it is more respectful to call someone what they ask to be called and that it is rude to continue to use a name/title that the person has asked them not to use. Sadly, this does not always stop them.

    17. iglwif*

      That surprises me because where I live, kids call their teacher “Miss” — they mean “Ms” but as a form of direct address, “Miss!” or “Miss, can I go to the washroom?” is easier to say, I guess. My kid understood that “Mrs” was for married people but I had to explain that “Ms” and “Miss” are spelled differently and mean different things.

    18. shedubba*

      I have 3 kids in elementary school, and I’ve found that, at least among classroom teachers, a lot of them will default to Mrs., even when they aren’t married. I think it’s odd, and I address correspondence with Ms. or Mr. (or Nurse) by default, but if I know they prefer Mrs., that’s what I use. But I can see that confusing kids down the road if the rules don’t get explicitly addressed.

    19. Dr Daffodil*

      College professor here, lots of first generation students who don’t know college norms at my institution. What I’ve landed on is responding to those emails first by signing what I prefer and if they don’t pick up on that “btw most students call me Dr. D”
      I’ve encountered more rigid thinking, I suspect a covid ptsd thing that means some teacher emphasized “it’s MRS LASTNAME” and their brains resist learning a new or more subtle rule.

    20. Selina Luna*

      Most high school teachers also go by Ms. these days.
      My weird thing is when I get called by my husband’s name because I never bothered to change my name to his.
      He and I teach in the same school, and it’s a fairly large school, so sometimes we’ll run across a student who knows one of us but not the other. I don’t mind Ms. [hislastname], but it’s hilarious when he gets called Mr. [mylastname].

    21. Jen*

      I am a female professor in a male-dominated discipline. When people (not just students, unfortunately) address me as Mrs. Smith, I ask if they are looking for my mother. When I get a confused reply, I respond that I am Dr. Smith or Professor Smith, but if they would like to hear from Mrs. Smith, I can call her for them. It allows me to stay fully professional while having a significant teaching moment.

      Now, if only I could find a good way to get through the to folks who (in the same breath) call my male colleague “Dr. Jones” and me “dear”…

    22. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, schools are pretty much the only place where I see Mrs. routinely used, and I often find it kind of jarring. Ms. is the default when formal titles/last names are required, and you’re more likely to be corrected to Dr. rather than Mrs. around here. But Mrs. seems very well-entrenched in education specifically.

      The only people who use Mrs. for me are my older relatives who think that being married is a positive attribute I should want to announce to the world. It is a running joke in my house that, despite having multiple degrees and being the primary financial support for our family, landing and keeping my husband is the one that seems to make the most impact with my mom’s generation. (I still have one or two who address things to me as Mrs. Husband’sFirst Husband’sLast, which I assume is a passive-aggressive criticism of the fact that I kept my last name.)

    23. Jenny F Scientist*

      Once I was teaching a college class where I had already told one young man that it was DOCTOR Scientist at least three times. The fourth time, I told him very loudly “Mrs. Scientist is my mother in law, she is a retired schoolteacher who lives in Ohio, and she will not be answering any chemistry questions today.”

      Nobody in that class ever did it again. The South, y’all.

  3. Jessica*

    LW1, I often start with a content-free chat message (“hi Name,” or the like), just because it’s going to be different depending on whether they answer. Think of the difference between your side of a phone conversation after the person you called answers, vs. what you might say in a voicemail if they didn’t answer. So I’ll send the initial message, wait a minute or a few minutes, but then if they don’t reply, I’ll figure they’re not immediately available and I’ll send a message about what I wanted (the equivalent of the voicemail).
    but if someone just messages “hi,” the most I’d reply to that is a “hi” back when I noticed it. I might not reply at all. To me that’s the equivalent of somebody calling me and hanging up when I don’t answer. if they wanted something, they can call back or leave a message. The mere fact that they had some fleeting desire to communicate with me doesn’t obligate me to go hunt them down and interrogate them about it.

    1. Nikara*

      I agree with this. Sometimes it’s super time specific, and I’m checking if another person is online. If they don’t reply, I’ll move on to the next person who might be able to respond. I usually try to be a bit more specific (something like “do you know if this meeting is still happening”, but sometimes I’ll do the check on if a person is online and responding generally. I try to close the loop after with a “never mind”, but might sometimes forget. If I really need follow up, I’ll send it as an email or text/call/find the person. The 24 hour deletion of a g-chat thing also comes into play here.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        But why not just start with “Hi Mary, do you know if this meeting is still happening” and if Mary doesn’t reply, move on to “Hi Paul, do you know if this meeting is still happening”?

    2. Brain the Brian*

      If they answer you right back, what are you going to send them that’s different than a request you could just send without the initial, falsely friendly “hi”?

      1. Daryush*

        I think the difference is that you’re reading the “hi” as falsely friendly, and people who like to say hi first think that they’re being polite. Like, you wouldn’t hold it against someone that they said “thanks” even if they weren’t truly grateful. I don’t think this is any different.

        1. Dinwar*

          The commentariat here are notorious for disliking socializing; the loudest voices are very much “Heads down, do my work, no one bother me” types. I think that’s playing into this. Any polite interaction that’s not directly work-related gets flamed to a cinder here. This is an extension of that dislike for social interaction in the office.

          1. Nodramalama*

            I think starting a message with Hi is polite and a social nicety. I do not think typing hi and nothing else and waiting for me to stop what I’m doing to say hi is polite.

            1. Beth*

              Yes, this is what it is for me. “Hi” and nothing else drives me nuts; it reminds me of online creepers. “Hi, Beth” followed by a note on what the sender wants — or even just a “Do you have a minute?” or “I have a question” or “Can you reboot the server?” is polite and useful.

            2. Brain the Brian*

              Exactly where I fall. I like “hi” at the start of a message with additional info. I do not like “hi” with nothing else. The former is polite; the latter is just a bait-and-switch tactic that removes the option for me to put your request anywhere other than the top of my priorities list.

            3. Ray B Purchase*

              Exactly. All the “hi” message does is make me have to stop what I’m doing twice to pay attention to you instead of just once.

          2. Worldwalker*

            If I want to socialize, sending someone a bare “hi” with no follow-up won’t do it. And if I’m trying to get work done, it’s even worse; if you don’t tell me what you need, I have to stop what I’m doing winkle it out of you, then get back to where I was

          3. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Rolling my eyes so hard they leave my skull – hi with no followup is not social interaction. You can say “Hi! If you have a sec can you send me ___” or “Hi! Hope you had a great weekend. Do you have a second to chat?” or whatever – it doesn’t have to even be information dense. But just a “Hi” hanging out in the ether does nothing to move forward a social or business interaction, it’s just bad etiquette in general for text based communication and has been since AIM.

            1. AnonORama*

              This isn’t really social interaction, though. If the person said “Hi, I hope your move went well last weekend!” or something, that’s a social message and I’d be happy to respond if I wasn’t super bogged down. Just “hi” with no context or quick follow-up bugs me, particularly if it’s from someone who sends last-minute, difficult, and/or negativity-filled requests or comments. I’ll just write back “hi, what’s up?” or “Hi, can I help you with something?” to move the process along, which usually works.

              Also, you don’t have to be against socializing to dislike this. (I’m not – hey, I even enjoy an office holiday party if they don’t play Christmas music! – and most people here aren’t the head-in-the-sand weirdos you think they are.)

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  Yes, I’m assuming AnonORama’s comment is the victim of a nesting mistake.

              1. Dinwar*

                As I say elsewhere, it’s basically asking if you’re available. If you are, great! We’ll have the conversation. If not, great! I’ll find a different avenue to approach this. If I just launch into what I want, and you’re swamped, all it does is add more to your plate, which isn’t productive or polite.

                1. John Smythe*

                  All you’re doing when you just message “hi” instead of following that up with a request or a question is putting two tasks on my plate instead of just one: I have to follow-up on your “hi” to determine what you want, then complete that task or answer your question.

                  Just greet me and tell me what you want or ask your question – don’t make me do the follow-up work as well.

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  “Hi, are you available?” is asking if you’re available. “Hi” is just saying hi. I have no idea if you need something from me or just want to chat.

                3. Parakeet*

                  Maybe the difference in opinions here is about whether people think these messages are meant to be synchronous or asynchronous communication. I generally assume that instant messages, like email, are asynchronous. That’s why I like them! You don’t have to coordinate your schedules! But if someone sees it as synchronous, I can see where they’d want to make sure that someone is reading the messaging platform and has time for a conversation before they send a message with substance.

                  I find “Hi” with nothing else annoying because it makes me anxious (“What are they messaging me about? Maybe it’s something bad and that’s why they didn’t spell it out to start with!”). But I see it as just one of those things that happens when you work with other people. People will have different preferences and sometimes they’ll be mildly annoyed by each other’s preferences.

                4. JM60*

                  If I just launch into what I want, and you’re swamped, all it does is add more to your plate

                  If anything, by withholding what you want from the initial message, you left them no way to know how to prioritize your request without having to engage with you. It’s more polite to them to give them that relevant info, and if you subsequently no longer need their help because you’re searching elsewhere, you can edit your message to reflect that.

                  My brother got one of these mindless “Hi” messages right before he lost cell coverage for a week long vacation in the desert. Because this message deprived him of relevant information, and because he sometimes received urgent, high priority bug fix requests that could impact multi-million dollar contracts, that thoughtless “Hi” message gave him anxiety throughout his vacation. It turned out to be only something low-priority, which he could not have known because the sender omitted the relevant info.

                5. Brain the Brian*

                  I think I’ll agree with Parakeet in this thread about the difference in syncrosity expectations. But I will also add that I mostly work with people in very different time zones than (think 6-10 hours ahead of me), and they will send me “hi” with no context when it’s the middle of the night for me, expecting me to message back first thing in my morning.

                  Because yes, apparently, I am supposed to have the mental capacity at 8am, before my coffee kicks in, to digest a bunch of stream-of-consciousness nonsense via IMs that could instead have been a single well-constructed email laying out exactly what you need from me. And I am supposed to reply to anyone who might have messaged “hi” in the middle of the night all at precisely the same moment (exactly when I log on), because putting one person ahead of another is “unfair” if I don’t know what they need from me and thus whether one task should take priority (actual feedback I have gotten).

                  If have a particularly vitriolic reaction to unaccompanied “hi”s, if you can’t tell. :D

                6. Brain the Brian*

                  I will also fully endorse JM60’s point. I got a mindless “hi” once just before an eight-hour flight to a country where my cell phone wouldn’t work (where I would have a 15-hour layover before another four-hour flight to my eventual destination, where my phone *might* work in our company’s local office). Since I was flying on urgent business with only five hours of notice, I decided that nothing else was so desperately important to warrant my attention at that moment and ignored the message.

                  I looked at the rest of the thread when I finally had Internet again. The eventual question (five messages in) was about whether I wanted the last slice of pie in the office kitchen. The kitchen that was, by that point, two flights and 27 hours away from me. I was Not Pleased.

          4. Kuleta*

            Agree. Sometimes topics aren’t confidential, but sensitive things one wouldn’t want immortalized in print.

            Like the LW a while back, who was getting a sense in their team meetings that their employer might be in for a rough patch. Maybe even layoffs. The LW was 100% remote, had been onboarded remotely, and had been on the job only 9 months. They wondered how they could feel out colleagues to find out if they might be right, since they’d never met anyone in person.

            In remote settings you have to state what you mean more directly and up-front, than you might do in a face-to-face or on-the-phone interaction. That’s an age-old problem, stuff coming off badly in cold hard print because it doesn’t have the sender’s vocal or facial expressions adding context to the actual content.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Of course you should deliver bad news with kind wordings. But that’s not “hi” with nothing else. That’s actually taking the time to craft a thoughtful message.

          5. Aitch Arr*


            I’m in HR (obviously) and so a lot of employees reach out to me with a “Hi, Aitch Arr!” in Teams IM to, you know, greet me politely before launching into their HR-related question.

      2. kalli*

        If someone answers right back we can have a dialogue, usually entailing shorter sentences, actual questions, and a negotiated deadline if applicable.
        “Hey, how are you?”
        “Good! Are you in charge of the Stark file?”
        “Yes, I am. Do you need me to pull it up?”
        “Not necessarily, I just can’t find the book of documents! Do you recall receiving it?”
        “I’ll check and get back to you in an hour, that okay?”
        “Perfect, thanks!”



        “Just checking in – I can’t find the book of documents on the Stark file. You were the last one working on it so I was wondering if you had seen it yet – if it does turn up can you please put it on file for me so I can index it and cost for reading it? Thanks!”

        which runs the risk of an hour later “sorry I was at lunch, that’s actually Daenerys’ file. I checked with reception and Daenery’s assistant and they haven’t seen it so Reception have written to ask for another copy” and Daenerys was just behind on her email because she was in appointments all day.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I guess I’m confused how the former is in any way more efficient than the latter? Either they’re available and can answer you immediately (if you immediately let them know the issue) or they’re not available and can’t answer you immediately. Giving context for what you need upfront raises the likelihood of them responding because they know whether or not this is a high priority/something they can answer quickly/etc.

          1. kalli*

            If you run your office only on efficiency then you lose accuracy and end up more inefficient – you have three people looking for something that’s already in Daenerys’ inbox, and if anyone had said ‘just ask Daenerys’ that would have been avoided.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              That doesn’t answer my question, though? Either the person can answer you immediately or they can’t, but not giving context upfront about what you’re looking for only makes it more difficult to discern if this is something they need to take care of right away or not.

      3. ariel*

        Yes! Why does the hi have to be seen false? It is polite and nice to say hi before launching into convo – I say this as someone who is too quick to launch into action items sometimes.

      4. iglwif*

        While I don’t like the unexplained “hi” either, and I don’t find it efficient, there’s no reason to suppose it’s falsely friendly!

    3. JM60*

      Why not just send a message about what you want in the initial message? I don’t see the purpose of withholding it for a few minutes.

      I don’t think chat platforms are very analogous to phone conversations. As a written form of communication, it’s closer to email (except any back-and-forth can be closer to real-time than with email).

      1. JM60*

        I should add that if they have notifications on, they might be annoyed by multiple “dings” from your multiple messages (“hi” later followed by your question). If you say “Hi” and what you want in the same message, than they only get one notification.

        I personally would rather get fewer notifications (all else being equal) for an inquiry.

        1. metadata minion*

          Thanks; this is a useful reminder. I haaaate notifications, especially audio ones, for anything other than absolutely critical reminders, so I always turn them off and then tend to forget that I might be making someone else’s computer/phone ding at them.

      2. Socks*

        I totally agree. From my perspective, sending a “Hi” with no other info is less like starting a phone call and more like sending an email with no subject line. I don’t need the details in the first message, but I appreciate some context.

      3. Nea*

        I’m in this camp. Just lump the greeting and the request together! It satisfies the requirement to be polite and respects the other person’s time – they don’t have to wait to see if this is something they could answer while you’re away from your desk or if they have to have a conversation.

    4. talos*

      Generally, when I learn that someone does that, I know the actual request will come if I just wait long enough. So what you’re teaching me to do is to never ever respond to you, because if I can wait you out you’ll actually make the request.

      Assuming you want a fast response, you should put everything in the first message instead.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Same, I have a colleague who does similar. In her case she just likes having the “Hi” in a separate message and she’ll immediately put the question in the next one, so I just wait now for the second message.

        1. AnonORama*

          I have a few who do that, but that seems much less annoying than a hi that just hangs there with no follow-up. I don’t have audio notifications on, so I don’t get two dings that way, which probably makes it less irritating.

    5. SarahKay*

      But Teams/IM isn’t a phone conversation. While it’s typically less asynchronous than email, it is still designed to be asynchronous, which is not the case with a phone call.
      From my POV you’re wasting both our times by not putting what you want in your first message along with the Hi.

      1. djx*

        “it is still designed to be asynchronous”

        They are designed to work pretty well either way if the users want. Whereas phone and email work well only one way.

        1. MassMatt*

          I think this is part of the problem. People are either unsure of the proper use—is this a phone call or is it an email?—or people’s expectations about use are different, so we have these annoying interactions.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yeah, if equating to a phone conversation, just saying “hi” to me is like calling someone and waiting for the recipient of the call to initiate a discussion about why you’re calling. How much effort does it take to say, “Hi, is now a good time to chat about the guacamole expense policy?”.

        This is one of my spouse’s pet peeves at work, so I hear about it a lot. :)

    6. Magpie*

      When someone messages me a hi with no additional content, I rarely respond back. I just assume there’s another message coming at some point that indicates what they want to discuss. Have you considered that your colleagues might be doing something similar and might actually be available when you first message them and are just waiting for more context? Seems like you could get what you need a lot faster by including your request along with your initial greeting.

    7. Gimme all you got*

      If this is working for you and your colleagues I’d say just stick with it. These are minor annoyances at worst

    8. MCMonkeybean*

      It’s not a phone conversation. It’s a different medium with different norms. You’re basically training your coworkers to not respond and just wait until you eventually follow up with actual information.

      1. kalli*

        Or, as evidenced, people are being trained to move heaven and earth and probably the galaxy to find someone to question them about why they said ‘hi’.

    9. Not Your Mother*

      These comments are so interesting to read!

      It’s the norm at my company to start your chats with a quick “hi” before you launch into the request. Generally, this is in case someone is looking over your shoulder, you’re sharing your screen, you’re on a call, etc. Since we work with classified information in various categories, not every request is appropriate for everyone’s eyes. Starting with “hi” is basically saying “hi I have a request for you; is this an okay time to send it to you via chat?” and responding with your own “hi” is like “yes, no one else’s eyes are on my screen right now so feel free to send it over.” Then the request.

      I wonder if maybe there’s some version of that at play in LW1’s company? E.g. maybe the “hi” is saying “I have something for you, is this an okay time/way for me to send it?” In that case it may be the smoothest to just respond with a quick “hi” to confirm “yes, feel free to send.”

    10. Insecure Joiner*

      This reads as contradictory to me. You message “Hi [name]” because you’re going to tailor your next message depending on whether they’re immediately available. But then you say if someone messages you “hi” then you won’t bother to answer or wonder what they wanted.

      We use Teams at my employer also and if I’m sending a DM I’ll say “Hi [name] can you [request]” all in one message. If it seems like they’re not available then I’ll either wait for their reply or message someone else who can help and is available. Sometimes I’ll specify “this is not an urgent request” so that if someone sees the message hours later, they won’t feel bad about not answering quickly.

      1. Toots La'Rue*

        I was confused by that too! It seems like they’re annoyed when other people do the very thing they do?

    11. Katherine*

      I’ve experienced a few external customers leaving me a message to call them back, with no info on what they want. I understand it’s not always possible to leave your entire question in a voicemail, but when it is, it means i can call you back with the answer (and leave it in your voicemail if you dont pick up!)

  4. nnn*

    I’ve had some students who struggled to break the habit of defaulting to “Mrs.” even when told that and why they should default to “Ms.”, and here’s an explanation that I found stuck better:

    In “standard” North American English dialects, both historically and prescriptivistly, “Mrs.” means “wife of”. It means not just that you’re married, but that you took your spouse’s surname (historically, that you’re married to Mr. Surname). Miss Manners covers this in at least one of her books, if you need an accessible reference.

    So for people who grew up in this linguistic paradigm (as many of your teachers, bosses, authority figures, etc. would have) and who share their father’s surname (as many unmarried women do), being addressed as “Mrs. Surname” elicits a visceral revulsion of “Ewww, I’m not married to my father!!”

    1. Gretta Swathmore*

      Yes!! I am single and when I get called mrs swathmore my first thought is I’m not married to my dad (or brother)!

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think you’ve got something there. I didn’t change my name on marriage. Being called Mrs HusbandsLastName is wrong, but doesn’t weird me out. Being called Dr. Surname doesn’t bother me at all even though that’s what my father was also called. But Mrs Surname is 1) my mom and 2) married to my father and yeah, produces a visceral reaction.

      Being called Ms., Miss or Mrs when my husband gets Dr., on the other hand, just makes me mad, as we both have PhDs.

      1. Policy Wonk*

        I didn’t change my name on marriage either. I am not weirded out by Mrs. (surname) it’s quite simply not correct – that would be Mrs. (spouse’s surname). Since no one at work ever remembers my spouse’s surname, they don’t use it. So if I get called Mrs., I simply correct them – it’s Ms.

      2. Birdie*

        I have to push down my…irritation…when people address me as Mrs. HusbandLastName. I did not change my name (and it’s been 20 years!), never used it socially, never introduce myself using that name, and my email address contain my real name. But this year, my son’s teach consistently sends e-mails to Mrs. HusbandLastName and has even verbally addressed me as such. i make a point to sign with my last name. It drives me bonkers.

        My husband’s cousin is getting married this summer and the invite came addressed to Mr. and Mrs. His Name. Sigh. Again, well known that I am Birdie MyLastName. My brother did the same thing. Our membership at a zoo couldn’t handle a household with two last names! I figure if the little old ladies at our church can handle us having different last name, so can everyone else!

        Interestingly enough, no one ever calls me Mrs. MyLastName. But I don’t wear wedding rings, either, so maybe that default assumption is I’m a Miss.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        For me, it goes up one generation.

        I kept my name after marriage (and have a Ph.D.), so I am officially Dr. Counter. My mom, who took my dad’s last name went by her first name in non-professional circles and as “Nurse Counter” in professional ones. Mostly, they just used her first name as well.

        Therefore, the person who went by “Mrs. Counter” the most was my grandmother. And she was quite a piece of work in the last couple of decades of her life. Every time I get called “Mrs. Counter,” I recoil. I would really not prefer the association of someone so vociferously racist and homophobic. Mrs. Counter? No, not by a long shot, I hope.

    3. DyneinWalking*

      Interesting! It’s entirely different in German: The “Frau” in Frau Lastname literally just means “woman” and was historically used for married women, whereas the “Fräulein”* that was used for unmarried women literally means “little woman”. So basically our equivalent of “Miss” insinuates that unmarried women are somehow incomplete/unfinished – and the obvious solution was to just drop the word “Fräulein” altogether.

      It never occurred to me that “Mrs.” has an ownership connotation rather than just meaning “adult (and therefore likely married) woman”.

      *The word “Frauchen” (also “little women”) is being used, though – for female dog owners. It’s the equivalent of “Herrchen” which has been used to refer to male dog owners for ages.

      1. len*

        Female owners of dogs or owners of female dogs? Having trouble imagining this one in context.

      2. Finn*

        Recently I have seen “Fräulein” in a pretty long drop-down menu for titles. I agree that it’s super rare though, and you’d probably better not use it for strangers.
        Funnily, school taught me during english classes that Mrs is the default equivalent for Mr, and that some people use Miss (or Ms) to indicate they aren’t married, but that that’s rare and shouldn’t be defaulted to. The textbook’s grammar must’ve been rather old, I guess, judging by the comments here…

        1. tg33*

          Mrs. (as far as I know) was never used to indicate an adult woman as Madam or Frau were. Many older women will proudly insist they are a Miss, because it shows they are in charge, there is no husband involved.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Before it was shortened, “Mistress” was equivalent to “Mister,” a respectful term for a gentlewoman.

            It now means something very different, this showing how members of marginal groups lose respect in language.

        2. TX_Trucker*

          When I learned English, we were also taught that Mrs was the equivalent of Mr. Not sure if that changed over time (I’m old) or if my Catholic English curriculum was just terrible.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Your Catholic English class curriculum was terrible. English didn’t have an equivalent to Mr. until people invented Ms.

          2. nnn*

            I wonder if that’s a literal translation of the source language rather than being intended as cultural commentary on English practices. I don’t know what your first language is, but there are some European languages where the equivalent of Mrs. is also the generic female title, and they either don’t have Ms. or their equivalent of Ms. didn’t take. So I wonder if your textbook author was thinking “Frau = female equivalent of Herr, Frau = Mrs., therefore Mrs. = female equivalent of Mr.”

        3. Observer*

          The textbook’s grammar must’ve been rather old, I guess, judging by the comments here…

          Definitely old – but also never correct. Ms. has never been a word specifically for unmarried women.

        4. I Have RBF*

          Oh, no, no. “Mrs” denotes “MARRIED woman”. It is not the default for all women. The honorific for a woman of unknown marital status is “Ms”, not “Mrs” or “Miss”.

          No wonder this shit keeps popping up, if ESL texts are describing “Mrs” as the default for women. Talk about systemic sexism!

          Women are not defined by their relationship to a man. “Mrs” implicitly defines a woman by her marital relationship, assume to be with a man.

        1. the cat's pajamas*

          That’s interesting. I’d rather introduce myself based on my cat-owning status than my marriage status any day! :)

    4. bamcheeks*

      You can definitely extend this to include British English too!

      (Though in my case it’s also just a general reaction to the idea of being married– I feel exactly the same when people refer to my partner as my wife or me as her wife. You are putting me in a box that is the wrong shape! Stop!)

    5. iglwif*

      When someone who doesn’t know me addresses me as “Mrs,” my default assumption is that they are Francophone. Because French has “Mlle” (Miss) and “Mme” (Mrs) but no commonly used equivalent to “Ms,” and somewhere over the past few decades “Mme” has become an age thing rather than a marital status thing. At least in Québec, where marriage rates are lower than anywhere else in Canada and very few married women take their spouse’s surname (indeed, I’m told you legally can’t: you can go by “Firstname Spousename” in everyday life, but your government name remains “Firstname Birthname”). So in trying to avoid calling me “Little Miss Iglwif” they are accidentally calling me “Mrs Iglwif”.

      I am not always right about the Francophone thing! But I am right fairly often.

      1. nnn*

        Yeah, I’m also working in a bilingual Canadian context, and I found being referred to as Mme. super jarring when I first encountered it!

        Now I’m comfortable Mme. in French because the connotation of Mme. is in fact “generic female title”, but still Ms. in English.

        (Although every once in a while I come across a poorly-designed form that makes me be Mrs. in English if I choose Mme. in French, or makes me be “Madelle” in French if I choose Ms. in English)

        1. iglwif*

          Have you ever heard anyone use “Madelle” in real life? I confess I had forgotten it existed XD

          1. nnn*

            Never in real life! I probably would have forgotten it exists as well if not for these poorly-designed form interfaces I encounter every once in a while

    6. Bee*

      Yeah, I’m an unmarried woman in my 30s, and I don’t get “Mrs. Surname” often, but every time I do it’s a jarring experience for exactly that reason! I do sometimes jokingly say “Mrs. Surname is my mother!” but I don’t think people really Get how different the connotation is from when men say the same thing.

  5. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

    A colleague has a link to (or one of the many similar sites I found in a quick search) as their display message. AFAIK it’s effective for them but I haven’t done it yet bc I fear my dept (or 1 manager in particular) would declare it unprofessional. But yes, this is a thing that pisses off a lot of people and wastes a lot of time and mental energy but still somehow won’t die.

    1. TechWorker*

      Yea I have a bunch of colleagues that use and I’m sure it doesn’t completely solve the problem but it might help a tiny bit!

      The only time I do it is if I need a fast answer & more than one person could potentially answer so it’s basically ‘are you there?’ – if I get no response quickly I’ll either delete it or follow up saying ‘ignore, thanks I got what I needed from x colleague’.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      One thing that I have noticed is that some messaging systems have a “say Hi” option the first time you ever message someone. I always have a follow-up message ready to go, because I don’t want to be That Person. (And it can be hard to avoid that initial Hi when navigating some systems.)

    3. LabSnep*

      There are SO many people (esp family) I want to send this to, but the family made a point to tell me how ruuuude it was to ask if they could include context.

  6. Jessica*

    LW3, I love you, and you should absolutely make a teachable moment out of this. I’m also in higher ed and can’t believe the number of “Mrs.” emails I see, especially those addressed to people where the correct title is Dr. AND the emailer knows/should know that (e.g., you’re in her class and it’s on the syllabus!). I’m like, is it 1950 in here?

    I keep this article bookmarked and send it to students with a polite “hey this is not the way to be and here’s why” email:

    It sounds like you’re pretty senior and are willing to withstand any pouty misogynist blowback that results, so yes, PLEASE do this. I would just be very straightforward about it, like the vibe isn’t that you are offended or mad, but that they’ve made a professional faux pas and you’re going to help them so they don’t do it again, because it will make a really bad impression.

    1. Gretta Swathmore*

      Agree with all you’ve said, and I remember reading that article before :-)

      I like how it goes through different customs in different areas. Where I went to college (in the south), we did NOT call our professors Dr x, we called them Mr or Ms x. It was a whole thing – the common explanation was that OF COURSE any professor teaching here would have a doctorate, so no need for the Dr.

      Another regional custom, for an adult, a true sign of respect and acceptance is to be called Miss Firstname. Ma’am or Mrs implies a smidge of disrespect. So weird!

      Another final thing, at least where I live, it’s only the lower class people that insist on official honorifics like Dr for non-medical degrees. A lot of our politicians have online divinity doctorates for example. So like Councilman Dr Rev xyz. That’s a lot of a lot, in my opinion – what are you trying to prove? Why don’t you just work on getting our corrupt city government cleaned up instead (side diatribe over). Other council people just go by Ms xyz and to be honest, I tend to respect them more by not layering on all these degrees that don’t apply to their task at hand. Upper class people here reserve Dr for medical doctors only.

      1. Gretta Swathmore*

        Just want to clarify, the Miss Firstname thing is verbal only. Would still be referred to as Mrs/Miss/Ms lastname in written things.

      2. Your Mate in Oz*

        I had one lecturer who very pointedly did not have a doctorate and reminded us of that quite heatedly at times. Gossip had it he had submitted more than once and failed but for whatever reason the title was a sore point.

        Meanwhile I work outside academia so the title is mostly irrelevant and not using it saves me adding (not that sort of doctor). Which I noticed one of my friends now does in some of her emails despite actually being that sort of doctor. Albeit she’s an MD who later got a research PhD and is now a professor, so in practice is (not that sort of doctor). She may just do that when writing to me, who knows.

        1. JustaTech*

          When I was in undergrad (early aughts) we called all instructors “Professor” or “Prof” Lastname, with two exceptions. One was a chemistry professor who preferred to go by “Doctor” and a computer science professor who went by “Prof Firstname” because so many people (unintentionally) butchered his last name.

          Speaking just with other students we referred to our professors by just their last names.

          This was at a very small school where all the professors actually taught students directly (no 500 person lectures with 20 grad student TAs), so you did actually have to talk to your professors directly.

      3. londonedit*

        Reminds me of medical doctors here – you’re ‘Dr’ unless you’re a consultant surgeon, at which point you switch back to ‘Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss’ (a consultant is a senior-level doctor and specialist in a particular area of medicine). All other consultants are Dr, but consultant surgeons are Mr/Mrs etc. It apparently harks back to the days when surgeons weren’t doctors, but it can be a whole massive thing where consultant surgeons absolutely insist that they shouldn’t be called Dr. Which I can understand, because they’ve reached the top level in their careers and they have a tradition around titles that reflects that, but there’s still no need to be an arse about it.

        1. Nina*

          Is that what it is!? I had some reconstructive surgery on some my hand a while back, and while the main person with the scalpel was ‘Dr’ somebody, there was a ‘Mr’ somebody who was introduced as ‘the consultant’, and was also very much involved, and that confused the socks off me. Like, ‘who is this not-a-doctor person acting like a doctor? is he qualified?’

      4. Texan In Exile*

        “Councilman Dr Rev xyz”

        And sort of opposite: The professor who evaluated my intake at the dental school was an 84 year old nun. The dental student called her “Doctor Sister [LastName].”

        1. nutella fitzgerald*

          And what are they trying to prove??? That their grimy pauper hands once held a diploma???

          1. Not a good look*

            Indeed. So interesting that a Doctor of Divinity makes one a lower class person who needs to be educated in the upper class norms of how to use titles.

            1. Gretta*

              The councilmen I’m thinking of are pretty awful and I wouldn’t put it past them to make up a degree. So many examples. Here’s one – some outside people wanted to build a casino, and it had to be approved by the voters. They got together and had a big event trying to get their congregations to vote for gambling. They jumped through hoops trying to explain why Jesus would want to legalize gambling. Which of course hurts the poorest in our community. WTF? I think you should give back your divinity “degree” at that point. Jesus and the money table in the temple anyone?
              Another example – our mayor (who was Dr Rev etc person) hired tons and tons of people from his church into our city government. He had them spend tons of their time on his church activities, costing us millions of dollars. Super shady!
              To me, these are low class activities and people.

      5. Kevin Sours*

        At the school I went to we addressed professors as “Professor” rather than “Dr”. It was just the way it was done. Assuming a title was used (Ran was just Ran and Mike was very much Mike). It wasn’t really a thing and a few people used Dr without correction but to this day it always sounds weird to me to address faculty as Dr x.

        That said if the culture of the school *is* to address faculty as Dr. Surname then people should ensure this is applied consistently to the women on the faculty. Regardless, people should respect the title of address a individual requests.

      6. GreenDoor*

        “Councilman Dr Rev xyz”
        Ugh! When it comes to professional honorifics, I believe you should only use them in the related context. Councilman when he’s acting as a city leader, Reverend to his congregation, and Dr. only if he’s working in the field in which he got his doctorate. Anything else is showboating. Like why are you declaring credentials that have nothing to do with what you’re doing at the time?

        1. Gretta Swathmore*

          Yes, agree! The guys (and they’re always guys) who do this are these showboating politicians that don’t actually care about our city. They’re in it for the prestige, as a stepping stone, way to get kickbacks. Their campaign bios are usually really obnoxious – pages and pages about their background, struggles, accomplishments, big man on campus activities. Could not care less about you personally dude. One paragraph about you, then please focus on the issues and what you’ll do for ME.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, this. I think it’s helpful to the students, but also helpful to colleagues who may not, for whatever reason, be as able to deal with the political BS that rumbles around universities. So, yeah, help the students out. They’re not trying to offend. They just don’t know better and that’s okay. We all had to learn somehow.

    3. JellyDawn*

      I know it’s a standard journalism thing, but it’s amusing that the article opens with a quote of “I don’t give permission to omit [my titles]” followed immediately by the person’s name without any title – twice!

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Titles are supposed to be used in context – a person in a social context or an advice column context might choose to not lead with their title, as the situation is not directly about their area of expertise. However, in a situation where the person is teaching or acting within their scope of professional expertise, then the title recognizes their qualifications and expertise. And a person might go with their title even socially with non-acquaintances, but might go by a first name with friends/family.

    4. Jay (no, the other one)*

      That article cites a study of medical Grand Rounds that I posted above.

      When I was a teaching clinician, my male colleagues often had the residents call them by their first names. “Let’s not stand on ceremony!” I had enough trouble convincing people I was a doctor when I used my title. For the first 20 years of my career I did not go one day at work without having someone assume I was a nurse/receptionist/respiratory therapist/pretty much anything other than an MD – and that’s not an exaggeration. So yes, I used my title, thank you very much and yes, people sometimes thought I was being snooty.

      For the record, I don’t use it outside of work – I fill out forms and make reservations as Firstname Lastname unless I’m required to choose an honorific. I don’t correct people if they call me Ms. I do correct them if they call me “Mrs.” especially since I did not take my husband’s last name. My daughter’s friends ended up calling me Mama Jay, which I loved.

    5. Ella Bee*

      This strikes me as really odd- I wonder how much it has to do with the culture of the institution and/ the gender makeup of the course? I’m in a faculty support position for a course required for pre-med and am neither a Professor or a Dr., and yet I (a woman) constantly get emails from students referring to me as such despite always signing off on emails with my first name (and I’ve never seen an email to the actual professor, also a woman, not referring to her with the proper title).

  7. Pink Sprite*

    Re: Dr. OP 3: ;)
    As a former middle school teacher, I always taught my students to use Ms and why.
    In my case, I used it because I am not married, other unmarried female teachers preferred Miss. We all were able to teach 11-14 year old kids about the differences and importance of calling someone by their desired name and title. College students can certainly learn too. :)

    1. Zona the Great*

      For me, personally, using or being called Miss squicks me out. It’s like, “hello, unwed father’s daughter”.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      Calling someone by their desired name and title is always important, regardless of whether the person has a PhD or not. With those I’m on a first name basis with, I go by my initials. I -never- spell out my first or middlenames. When I’m in my capacity as an Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer, I’m ‘Chief Lastname’. It’s all about how you treat people.

      1. Usually lurking*

        It really is a lack of learning. I was correcting my son (3rd grade, age 9) on writing a teacher’s title correctly. He has 2 main teachers, one Ms. and one Mrs. My husband spoke up and I was shocked to figure out that he didn’t understand the differences either. It was especially shocking to me because his family was ruled by his grandmother, an English teacher who ruthlessly insisted on correct grammar. From my interactions with her, it would not surprise me if she was heavily involved in campaigning to get “Ms.” adopted in the first place, as she would not have ever wanted to be defined by marriage. I couldn’t believe he had not learned the differences between titles. But it is not intuitive, so it has to be taught!

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      We raised our kids to go with Ms. as the default if they weren’t sure about salutation and to go with how the person introduced themselves whenever possible. One of my son’s teachers in elementary school lectured him about how “disrespectful” it was to her husband to use Ms. rather than Mrs. and also refused to address me by anything other than Mrs. Husband’sLastName despite the school records and my emails clearly being signed MyFirstName MyLastName (kid’s mom).

      1. 1LFTW*

        “How dare you disrespect my husband! And how dare you disrespect YOUR husband! I shall teach you a lesson by disrespecting YOU!”

    4. Honoria Lucasta*

      It’s been a losing battle for the last two years as a receptionist to get elementary/secondary students *or* (certain) colleagues to quit calling me “Mrs. Lucasta” even though I’ve never been married. I would settle for either Miss Lucasta or Ms. Lucasta, though I generally go by Ms. because it seems better suited to my almost-40yo maturity; when I first taught, just out of college, going by Miss Lucasta made more sense and was very in keeping with the slightly old-fashioned culture of the small town I was working in.

  8. Daria grace*

    #1 I dislike the just saying hi in any context but how much it’s worth pushing back on might depend on the content that tends to come comes next. At a previous workplace if staff from a certain group were contacting you it was probably because they’d identified an issue with work you’d done. Their hi and then wait (even if only a few minutes) for a response stressed me out because I was sitting there worrying about what I’d done wrong. In other contexts it’s been a low stress irritant.

    1. Honoria Lucasta*

      I have a friend who always texts me “Hello” or something similar as a prelude to asking for a favor, but he doesn’t come out and ask the favor right away and it bugs the heck out of me! If I knew what he needed and when he needed it (usually a ride to the airport), I could just check my calendar and reply. But instead I have to say hello back, wait for him to see it, and *then* find out what he’s asking for. Totally nuts.

  9. No Longer a Student*

    Re LW3 When I was in college almost all of my professors stated in the very first class more or less some version of: “My name is Professor X. Feel free to call me that, Professor, Prof, or X. Do not call me Miss, Ma’am, Sir, Teacher, Hey, or Yo.” Some even put it in their syllabus. Hate to say it still didn’t always work. There was always at least one rasing a hand and shouting “Mrs. X!”

    1. Nodramalama*

      No longer a student didn’t say it’s disrespectful to call them sir or Ma’am they just don’t want to be called that.

      It is not insensitive to tell someone you don’t want to be addressed by a particular honorific. It doesn’t matter if it’s common in some places or common by certain people.

      1. No Longer a Student*

        I don’t see how I’M being insensitive to anyone as I wasn’t the one who made this rule. My professors made the rule which I was fine with and I called them what they wanted to be called. The end.

        On another note, I am Black and I don’t necessarily agree that Sir and Ma’am are “routinely used in Black English.” They are both generally polite honorifics used by people the world over. However, in academia the student/professor relationship marks for many what could be considered the first adult/business relationship in a sense. So it’s helpful to the student to get in the habit of using the correct identifiers. Not to mention also in academia the issue the LW is having is usually rooted in some form of gendered behavior. Male pressenting professors are usually called Prof or by their names while female presenting professors are referred to in ways that are not only gendered but lacking in that same acknowledgement of position/status in their role.

      2. PhyllisB*

        Maybe, but if you live in the South you might as well throw up the white flag on the Sir/Ma’am debate. You may get people to address you by your first name (or whatever your preference is) but a native Southerner is going to say sir or ma’am. It’s not a matter of age, it’s a matter of respect.
        I was taught to address anyone serving me as sir or ma’am. This means that if the 20 year old sales clerk asks me a yes/no question I’m going to include sir or ma’am in my reply. I’ve tried to train myself out of it because I know some people don’t like it, but I have seen some people look proud that someone is showing them respect.

        1. Miette*

          Totally cool and acceptable, and no one is saying it’s wrong, but whether a person uses sir or ma’am is not the issue at hand. The point here is that the person expressly listed their preferred honorifics named the ones they do not want. It’s as much a sign of respect to honor that as it is to honor someone’s stated preferred pronouns.

        2. Stopgap*

          I don’t see how it’s respectful to call someone something they explicitly said they didn’t want to be called.

    2. SaraK*

      Telling someone not to refer to you as “ma’am” is no different than telling them not to refer to you as “miss”. People are entitled to be referred to in the way they prefer. What is disrespectful is ignoring their preferences in favour of what you “routinely” use.

      1. Allonge*

        Exactly – in the overwhelming majority of cases it’s disrespectful to address someone in a way they indicated they don’t want to be addressed.

    3. No Longer a Student*

      *I actually meant to reply here so I’ll just go ahead and put it here just for emphais*

      I don’t see how I’M being insensitive to anyone as I wasn’t the one who made this rule. My professors made the rule which I was fine with and I called them what they wanted to be called. The end.

      On another note, I am Black and I don’t necessarily agree that Sir and Ma’am are “routinely used in Black English.” They are both generally polite honorifics used by people the world over. However, in academia the student/professor relationship marks for many what could be considered the first adult/business relationship in a sense. So it’s helpful to the student to get in the habit of using the correct identifiers. Not to mention also in academia the issue the LW is having is usually rooted in some form of gendered behavior. Male pressenting professors are usually called Prof or by their names while female presenting professors are referred to in ways that are not only gendered but lacking in that same acknowledgement of position/status in their role.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I would wager money that Profs Get Over Yourselves is not in any of the groups they claim are restricted to only using “Mrs” as a form of address.

    4. tg33*

      Being addressed as ‘ma’ am’ makes my skin crawl. It has only happened to me in the UK. I accept that it is normal usage for many people, if you accept that not everyone is going to accept it.

      1. londonedit*

        It’s only happened to you in the UK? That’s odd to me, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use it (except to address the actual Queen, or a senior female police officer). Madam, possibly, and then only in particularly formal situations (like if you go to a posh restaurant or something). I don’t think anyone’s ever called me ‘ma’am’.

        1. metadata minion*

          What’s the default semiformal address for women in the UK if you don’t know their name?

          1. londonedit*

            Well, the equivalent to ‘Sir’ would be ‘Madam’, but Sir/Madam are only used in formal circumstances (or faux-formal ones like a restaurant or a posh shop). Most of the time we just say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ without using a form of specific address.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Honestly it raises eyebrows in the UK. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a British person referred to as ma’am unless it was on a period drama or a cop show.

      3. metadata minion*

        Me too. For me it’s partly because I’m nonbinary, and it feels like not only have you decided I’m a woman (not an unreasonable assumption, but it gets old), but that I’m a *specific type* of woman. “Miss” is worse, since damnit I’m almost 40 and there’s no way you think I’m a teenager and it’s not a compliment to pretend you do. If I have to pick, I would actually prefer “sir”.

      4. Butterfly Counter*

        My sister (in the US south) is teaching her very young sons to default to saying “sir” and “ma’am.” I’m not going to tell her how to raise her kids, it’s definitely respectful for where they’re living, but I cringe every time I hear it. Especially since there’s no non-binary equivalent.

      5. FuzzBunny*

        This is very definitely a cultural/regional thing! I grew up in New England, and don’t think I ever heard the term used. But I now live in the mid-Atlantic, so (a) it’s south-adjacent, and (b) I’ve got a LOT of military and veteran students. For the latter group in particular, it’s just such an ingrained response, and it took a long time for me to get used to it. I still don’t love it, but it also doesn’t bother me the way that “Mrs.” would.

        1. I Have RBF*

          True. At least “ma’am” doesn’t assume a marital status on top of the gender.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      You seem to be arguing simultaneously that there should be exquisite obeisance to whatever other people want to call you (both because you are of no importance and because they might have their reasons for that pattern) but no one should at any point consider what you want to be called.

      That is really weird.

    6. ecnaseener*

      You need to read the comments you’re responding to. No one is making a “rule,” someone is quoting their own previous professors who asked not to be called sir or ma’am.

    7. Reality.Bites*

      No it absolutely is not. No matter how much you may want to call me “Sir” or “Ma’am,” if you call me it against my wishes you are being rude. If you can’t overcome your upbringing to treat people how they wish to be treated, you had a BAD upbringing and are rude. Period.

    8. Pretty as a Princess*

      I have a good friend who is a professor and this is right at the top of her syllabus every term. “Proper ways to address me are X and Y. Addressing me as P or Q is inappropriate.”

    9. HannahS*

      Agreed. I’m a female physician and in a fascinating (not) coincidence I get called “Miss” by my patients while my male colleagues get called “Doctor.” Similarly to the OP, it’s doubly incorrect; I am married and my title is “Dr.” Also, I’m not Mrs. Lastname because I didn’t take my husband’s name when we got married.

      I introduce myself to patients as “Dr. Lastname” and I tell children that they can call me “Dr. Hannah.” It used to feel a bit weird to insist on it, but honestly, part of it is to avoid the situation of “I need to see a DOCTOR” Sir. I am your doctor.

      You can also frame it as a preferred address, which a lot of Gen Z is familiar with. e.g. “There are a lot of you, and I don’t know your names, but please tell me what you what you want to be called, and I’ll do my best to remember. Please correct me if I get it wrong. Similarly, please call me Dr. X. I’m not Mrs. X or Miss X, so I’ll correct you if slip up.”

      1. I Have RBF*

        I make a point when dealing with a female MD to call them “Doctor” until or unless told otherwise. I do this because professional women often have a hard time getting their due respect, even from other women/enbies.

        1. londonedit*

          In my UK experience, certainly with younger medics, it’s quite common for them to introduce themselves as ‘Hi, I’m Sarah, I’m the on-call consultant here in A&E this evening…’. The fact that they’re a doctor is implicit in their job title, but I think there’s definitely a move towards being less hierarchical and towards making patients feel more at home by using first names.

      2. redwitsch*

        In Czech we have something even more weird. If we are adressing someone, we percieve as in higher/prestigious position, or with higher education, we use Master/Mistress Teacher/Doctor/Policeman(woman)/Engineer – we dont use their surname or name, but their job, so basically double politeness.

    10. iglwif*

      Nobody said anything about sir and ma’am being disrespectful. They said, politely, that they did not want their students to address them that way. It is extremely normal to address people the way they have asked you to address them, and not in some other way that they don’t like. It doesn’t actually matter why they don’t like it!

    11. ariel*

      We have professors who include in their signatures, and I assume in their syllabi, things like this. It is useful and professional to ask to be addressed certain ways. I am not a prof but I work at a college and this convo is helping me realize I should ask my students to call me by my first name and answer any questions about that. It is an important part of learning working conventions.

  10. Yvette*

    What I hate is when they say hi I respond hi and then nothing. Nothing for several minutes. To me, that’s the equivalent of walking up to somebody’s desk saying hello, and then just standing there. I mean you’ve already interrupted me, so please just say what you want and get it over with.

    1. lilsheba*

      Yup I always say hi and what I want at the outset. I don’t like a lot of useless back and forth, I just want to get my shit done.

  11. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

    Frankly #5 looks like phishing or some other scam clickbait, or one of the test clickbait things IT sends out. I would probably report it and, when it came back as probably OK, just delete it to be cautious. If LW had missed the student’s message, all of those might have wound up trashed. The company needs to rethink more than just their automatic reminder scheduling.

  12. Prof Q*

    #3 I also get “Mrs Q” (I am not nor have ever been a Mrs.) from international students where there may be a goal of it being an honorific and meant to be respectful. It also makes me extra twitchy.

    You should absolutely correct them. It’s part of learning how to professionally present themselves and they should be aware of the potential harm misaddressing someone can take. There’s also learning the when/where context of titles and that’s a continuing evolution we’re all on so helping them understand it in this relatively safer space of communicating with you (even if it does mean ascribing more emotional labor — sorry).

    Depending on the student/email – I’ll send this along:

    1. Nodramalama*

      The flow chart is fascinating to me. I wonder if it’s because Im not in the U.S but when I was in uni I’m pretty sure all of my lecturers went by their first names, including the Drs. Even a guest lecturer who was a Judge

      1. Shellfish Constable*

        I think it’s hugly regional and context dependent on the US. I’m currently at a university where we get a lot of students from both the American South and the Caribbean, and most of these kids would be mortified to call their professors by their first names. However, at the Laid-Back West Coast university where I did my graduate degree most faculty went by their first name.

      2. metadata minion*

        Yeah, it varies a lot. In my undergrad almost everyone was first-name to the point that older students would occasionally be sincerely confused when asked by first-years where Dr. Example’s office is. I did have one professor who preferred Mr. Example, because he said he appreciated the informality of our institution but felt weird having people a quarter his age call him Bob, which seemed reasonable.

        To my knowledge, I’ve never encountered anyone who was offended at an assumption of Dr. or Professor, so I think that’s by far the best default address to use for a university teacher unless/until you’ve been told otherwise. I now work at a university and it’s very convenient to have a gender-neutral title I can use; graduate students are usually amused if I accidentally upgrade them ;-)

      3. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

        My advisor, who was also the professor I had the most classes with, went by either her first name or Dr. First Name. Everyone else went by Dr. Last Name (if that applied). Though none of them ever told us their preference, only my advisor.

      4. Nina*

        I’m in New Zealand – here ‘professor’ means something more like what Americans call the head of the school (there is exactly one professor per subject, a few associate professors, and any number of lecturers and tutors and teaching fellows). All professors and associate professors, with no exceptions I’m aware of, have doctorates.

        It’s very common here to address pretty much everyone by their first name, and being American amounts of formal is often read as mocking them.

        If I was introduced to the Prime Minister, I’d call him Chris.

    2. Holm*

      I don’t get the flowchart. So Mrs and Miss can be fine depending on preference, but Ms and Mr never are? English is not my first language but that seems very counterintuitive.

      1. bamcheeks*

        yeah, I wouldn’t take it too seriously! I am reading it as intended to be light-hearted, and if the maker actually meant it to be serious or anyone is taking it seriously then TBH I’m kind of with Prof, get over yourselves. Nobody should be treating this as serious etiquette advice!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In addition to humor, it provides the questions you would ask when discerning what your first guess of mode of address should be. (For example, that if “first name” is the norm in your program you can carry on with that.)

          Like the example upthread that “Mrs. Jones” is “the woman who is married to Mr. Jones” in North American English, and so you are often calling this woman by the form of address that would be correct if she had married her father.

      2. ecnaseener*

        True, that box needs another arrow to the “are you 100% sure…” box.

        This is cute, but I wouldn’t recommend it for helping students who actually don’t get it. A more informative version would be “has your professor told you what to call them? Maybe in the syllabus? Maybe in the signature of an email to you? If not, Professor is always safe, or Dr. if you’re sure they have a doctorate of some kind.”

    3. Your Mate in Oz*

      Dear Professor John Quiggin,

      I will continue to call you Prof Q or occasionally just Q as I think is appropriate.

      An Admirer.

      (I absolutely kid you not. He’s a real person. And the Australian bloke version of Prof Q has previously expressed distaste for being called various nicknames and abbreviations that apparently crop up in Australia but does not mind Prof Q)

    4. Edi-Pita*

      I think the flow chart is amusing. I think my students would find it amusing too. Unfortunately I can’t use it as I’m in the UK where Professor is a very specific title/rank and not a general one for academic staff, so it’s incorrect here. Maybe I’ll make my own version. And also add ableism in as a reason for not having your doctorate (yet).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That you would need a whole other layer of arrows and boxes to make it useful outside of US academia is one thing that makes it interesting, and a good illustration of the layers that different contexts add to determining correct behavior.

    5. Alan*

      Re international students, I remember taking Spanish some years ago and the instructor said that one always use “senora” with an older woman regardless of marital status, out of respect, I suppose because there is no Ms. in the language. I wonder if that has changed. Sounds like it probably has. To this day, if speaking to an older woman in Spanish, I always use senora.

      1. iglwif*

        French is the same, and has no equivalent of “Ms” (at least, not one in common use!). Over the past several decades, “Mme” and “Mlle” have become separated by age rather than marital status.

        1. Alan*

          Interesting. I double-checked and for Spanish, senora is apparently still the proper address for older women regardless of marital status. Glad to know I haven’t been screwing this up.

    6. djx*

      Is that flowchart a joke? It’s not actually bad info, but it’s existence is bizarre and comes across as very passive-aggressive slam.

      You call professors Prof. Last name unless there is a specific reason (such as them telling you) to do otherwise. That’s it. Forget the rest unless they ask “why” about the default or push back against it.

    7. Observer*

      You are like a parody of the out of touch academic

      And I’m assuming that *you* are ~~actually~~ a parody account. Because your level of argumentation on the idea that anyone should actually be expected to address people correctly sounds like an SNL version of “anti-wokeness”.

    8. Sparkly Librarian*

      I erred on the side of formality when I first entered university, and distinctly recall addressing an email “Dear Professor March:” (because we’d never met and from the faculty website I wasn’t sure whether she had a doctorate) and getting back a two-sentence email signed simply “Jo”.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        And then perhaps I over-corrected. My seminar supervisor, who was fine with being addressed with “Margaret” (not “Meg”), took actual offense when I — a Californian who had spent many hours in her presence by then — casually addressed her as “dude”.

  13. Doctor doctor*

    Tell your students upfront what you want to be called. I give them several options (Dr Smith, Ms Smith, Dr S, my first name). I always say, don’t call me Mrs Smith — that’s my mom.

    Some of them will still slip. I correct them (kindly), and add that they should always call people by their preferred name.

    And when in doubt on a college or university campus, they can pretty safely use “Dr.”. Folks who don’t want to be called Dr., or who don’t have a doctoral degree, won’t usually be bothered if you call them Dr., whereas not calling someone Dr who should be, is a big etiquette mistake.

    1. Pam Adams*

      I’m an academic advisor who defaults to first name. I get a fair amount of “Dr. Adams,” which I correct to “it’s Pam,” with a smile and friendly tone. (I do not have a doctorate)

    2. Blank*

      Yes, exactly this – I get ahead of it on the first day, when I’m letting a class know how to get in touch with me. I cover method, contents, (“here’s what an email needs to contain to be he useful”) and address (first name or Dr Blank, either is cool). It works as instructions and also permission.

      If they mess up, they mess up. They’re college kids and still learning. But I will say once I started this approach the number of Mrs salutations I’ve received have dropped off.

    3. BKB*

      As a counterpoint here, I teach college classes at a community college, and I don’t have a doctorate, nor is it a general requirement for the job. Also, my job title isn’t actually professor, although colloquially it works. I’d really prefer if students don’t assume that Professor or Dr. is the default. It’s not offensive, exactly, but it is mildly jarring to get called a title that doesn’t apply and that I’m not aspiring to. I guess what I’m trying to say is that defaulting to saying “Dr.” is not actually addressing people by their preferred name

      (I do address this in class. I introduce myself as FirstName, and add that if students prefer they can call me Ms. LastName or Mrs. LastName and I don’t really care much one way or the other.)

      I’d like to add that my husband is an MD and prefers not be called Dr. LastName unless he’s at work, and not even usually then. Sometimes someone will called him Dr. LastName if he’s volunteering at our kids’ school, and he thinks it’s really weird and stuffy sounding.

    4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Spot on that people who don’t have a doctorate generally won’t be bothered if they’re addressed as Dr. When I was in graduate school, it was standard practice for the academic journals in the field to address all correspondence to paper authors to Dr. Lastname; it was right most of the time, and far better to amuse a graduate student by using a title they hadn’t earned yet than to annoy someone by denying them the proper title.

  14. Msd*

    Why is Ms an ok option? Shouldn’t students refer to the OP as Dr or Professor? Wouldn’t that be how a male professor is called? I don’t think it would be Mr Green. This smacks of sexism.

    1. Pseudo Anon*

      OP stated she doesn’t want to come across as self important or condescending and that she genuinely doesn’t mind Ms.

      I agree with you that students should stick with the professional titles of Prof or Dr and also wondered why she’s worried about giving that impression, but it’s OP ‘s call to make.

    2. Roland*

      Some people are ok with a normal title and not an academic one depending on circumstance. This is exactly what I was told by a female prof in college, she didn’t care what wee called her (including Ms Smith and Jane) as long as it wasn’t Mrs.

      People addressing men with titles and not women is a problem, but that’s not exactly the same problem as the one OP is having which is “college students are still learning professional academic norms”. Many of these students probably ARE calling their male profs Mr Doe because they’re still used to it from high school.

    3. WS*

      If male professors are Mr at OP’s institution, I think it’s fine for female professors to be Ms. But Dr and Ms, or Mr and Mrs (unless specifically requested) are not okay.

      1. Allthesingleparents*

        I have a name, use my name. I don’t use a title, and anyone who assumes any title (including “Ms”) really irritates me. So I agree that it’s not OK to default to Ms. It doesn’t denote marital status but it’s still gendered and I am perplexed as to why a gender distinction is necessary IF the professor hasnt expressed a preference. Whether Professor Green is married, single, male or female or non-binary probably shouldn’t occupy the minds of the students. “I like to be addressed as (X)” is important to pay attention to, and respectful. Deciding how to address someone based on your assumption of their gender identity, marital status and preference is…kind of the opposite of respectful. Default to asking e.g. you haven’t indicated a title, so are you good with me calling you Allthe Singleparents?

    4. Nodramalama*

      Because its LWs preference? Not all professors want to be referred to as Professor.

    5. Molly Millions*

      Different professors expect different levels of formality; some actually want to cultivate a more informal tone so students won’t be intimidated by them.

      And academic titles aren’t always totally straightforward from a new student’s perspective – not all professors have PhDs, not all PhDs like being called “Doctor,” some classes are primarily led by the TA, etc.

      I always defaulted to the most formal option, but I could see some spiraling freshman thinking, “I’ll make a fool out of myself if I use the wrong term, “Ms.” seems safest.”

      1. ecnaseener*

        Oh, that’s interesting that you see Ms. as less formal than Dr or Professor! It actually feels like the other way around to me (albeit speaking as an adult professional and not as a teenage student) — I guess because plenty of doctors like to use their titles even in relatively friendly, informal contexts.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Oh, I totally see Ms. as less formal that Dr. or Professor! One is a social honorific, and the others are professional ones. In a university setting (in the US), especially within the instructor-student dynamic, it’s best to default to the professional title.

    6. Allonge*

      Because it’s a normal and totally acceptable way to address a woman, and OP finds it ok? OP would get to prefer Mrs/Miss as well, she just does not.

    7. Hyaline*

      Ms. is an appropriate default in professional settings, but Mrs. is not. It’s not impolite to default to Mr. or Ms. if you don’t know, and it’s not impolite to correct someone to the more exact title. The whole thing is more confusing in academia than just “default to Dr.” because not everyone has a doctorate. Often students don’t know who’s a professor and who isn’t (just because they’re in front of a class doesn’t mean they’re a professor; just because they’re not teaching doesn’t mean they’re not a professor). Students could use any of these and rightly be corrected; at some point someone should probably clue them in that Mrs. is definitely not correct to default to, though.

    8. MCMonkeybean*

      I agree, if you want them to get a lesson out of it then at least give them the right lesson! Stop selling yourself short! It is absolutely okay and even correct for you to insist that they use the titles you have earned.

    9. Cat Tree*

      People get to decide for themselves what they want to be called. I wouldn’t want to be called Ms. in that scenario, but it’s not up to me to tell LW what they should want.

      1. Msd*

        That’s true but OP said she’s in a male dominated field. My concern is that women tend to understate their accomplishments somehow finding it bragging or making them unapproachable. Men also tend to undervalue women’s achievements and experience but not their own. Since this is a male dominated field the OP should really think about what her colleagues call themselves and is she selling herself short. These students will be going out in the world and should learn women deserve the same respect as men.

        1. Parakeet*

          There’s some universities where faculty are always listed as “Mr” and “Ms” (and now I presume “Mx” as well as it gains in popularity) in course catalogs because it was originally a sort of understatement-as-snobbery thing. “Of course the faculty at our great university have doctorates; specifying it just makes it sound remarkable when it isn’t.” I think the snobbery motive has faded a little – not because people are no longer snobby but because that way of showing it isn’t really in fashion anymore – but the tradition itself definitely still exists in some places.

    10. fhqwhgads*

      Ms is an OK option because the OP – the person being addressed – says it’s OK with her, and that’s enough to make it OK for her.

  15. David*

    Regarding letter 3: I don’t think I ever learned the meanings of Ms. and Mrs. until very late in my childhood or maybe even after I was an adult. In fact for quite a while I didn’t even realize they were different words, I just thought Ms./Miss was a shortened form of Mrs. And because every adult woman in my life (except family) was supposed to be addressed by one of these titles, which I thought were all the same, I grew up thinking that “Mrs./Ms./Miss [Lastname]” (interchangeably) was just the appropriate way to address any woman of higher status, same as how “Mr. [Lastname]” is the appropriate formal way to address any man of higher status.

    I don’t know how typical this is – I’m guessing not very – but my point is, I can see how some of the young people doing this may really have no idea about the true meaning of what they’re saying. So it’d be a great benefit for them if you can explain it. (This of course does not apply to the one who do know the meaning and do it anyway, but I suppose you can’t tell at first impression which are which)

    1. Gretta Swathmore*

      Guess you’re not a woman. I think I knew the difference between the three by like age 6 (feminist mom!)

      1. Beth**

        Another daughter of a feminist mother here. I remember when I was 8 or 9 years old and I was filling out some kind of form. I ticked “Miss” as my title and my mother was annoyed and told me I should have ticked “Ms”. I remember saying “Mom, I am 8 [or 9] years old. I don’t mind if they know I’m not married.”

      2. Nodramalama*

        Eh kids pick up weird shit. Both my parents are doctors so until I was in school I thought you called everyone Dr

      3. HBJ*

        I am a woman, and I’m pretty sure I was introduced to them being different when I found this site within the last few years. I thought Ms. was the shortened form of Miss, the same way Mrs. is technically an abbreviation of Mistress, and Mr. of Mister. And I had never noticed a pronunciation difference in real life.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Hmmm… I wonder if age and location make a difference. This was definitely something I learned growing up in the US (in a large, Midwestern suburban area) in the 70s and 80s, but based on some posts here, it seems like in some parts of the country, people are still learning the standards that I think of as those for my grandparents’ day.

      4. kiki*

        I am a woman and also did not know the difference until late childhood. I thought it had to do with age because that’s the general correlation I saw. I also thought Ms. was just an abbreviation for Miss. My mom and my friend’s moms were all Mrs. My older teachers were Mrs. My younger teachers were usually Miss or Ms.

        All that being said, I think that’s why it’s really helpful for teachers and professors to correct this stuff when they see it. Because for young people it genuinely is often just a lack of knowledge and it’s better for LW to let them know now when they’re a college student rather than their boss raising it in five years when the boss is actually offended.

    2. tg33*

      I remember doing ‘how to write a letter’ in primary school (in the ’70s), things like the address sloping to the right, and using Mr, Miss, Mrs. The correct way to address a married woman was Mrs. hisfirstname hislastname. A widow or divorced woman was addressed as Mrs. herfirstname hislastname. The use of Ms. came the 80’s, as far as I remember (but it may have been common elsewhere long before this).

      1. Snow Globe*

        Ms. was being promoted in the 70’s. (My high school library subscribed to Ms. Magazine in the 70’s, although I think I was the only one who read it.)

        1. Some Words*

          Fifth grade teacher was “Ms. Groovyteacher”. This was early 70’s. I recall this being a fairly major aspect of the equal rights movement.

      2. Not my real name*

        It was a somewhat important plot point in the original(1975) “One Day at a Time” sitcom that the main character wanted to be addressed as Ms. Romano after her divorce. Her employer was pretty snotty about it and would say the letters M and S then Romano.

        1. OaDC*

          I remember reading a YA novel in the 70s where it was a plot point that a junior high teacher chose to be called Ms.

          I would not describe my mother as being a feminist mom but Ms. was definitely in the water around that time.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Was it Paula Danziger’s “The Cat Ate My Gymsuit”?

            WOW, that title came up from the deep recesses of my brain.

    3. Rykard*

      We actually had a discussion about this with interns and of all of them, college students of both genders, only 1 of them knew the difference between Mrs. and Ms and how to use it (and it was a male intern too, which I thought was interesting, none of the female interns knew how it was used).

      I don’t think it’s something that is nearly as commonly taught anymore, the majority of them just assumed they were pretty much interchangable titles, or that Ms. was just a further abreviation of Mrs. Most of them just thought it was kinda weird that women would have two different honorifics depending on marital status when men just have the one, independent of marital status.

      And on top of that honorifics really just aren’t that common in any professional environment i’ve been in so far (late 20s). In college me and most other students just called professors “Professor [Name]” unless they said they went by Dr. [Name]. And at every job I’ve worked everyone just goes by first name, from individual contributors to C level.

  16. Sarah*

    LW1 – I *hate* this with a passion too. I just don’t respond unless they add more. Might be a little rude but I make sure I’m extra friendly when they do

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Same here. I don’t want to reward bad behavior. If they say “hey, do you have some time to chat about X topic now?” I’ll respond, but if it’s just “hi” or “how are you?” in a Slack DM, I ignore it. Just tell me what you want.

    2. Pretty as a Princess*

      Same. I treat these the same way I treat a missed call with no VM. I don’t think it’s rude at all, either. I understand that not every conversation is really suitable for email or chat, especially if it is a sensitive matter. But, if “you” (the general “you”) don’t at least give me something, I am not going to prioritize getting back to you, because you haven’t given me anything to work with. I’m not going to do the work of chasing you down. You reached out to me, and if it’s important enough for me to respond, you will somehow let me know why.

  17. Lily*

    When I run the world, every business will have clearly documented expectations for how email/teams/slack/messenger etc will be used, how they will not be used, and the appropriate protocols when using them before they are allowed to have more than 3 staff. The documentation will be reviewed before approval is granted, and will be rejected if the processes are deemed inefficient.

    In case you can’t tell, the inefficient ‘hi’ drives me nuts.

    In my previous workplace, where I was managing the team, this is the conversation over Teams when a team member wanted to set up a meeting with me:

    Yes, that’s right – NO CONVERSATION REQUIRED. They can see my diary. I block it out when I am busy, when I’m taking lunch, and when I want clear time to work uninterrupted on projects. I always keep some hours open. They can go ahead and book the meeting in. If they can’t really can’t find a spot, THEN they can message and suggest some options for when they can see that I’ve blocked out time but I’m not actually in a meeting. Everyone else in the team follows this process with each other too, with team expectations about what’s reasonable to block out etc.
    In my current (SOON TO BE FORMER!) workplace, this process starts with an inefficient hi, followed by a query as to ‘whether i might possibly be available at some point if I don’t mind…’ followed by some awkward back and forward about availability, and further awkward back and forward about who’ll book in the meeting. THIS IS WITH MY MANAGER! Many attempts to circumvent this failed. Oh, and also led to me being told that my communication style is too direct.
    Ahem. Sorry. Clearly I needed to vent that to an understanding audience.
    Back to writing handover notes and plotting my escape…

    1. Antilles*

      Interesting. This very much depends on the company culture and individuals.
      I don’t think I’ve ever, in my entire career, blocked off time for “lunch” because it bounces around a little. I know that I’m taking lunch, I know that lunch will likely begin sometime between 11 and noon, I know that lunch will take somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on what I decide to do on a given day, but it’s not consistent so it doesn’t really make sense to block off time for it.
      I also don’t think that sort of “just add yourself to the calendar” would work practically in my industry given how many meetings in (at least 80%, probably more like 90-95%) include some form of outsider like vendors, clients, or regulators. Very few of those external stakeholders share their calendar publicly, so the back-and-forth emails are pretty much a fact of life. And if you’re doing it for your 80+% external meetings, of course the team is going to do the same thing for the remaining <20% of meetings that are pure internal even if they can see my calendar.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I used to block 11:45 to 1:15 because I went to the gym (across the street from the office) at lunch.

        I later learned that my boss’s admin thought I shouldn’t be going to the gym during work so would deliberately set meetings for me with my boss during my blocked lunch times (which of course I accepted because he was my boss), even when we both had other times available.

        I should also note that I had many Skype meetings at 6:00 a.m. that I would take from home before going into the office. They were with our people in Dubai and I didn’t want them to have to stay late.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        When I don’t block off time for lunch, I get booked in meetings from 11:30 to 3:00 without a break. I think it depends on meeting load and on whether you have meetings across time zones as much as company culture.

  18. Bluz*

    LW3-oh my gosh. I feel for you. I don’t know why people do this and assume that women of a certain age must all be married and referred to as Mrs. Being a patient and going to see many doctors over the years I’ve had so many of them refer to me as Mrs. that it drives me bananas. It makes me wonder if they actually read my file since they usually state your marital status.

  19. Hrodvitnir*

    Re: LW1 I do feel like it is not wildly over-direct to tell people you’d like them to outline what they need either in the first message or directly after without waiting for a reply.

    Surely reasonable people are capable of hearing that without taking offense, though remembering your preference is probably a separate step to accepting the feedback.

  20. TheBunny*

    To add another complexity to the mix for LW#3…

    I’m married but did not take my husband’s name at all. There are no hyphenated names in my world. If you put Mrs. and my last name, it’s technically wrong as you are combining Mrs. with my maiden name. If you put Mrs. and my husband’s last name… while we all know you mean me…it’s technically wrong too as that’s not my last name.

    In formal communication, etiquette states I should be Ms. even if you know I’m married.

    It’s trivia and I rarely encounter it as an issue as most of my emails are addressed to my first name… but it’s another reason for LW#3 to absolutely stress what is and isn’t correct with her students to help them avoid future missteps.

    1. Shellfish Constable*

      Yes and yes! I didn’t take my husband’s name, so when I am addressed as Mrs Constable, that’s my mom. When, on the other hand, I am addressed as Mrs Husband, that’s my mother-in-law (whom I can’t stand, but, bygones). It’s an added layer of annoying when students — who know I’m married to Dr Husband and theoretically know we have the same degree — skip my honorific all together and call me Mrs Husband. Like, I’d take Ms. Constable. It’s so weird and sexist to skip right to Mrs Husband when that’s a name I don’t use professionally or privately. SMH

      1. TheBunny*

        It is weird. It doesn’t happen to me often…but it’s annoying when it does.

        I think, as Alison mentioned in her reply, it goes back years (men only have Mr. no matter how old or their status…GRR…) to when the polite assumption was that a woman was married. But let’s leave that firmly in the past.

    2. le teacher*

      Same here. I did not take my husband’s last name. I am a high school teacher so I am always addressed as Ms. LastName. I do not go by Mrs. and I do not like being called Mrs. So I use it as an educational opportunity, and whenever a student calls me Mrs. I tell them something like this “Just an FYI, I go by Ms. Helmers. ‘Ms.’ is the universal title for all professional women.” Most students react with something along the lines of “ohhh okay, I never knew that!” and it has never been a problem.

  21. Matt Cramp*

    LW2: consider engaging your younger coworker on a discussion of technical preferences in which no consensus can exist, such as emacs vs vi, or tabs vs spaces. Within a couple of minutes, she will deeply regret not seeing you as technically proficient, because if she had, she would have seen the trap coming.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oooooh yes. What else could you launch in to? Hm.

      Bash shell vs Korn shell
      All caps for SQL reserved words?
      Color coded cabling in the server racks
      Numbering physical components – start with 0 or 1?

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        That last point — it’s not even an argument. You always start with zero. Always. /s

        But yes, cables should be color coded. If you can’t get colored cables, at least color the labels. No /s at all. Or better yet, use actual b/w bars, since some people are color blind. (Although this only works until you get up to about six bars.)

    2. Ms. Elaneous*

      Go, Matt!

      and I loved the AAM advice, couldn’t possibly improve it, except to end with a half second pause, followed by ‘Dear”.

      You Go, OP

    3. Sara without an H*

      I am basically an evil person, but…I’d be sorely tempted to pat the offender on the arm and say something like, “Why, bless your heart! I helped set up this system. Do you have any questions I could answer? I’m here to help!”

      1. EmmaPoet*

        Given that the coworker has been spoken to about this and keeps on doing it, I don’t feel like this is all that evil. Could it be embarrassing for the coworker? Maybe, but at this point they’re being actively rude to OP.

      2. sometimeswhy*

        I’d want to do a version of this thing, minus the arm patting, plus an audience. “Primrose, I have noticed that you keep coming to me with really basic information about these systems. Since I helped build them, I’d be happy to set up some instructional sessions with you so you can get up to speed faster. Just let me know.”

      3. Petty Betty*

        It’s slightly petty, but honestly, it’s warranted at this point.

        It gets the message across and might just shock this young(ish) woman out of her appalling behavior. If it doesn’t, then yeah, the words “age discrimination” need to be shot across her nose.

    4. Florp*

      This is the answer.* I vote tabs vs spaces. If she doesn’t know what it means and Googles it, her head will explode.

      I’m in my 50s and I had a younger coworker like this. We’re a small apparel company and my degree is in textiles, but I am frequently the defacto IT/tech trainer/database architect/web developer, because I’m really good at figuring out computers without breaking them. I was responsible for a Novell Netware system straight out of college based on the sole qualification that I was able to read the manuals without crying. I had a 50ish colleague who ran IT for the NYC hub of a Big Shipping Company, and she was killer at hardware. Assembled and ran all the network cabling herself back in the day, built PCs, you name it. We built our server racks ourselves.

      The irony was, even though she felt the need to hold my hand, our Condescending Colleague was a textbook example of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” I was forever locking her out of various systems she’d messed up and I had to fix. She would very confidently tell me how to operate software she’d never used *while I was training her on that software.*

      One day we were hosting a VIP client and one of their engineers asked how we had rigged up a semi-automated function on a dumb sewing machine. It was chewing gum and string, really, but it was clever and he was kind of delighted by it. Turned out we had both gotten a start programming on a Commodore computer in our teens and we went down suuuper arcane tech nerd memory lane. Condescending Colleague looked sort of baffled but fascinated. So I summoned my most self-deprecating, gee whiz I’m old voice and said “You know, I probably wrote my first program before you were born! If you’re interested in learning I could point you to some resources.” Is there a young/old version of the word mansplaining? Whatever it is, she quit doing it at that point.

      I should say that CC was not my boss, but she didn’t report to me either, and I had plenty of political capital to spare. You’d probably have to adjust language and tone appropriately.

      *I also had a very recent college grad explain to me, our creative director, and the creative director of one of our clients what a dart is (which, if you sew clothing, is Sewing 101). He was trying to impress us with his knowledge and it inadvertently came out patronizing because he was super young and inexperienced. That earned him a private, gentle conversation. You can usually solve this stuff with a simple conversation if the offender isn’t actually trying to be a jerk.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        As someone in her early 50s, I have seen the same. While not everyone my age is that tech savvy, those of us who are had to learn to program the darn things to even use our computers back in the day.

        I notice that younger people are often very good at using the front end of systems, but they can struggle more with the back end. (Unless they have the training or took the time to learn more on their own.)

        1. Love to WFH*

          Modern operating systems and UIs have good search functionality, so it’s common for new college grads to know nothing directory structures. Good luck keeping files organized!

      2. Observer*

        I also had a very recent college grad explain to me, our creative director, and the creative director of one of our clients what a dart is

        OMG. That is hysterical! Also a classic example of not knowing what you don’t know.

      3. I Have RBF*

        I was responsible for a Novell Netware system straight out of college based on the sole qualification that I was able to read the manuals without crying.

        OMG! I can so relate to this. In the early 90s, I wasn’t responsible for the network, but our IT guy didn’t want to bother with the little people, so I got to answer any and all questions that were not strictly within his purview. I was a chemist.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

      eMacs? In my day we coded straight onto the darn hardware with switches and we liked it!

    6. Cranky Old Woman*

      I was doing volunteer work, and handling tech stuff for the group. Some younger folks joined and started condescending to me. Yes, dear, I’ve worked in tech since loooong before you were born. I work on software projects, and you’re a social worker. Being young doesn’t magically make you knowledgeable about tech!

      1. A Significant Tree*

        There is this persistent myth of the “digital native” that I guess some people really buy into! The phrase has been around for decades and it’s built on the idea that young people are tech savvy simply because X technology has been around for their whole lifetime (change X as needed for each successive generation). There may be elements that younger people are more familiar with, sure, but this idea grants wholesale deep tech knowledge simply by virtue of youth + existence of technology.

        So it leads to things like “we need to change how education* works because young people [probably] learn differently today than they used to” – despite all evidence to the contrary. That’s when you get proposals like “Let’s teach through VR, kids love VR right?” I mean, methods of instruction should evolve but based on actual data, not hypotheticals or assumptions. (* Education is one example, there are others – I see it all the time in my field’s research articles)

    7. Observer*

      consider engaging your younger coworker on a discussion of technical preferences in which no consensus can exist, such as emacs vs vi,

      Unless she has a preference.

      or tabs vs spaces

      Outside of pure programming? No. You will absolutely come of as “an old fogey”.

  22. Excel-sior*

    it’s one of those ones, for me, that depends on any previous relationship with the sender. if i like them and we get along, then it’s a bit annoying but not worthy of any effort getting worked up about it. if I don’t like you, then it’s one large step towards being included in the Grudge post!

  23. Not Australian*

    Drive-by solidarity for LW2. I was in a similar position at work: having been divorced in my late 20s after a few years of child-rearing I had a considerable skill gap, but was able to take what were then called ‘computing’ classes which gave me a massive advantage in returning to the workforce. In fact I was technically ahead of many people who’d worked continuously, because employers were only just then ditching the typewriters for word-processors. It didn’t stop me from being treated as if I didn’t know a mouse from a rat, though. Of course keeping up with new developments is important, but I’m going to assume you’ve done that. No advice, just empathy: they underestimate us at their peril!

  24. anywhere but here*

    LW#3, you’re going through a lot of work to justify what is an extremely reasonable and normal request – being addressed by the correct title. You have earned doctor and have earned professor, and it is inappropriate for your students to address you with a different title. I highly doubt any of the male professors are referred to as Mr.

    If you want to head things off before they start, you can say at the beginning of each course you teach, “You can call me Prof. Name, Dr. Name, or [whatever else you’re okay with].” Often it’s helpful to students to know, for example, which professors are okay with first name and which expect the title + last name.

    Honestly, it’s 2024, and anyone who hasn’t gotten the memo that not every woman is married or wants to be referred to as married in a professional context, deserves the embarrassment they bring upon themselves. I used to work with college students and if they ever referred to me as Mrs., I would simply state that the default term of address for a woman is Ms. I doubt they repeated that mistake with any other women after that.

  25. Sighsadmin*

    #1 – try being in IT and having people that do this, rather than lodging a ticket. Especially with the expectation that it’s not a social call.

    1. Mr. Mousebender*

      Oh good grief. Yes, Yes, YES!!! YESx1000!

      If I have given the impression that it drives me nuts, I can assure you that’s completely accurate:-)

  26. Holm*

    LW3, this problem comes up every month or so on the r/professors reddit; you might find it helpful to check out the responses on some of those threads.

  27. Outliers*

    LW3, please be clear this is your personal preference. Many very mild mannered professors and other women with doctorates get very offended by Ms. or Mrs. or Miss (equally). Perhaps it’s because I am old enough that it was less usual/harder for folks of my parents’ generation (and, to a lesser extent, for professors when I was in college) to get doctorates, but just about the most offensive thing you could call any of them was Miss/Ms/Mrs. This was exacerbated by the constant receipt of mail to “Dr and Mrs” instead of the correct “Dr and Mr” (and yes, the title takes precedence over the gender – I heard regular rants about this from my otherwise somewhat laissez faire mother).

    When I was in college many professors asked to be called by their first names. When I later worked at colleges I estimate it was about 50-50 between Dr and first name. You are literally the first professor I’ve ever heard ask someone to call them Ms. You have the right to ask folks to call you whatever you want to be called, but I suspect being outside of the norm isn’t helping for those who aren’t new students, and may be setting poor expectations of norms for folks who are.

    1. Hyaline*

      It’s also that Ms. is the appropriate default when you don’t know another professional title, not Mrs. (Something students should at some point be apprised of!) And it can be confusing in academic settings—not every person they come in contact with is a Professor or a Dr. (and some Profs are not Dr. and etc and so on).

  28. MeetMoot*

    Ughhh LW5 the struggle is real! XRef is the worst company but Aus government is obsessed with it. It’s a nightmare for the candidate too because they will also get reminders to remind their referee, in addition to the referee getting the emails. It’s absolutely absurd and particularly frustrating when the applicant is (like most people job-hunting) going for multiple roles.

    It’s the fastest way to destroy the relationship between a candidate and their referee and naturally a huge pain for everyone involved. I’m sure you’re not the type but please don’t hold it against the applicant. They have no control over the reminders or the fact that their potential employer has chosen to subject you to that.

    1. LW 5*

      Ohh Good, glad its not just me. Sad to see the Aus government using it too. I totally haven’t held it against the applicant, didn’t even tell her about the irritation.

      There was a lot of griping in the office however …

  29. bamcheeks*

    I get “Mrs” pretty regularly from international students and occasionally from UK students. The key thing for me is that anyone who calls me “Mrs” is trying to be respectful: I’ve never, ever been called it by someone who was intending it to be disrespectful. So it’s super important to me not to show any of my instinctive revulsion at being called Mrs, because it’s usually coming from someone who is already slightly out of their comfort zone in academic spaces and I don’t want to make them feel like they’ve made a major faux pas or offended me. (This is true for the groups of students I work with, it may not be for you.) We do so much work around things like the hidden curriculum and the alienation and culture clash that international and first-gen students experience in higher education, and this feels like a place where it would easy to make students feel they’ve made a major misstep even though they were trying to be polite, and that is really bad for the learning relationship.

    So I work really hard to make sure I correct it in a warm and friendly way, and recognise and affirm that they are being respectful, and that I am just giving them useful context on how to do that in a university setting. I usually say something like, “Oh, please don’t call me Mrs, I don’t use it— you’re fine to call me Bam, or if you’re more comfortable using a title it’s Ms or Dr Cheeks. Just not Mrs for me!” I smile as I say it. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as “of course everyone should know this!”, and I do think it’s important to do it in a way that recognises you have the power in this relationship and your job is to centre the student’s ability to learn.

    1. Lexi Vipond*

      I’ve had the weirdest collection of titles from (mostly international) students, ranging from ‘Professor’ (I’m not a PhD, or working as an academic) through ‘Mrs’ to ‘Honoured Madam’.

      Like you, I get the impression that it’s almost always people trying hard to be respectful in a setting they’re not quite used to.

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        The only thing I *mind* is being addressed as ‘Dear’ – not ‘Dear Lexi’, just ‘Dear, I am having a problem with…’ – and I do know it’s just someone misunderstanding English letter writing conventions!

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yes, I have had that too! And you do feel daft explaining that Dear Lexi is fine, but Dear by itself is Absolutely Not.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        There is definitely a context (spoiler: it’s steampunk) in which I could roll with “Honoured Madam.”

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Even if someone came at me with that one outside of the steampunk context, I think I could roll with it lol that’s pretty badass

    2. Hyaline*

      Very much agree with “they’re not trying to cause offense so start from that assumption.” It’s hard to come off as a jerk when you’re sympathetic to that; it’s easy to slip into being standoffish or curt if you assume they’re being rude.

    3. amoeba*

      I was wondering whether some of the “offending” students were international! At least in German and French (and I believe also Spanish, probably quite some other languages?), the convention is to call everybody the equivalent of “Mrs.”. So, we abolished the “Fräulein”/”Mademoiselle” for unmarried women, but instead of changing to a neutral form, we just adapted the “Mrs”/”Frau”/”Madame” for all women, regardless of age or marital status. It took me until my 30s and this blog to realise it’s actually different in English, we certainly didn’t learn it at school!

      In addition, on a first glance, “Ms.” (to us, at least) looks like an abbreviation for “Miss”. (And honestly, “Miz” and “Miss” basically also sound the same, when pronounced with a German accent, haha… we’re not good on soft consonants at the end of words.)

      So at least German, French, and Spanish native speakers might honestly believe “Mrs” is the appropriate address for women!

      (As for the name vs. honorific: at least in Germany, and at least in my field, it’s pretty normal to drop the “Dr,/Professor”, unless you’re being super formal. On the other hand, we’re rarely/never on first name terms with our teachers/professors. “Herr/Frau XY” would be the standard way for me to address everybody. Only weirdly formal/full of themselves people tended to insist on “Actually, it’s Dr.!”)

  30. lisaa*

    I set my slack status to point to which is a lovely little website that explains why just saying hello in a separate message with nothing else can be annoying. It doesn’t completely solve the problem (not everyone will look for/read links in statuses) but it has helped!

  31. Professor Dr. She Who Shall Not Be Named*

    OP here. Thanks for all of the comments – I especially appreciate the links! The points made in the replies illustrate how the choice of honorific can seem simple, but actually represents a variety of deeper issues (which, tbh, are the basis for my “pet peeve”).
    I wrote in looking for confirmation that my view of honorifics is consistent with workplace norms. However, the discussion has helped me realize that my hesitation to educate students on this topic reflects the deeper problem. A major reason the default is not my earned honorific is that I am a woman. But, put bluntly, I have been dissuaded from reinforcing the correct honorific because a (small?) subset of my mostly male students will label me as a witch (with a capital “B”) if I do so. Clearly some will conclude it shows I just need to “get over myself.” (Also, I could unintentionally make a well-intentioned student feel bad). These are examples of the “blowback” I referenced in my letter.

    AAM letters often highlight challenges faced by women in the workplace and I think I have been remiss by side-stepping this topic with my students. I now feel enabled to be part of the solution – my tiny crusade shall commence in the fall!

    1. Zircon*

      I read your letter and the replies to here, and then went and spoke to a friend who is a (female) professor (and a PhD) in a usually male field. She’s married, but hasn’t taken her husband’s name. When I asked if the same happens for her, she nearly boiled over! We had a great discussion about how this doesn’t happen for male professors etc. She always corrects students, often telling them Mrs [lastname] is her mother. In this part of the world (Not the US) it is common for students at tertiary level to call staff by their first names, so she tells them “I am not Mrs [Lastname]. That is my mother. Please call me Professor [Lastname] or Dr [Lastname] or just [Firstname]”. She says it is especially first year students who have this problem and she doesn’t think any more female professors should have to put up with it!!!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I tend to have the same reaction as your friend – both for this, and for things like people assuming my pronouns (gender-neutral first name) based on the context in which I’m interacting with them. It’s a microaggression, a lot of the time. And even if some people don’t know or don’t have the cultural context or just make an honest mistake, the accumulation of those small jabs over time can cause real frustration – and reflect deeper issues with the assumptions we make as a society.

    2. Alanis*

      You should tell them that you didn’t spend 6 years in Evil medical school to be called Mr. Evil. Or translate it to you didn’t spend X years in getting a Witch phd to be call Mrs Witch.

    3. Allonge*

      Hi LW – just to say that about a quarter of a century ago I got the following message from a professor of mine at the time (via email, after addressing her as Ms Lastname):

      ‘Please call me Dr Lastname or feel free to call me Firstname’.

      I appreciated the clarity this brought!

      Don’t be discouraged by the rude responses, it’s really ok to insist on what you should be called. It definitely does not make you pretentious or anything bad at all. And hey, if students are rude in writing, maybe there is a formal way to address that too.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Exactly. Somebody’s being rude in that scenario, but it’s NOT the person politely saying “Please call me Dr. X.” It’s the twits who have decided what Dr. X prefers doesn’t matter.

    4. Shellfish Constable*

      Hi Dr OP3! I replied below with some ideas or addressing the situation in the moment, but in solidarity I would like to say: you are absolutely correct about the blowback from male students claiming women are “insecure” for asking to be addressed by their honorific. At first, I found it mortifying to have to address this with students. But when I started thinking of it as free professional development (whether they wanted it or not), it cut down on the awkwardness considerably.

      I should also note that I have male colleagues who will not reply to emails addressed to their first name or Mr. I tell my students that, too.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Free professional development is good framing.

        See also whether you should send a video of the automatic stapler by the copier to everyone in the office, to introduce them to this astounding wonder. Or that when you ask an outside person to review a paper, you should include a detailed timeframe. (Two past letters.)

    5. Hyaline*

      You absolutely should feel empowered to address this! You can also temper any lingering discomfort with the pragmatic fact that you can pick your battles. I definitely don’t correct every student who refers to me incorrectly. I try to catch it early and I try to address it with the whole class at once, so that one person doesn’t feel singled out. This is probably easier in some settings than others, but I usually look for an excuse to segue into explaining how titles work and what my title is and what their title should be in a professional setting, which as I teach a lot of freshmen is often Brand New Information. After that, I read the room and if it’s not going to land well in the moment I let it go. If a simple correction is easy to slip into conversation or an email, great! But if I had a student who was already very uncomfortable or very nervous or was talking to me for a difficult issue (or crying…) I would definitely skip over it when they called me Mrs. first name or whatever. You’re a smart, insightful professional—rely on your good judgment.

    6. Kay Cee*

      I totally feel you. I’m not really a titles person, but I once received an email addressed to “Dr. Doe and Mrs. Cee” and it was annoying that my male colleague got the honorific and I didn’t.

      I phrase it like this on Day 1 in class: “I go by Kay but if you use a title, you should use the correct one, which is Dr. or Prof” I also give them a tip to watch how people sign their name in emails to pick up on their preference (I’m always thrilled when a student thinks to do this for me).

      I think this is valuable as it can be a precursor to getting comfortable using people’s correct pronouns, another title that may not always be clear at the outset but should be obeyed once shared.

    7. No creative name yet*

      As for the question about workplace norms, at least in my experience it’s a little different in that everyone uses a first name with another adult, even with people way above you in the hierarchy. At least when I was in college and grad school most professors did prefer some kind of title (Dr. or Prof.) rather than first name. I suppose in both workplace and academic settings it’s not appropriate to use “Mrs.” and will seem strange. (Occasionally I’ll get an email from an intern or college student requesting an informal interview or something that will use an honorific and it’s noticeable to me.) I think you’re right to stress to them not to defer to Mrs, and perhaps the most important thing is to be mindful of the norms in whatever environment they’re in and to call people what they want to be called.

      1. Observer*

        As for the question about workplace norms, at least in my experience it’s a little different in that everyone uses a first name with another adult, even with people way above you in the hierarchy.

        The thing is that this is absolutely not universal. And it is important for students to understand this.

        Also, regardless, it’s never ok to assume anything about someone’s marital status. And it’s also not ok to use Mr. / Ms. rather than the correct title if you are using titles. Which is why “Allison” would not be offensive, but I’d be rolling my eyes SO hard if someone addressed her as “Mrs. Green”. And it would be offensive to email Ms. Female Doctor, but Dr. Male Doctor.

        It’s a workplace issue, because when you make that mistake when dealing with coworkers, management, vendors, clients, partners, etc. it can have some real repercussions.

    8. Some Words*

      I’ll be cheering for you.

      Signed, Ms. Somewords who kept her name upon marriage and has apparently confused the world ever since.

      I’d love parents to learn these things and teach them to their children. People shouldn’t be confused by this type of issue at college age.

    9. Eldritch Office Worker*

      For every witch-with-a-B student, you’ll get a student (or two) who both appreciates and takes to heart the distinction and the fact that it matters, and that there’s a long entrenched history as to why it matters.

      As for the well-intentioned students, I think the language Allonge suggests in this thread is perfect, and if they have follow-up questions that’s a great opportunity to educate!

      But titles, like names, nicknames, and pronouns, do matter and impact how we interact with the world around us, so you get to have preferences and you deserve to have those preferences respected.

    10. DancinProf*

      I’m a married woman feminist with a Ph.D. who did not take her husband’s name and who has worked in academia in the American South and with international students. I think I’ve been called every permutation of my first and/or last name plus or minus all the honorific titles! One semester I got frustrated enough with hearing/reading “Mrs. Lastname” from my first-year writing students that I broached the topic in class by asking them how many had had their names mispronounced at some point (nearly all) and how many didn’t like it (nearly all). It was a good opening for me to explain what I prefer to be called (Dr. Lastname) and why. It’s clear that with all the cultural factors in play we can’t expect people to Just Know, so we’d better be prepared to tell them!

      1. Observer*

        I broached the topic in class by asking them how many had had their names mispronounced at some point (nearly all) and how many didn’t like it (nearly all).

        That is *excellent*. Yes, the gendered aspect is important for people to learn about and understand. But THIS gives people a hook to understand the issue in a more basic way. And in a way that makes it easier to change behavior and harder to justify (even internally) not changing behavior.

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      Frankly my first reaction is that subset of male students can stick it up their wassholes, with a capital B! But of course I’m not the one dealing with them all year.

  32. NothappyinNY*

    LW3, you may already been doing this, but a plea from all students, put the name you wanted to be used on your syllabus. I do not care if it is Dr. Smith, Ms Smith or whatever.

    1. Not Mrs. T.*

      I definitely do this (high school teacher — Ms. not Dr.), but I’m not sure how much it actually cuts down on how often I get “Mrs.” I’m sure it does make a difference, but I still get Mrs. a LOT, especially in emails. And even from parents.

      1. Some Words*

        As I mentioned upthread, I kept my name when I got married. When the Christmas card arrives he invariably includes my husband’s last name as part of my name. We’re having our 25th anniversary this week so it’s not like he hasn’t had time to figure it out.

        Gosh, what could be driving this decades long practice of overriding a woman’s stated preference here? It’s a mystery to be sure.

        1. Worldwalker*

          My MIL has been doing this for 30 years. She’s so lovely in other ways that I’ve just given up asking.

  33. feline overlord's chief vassal*

    OP #3, huge teachable moment!

    You’re a professor with a doctorate, right? These kids should learn right quick that people who have earned the educational qualification to be called Dr. might be offended to not be addressed with the proper title. It’s something new to them– they’ve just spend an eternity in the K to 12 system, where it’s likely that none of their teachers had doctorates.

    Orthogonal to the sexist assumptions implicit in Mrs., I think. Recently I accidentally referred to a (male) colleague as “Mr. Diaz” when I knew full well that he’s a “Dr. Diaz”. I was mortified, and corrected myself immediately. He wasn’t even there and I was embarrassed (on account of sounding ignorant, I don’t think he’s sensitive about formalities).

    Note that in French they’ve been moving to Mme (Madame) for all women regardless of marital status. I don’t know about other languages. Perhaps international students might need a lesson in English title etiquette. Not for your case, though– you’re Dr. Green/Professor Green!

    1. Never the Twain*

      That at least does have the benefit of symmetry – ‘madame’ is literally ‘my lady’ so parallels ‘monsieur’. I guess the same is true of Dutch ‘menheer’ and ‘mevrouw’, though the possessive forms in there are obsolete now.

  34. DD*

    LW1 – Our system has a default to pop up in the lower corner with the 1st message when someone initiates a chat. I’ve seen sensitive and/or embarrassing information pop up on people’s screens during presentations or while working with someone using their screen many times. If my first message/request has anything that I wouldn’t want sent to every person in the company I will start with a generic greeting to get that first pop up message out of the way and put the sensitive info in the 2nd message that doesn’t automatically pop-up.

    1. Allonge*

      I think that’s a bit different, in that the second message is coming up right after the Hi. The problem is not that people say Hi, it’s that they seem to be waiting for a response before sharing any other details of what they actually want.

    2. Pocket Mouse*

      Then at least type out the both messages before sending the first (type it all out, then cut the message #2 part, send #1, paste and send #2) so the recipient doesn’t have to wait for you to type the real content.

      Or make the first message generic, but useful: “Hi! I came across some alarming comments on the feedback form and would like to review them with you. Let me know when you have a moment.”

    3. Clearly Clueless*

      This!!!! So many people share screens – sadly ours system doesn’t hide the second message. Don’t really want everyone see you asking, “how someone is doing on a PIP”

      1. Nodramalama*

        Does your messaging system not show people you’re doing that? On teams if you’re sharing your screen people cans re you’re presenting and the message won’t pop up

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        I would argue that some conversations are not appropriate for Teams chat messages ever, and discussing performance is one of them. Those should be in a phone call if we’re not looking to document or in a formal email if we are looking to document. In your situation, if someone wants a checkup about Bob’s performance, they should schedule some time to chat about it.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This ^

          I get sensitive teams messages during presentations sometimes too, and I am very proactive about telling people that might happen (and tbh then turning off the notification so it doesn’t) so that they think about what they send me in the future in that format.

          Nothing in writing, at work, is private.

    4. Cat Tree*

      There are two better options here. For the person presenting, turn off those notifications while presenting. For the person sending the message, don’t send it when someone has the “presenting” status, as they are unlikely to reply anyway. Send email instead.

  35. Reality.Bites*

    I’m 65 for another week and have been working with computers for over 40 years. I’ve occasionally had assumptions made by people who don’t know me well in my personal life, but not in the workplace where it was my job to know more than non-tech people.

    My personal inclination would be to embarrass the hell out of new person by publicly demonstrating not only that I know my stuff, but how incredibly large the gap between her knowledge and mine was.

    (I’m not a nice person when I’m being patronized)

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’m confused by how #2 is playing out. Once the supervisor starts over-explaining things, why doesn’t OP jump in and show they understand the technology very well? It’s wrong of the boss to make the assumption but I don’t think OP needs to be passive once it starts – assert yourself in the moment. “Yes, I know. I know where the start button is and what it does. I’ve been using computers for decades now. Yes, the left-click on the mouse does X and the right click does Y, don’t worry, I know.”

      1. Myrin*

        (Just to avoid confusion – the younger woman isn’t OP’s boss, she’s just in a leadership role in general. OP’s actual boss is on OP’s side and has spoken to younger woman about her treatment of OP.)

        Yeah, I, too, was wondering if I might be imagining these situations correctly because as it stands, OP hasn’t actually stopped her coworker in her tracks yet once this behaviour starts, and Alison’s answer seems to be presupposing that, too. So when I got to OP’s “How can I make her see that I am competent in this area?”, my immediate thought was “You tell her!”. I’m wondering if, when condescending coworker starts being condescending, OP is just standing there without saying anything? (Because that’s what it sounds like in the letter.)

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Maybe it’s happening in meetings where the OP doesn’t want to seem to be undermining a person in a leadership role?

          1. OP2 here*

            I have stopped her in her tracks multiple times, both politely and not so politely, but it keeps happening. It’s like there’s a reset button in her brain that erases what I’ve said and done.

            And yes, it is as simple as “here is the Start button. You can use it to turn the computer off as well”.

    2. Christmas Carol*

      I am also 65 for another week, and as I like to point out, I’m 3 years younger than Bill Gates.

      1. MsM*

        My mom likes to remind me that she programmed a computer using punch cards while she was in college.

        1. Angstrom*

          Yup. It’s not unusual for young folks to think that “understands tech/computers” means understanding the latest hot thing. Decades of experience with legacy systems doesn’t count. ;-)

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        When I get people bloviating about how nobody over 30 can possibly be qualified for a programming job I’ll ask them about exactly how old they think people who invented various technologies are today.

    3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      I sometimes feel tempted to do this with extremely patronising people but I wouldn’t go straight to this approach.

      LW can directly, politely say “yes I know, I set this programme myself.”

      And even if that doesn’t stop it, LW can try Alison’s suggestions first.

      Naming it and saying “hey do you realise you do this” might work well. LW doesn’t describe the woman doing this as a jerk or unreasonable. She’s probably just got this ageist unconscious bias.

    4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I just flat-out tell people things like “I’ve been using computers since before they had hard drives”. But with a big smile, and a change of topic.

  36. Fluffoth*

    I had to ask a colleague if he was OP#1 because I do that (we even use Teams). He is not. For clarity I will ask straight away if what I’m after is a primary work concern, but if it’s advice or a can-live-with situation, I’ll just drop a “hi” to make the other person aware I need something but not urgent enough to drag them off a task that’s more important. The colleague in question resolved his version of this problem by asking me to not do this, so I don’t with him.

    I’ve also had people do this to me for various issues on subjects I’m considered the specialist in, but I read it as the same non-urgent message I use, so treat it as such. The bit I’m tripped up by is when the “hi” is later followed up by “everything is on fire.” Say that part first!

  37. Hyaline*

    Fun fact: many undergraduate students I have worked with do not realize that Mrs. is a title for married women. Many of them think that it’s just a title for adult women and Ms. is a title for girls like Miss or even an abbreviation of Miss. LW3, correct away. It’s been helpful for students to learn that the default in professional settings is typically Ms. (I tried to alleviate any confusion by including in the syllabus, course website, introducing myself on the first day and actually writing on the board old-school you can call me Prof or Ms. Hyaline and I still get Mrs. and Dr. and various other permutations frequently.)

  38. Shellfish Constable*

    To LW #3: first of all, I send you a hearty and virtual note of PREACH. It’s such an awkward situation that has been getting worse over the years. I think many commenters are correct that it’s an extension of high school norms, but as I noted above, it also raises my hackles a bit that somehow my male colleagues are automatically “Professor Ridcully” while I am “Mrs Weatherwax.”

    One tactic I’ve used is a changeable email signature. So, when I get an email addressed to Mrs I reply with my email signature changed from reading “Granny Weatherwax, PhD” to “Dr Weatherwax.” Nine times out of ten that does the trick. It’s a bit passive but I do think it saves wading into the minefield of being perceived as That One Demanding Woman desperate to be formally addressed, when really all I want is the same consideration given to my male colleagues.

    If that subtle change doesn’t work then I include an addendum in my reply that says basically what you’ve said here: I don’t mean to embarrass anyone so consider this a teachable moment … women are often not addressed by their academic honorific … many women are not married/ to a man/ use their spouse’s last name (hi, it’s me) … for your own future professional development please look up your addressee before emailing and/or address all your college instructors as “professor” until invited otherwise. Generally, it works like a charm.

    And all of this is a separate issue from the students who send emails that start with the word “hey.”

    1. Shellfish Constable*

      Oh, and I meant to say: I also introduce myself in class as “Dr Weatherwax” and on all course syllabi. I’m not sure it helps but I do put it out there.

      1. Allonge*

        I am sure it helps – some people actually listen to / read this stuff! It’s just not a universal solution.

  39. Cookies*

    Ugh, the “hi” only thing is so frustrating. Or other similar context-less messages like “hey can you join a call?” The context really matters here – is production on fire, or do you just want to chat about why you don’t like some feature we just shipped?
    Not much you can do when it’s someone not on your team, but I have no qualms about telling an intern on our team they should just get to the point in their first message and save us both time. I tend to respond to the “hi” message with the phrase “Hey, what’s up?” in an effort to get to the point quicker. If someone messages with a vague message like “Can you join this call?” I always ask what they wanted to discuss before I’d get on a call.

  40. Dinwar*

    1: I’m going to again take a contrarian viewpoint here. I like this sort of thing. If they text “Hi”, and I don’t text anything, they know I’m either away from my computer or am too busy to respond to something, and they’ll either call (if it’s critical) or email (if it’s not). “Yo” and “Are you available?” serve similar functions, depending on one’s relationship with the specific coworker.

    There’s also the fact that “Hi” puts me in the driver’s seat. If they launch into their question they have no idea what I’m doing, and they simply presume that whatever they want is more important. Often it is not. Having someone demand I drop everything because they wanted to get ahead on next week’s meeting agenda, when I’m trying deal with a site that’s literally on fire, gets old fast. In contrast, if they say “Hi”, I get to make the next move, and can let them know if/when I’ll be available. It’s much more considerate, as it recognizes that I’m busy too!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      So you don’t use out-of-office/away/in-a-meeting notifications? I love that in Slack, as I can see the status for everybody right next to their name.

      1. Dinwar*

        “So you don’t use out-of-office/away/in-a-meeting notifications?”

        No, I don’t use out-of-office notifications every time I leave my desk. Nor do I use them when emergencies come up and I’m at my desk dealing with them. (That “site is literally on fire” thing is not hyperbole; it’s happened multiple times.) Nor do I use them when I’m buried in some task. The nature of my job is such that I really can’t; I need to be available in case of emergencies. “Hi” tells me this is not an emergency–if it was you’d be calling me and letting me know what’s going on immediately. And setting an away message sixteen times a day would take up an unreasonable amount of time.

        To give an example: It’s not unusual for several of us in my office to meet up at the coffee pot and start discussing things. These discussions range from “I’m going to take next Friday off” to “Is this going to send us all to prison and how do we find out?” They can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour. I’m not going to set my away message every time I get a cup of coffee, but I will help my peers figure out how to deal with the various projects we’re running (it’s part of the job).

        Part of this is that I’m primarily office staff on a jobsite supporting the fieldwork (construction management, that sort of roll). Which means I get pulled into a lot of field-related stuff, including site inspections, oversight, random meetings to discuss technical issues, that sort of thing. And if you’ve done field work, you know that often these need to be done immediately so as to minimize downtime (ten people plus four pieces of equipment down for an hour gets expensive fast). And the nature of fieldwork is such that you can’t predict when these will happen. If you could, they wouldn’t happen. When someone says “I don’t think this wire’s hot, but we hit it with the excavator” you don’t stop to put an away message up.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Ah, yeah ok that all makes sense. You’ve got a desk job, but it interfaces w/ a lot of non-desk people.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          As someone in a similar role, I find that Teams does this pretty automatically. If I’m in a meeting, or put heads down time on my calendar, it’s red, if I’m not at my desk it’s yellow – it’s not perfect but there’s usually some kind of indication about availability.

    2. Allonge*

      And this just shows that it’s all about org culture / personal preference.

      ‘Hi’ does not put me (personally) in the driver’s seat because I have no idea what it’s about (I just typed out a long list of things I get asked below).

      If I have some indication of what is the issue I need to be involved in, I have sufficient information on what to prioritise and I get to decide what I can do about it. If something else is on fire (in my case, only figuratively), I am ignoring it like a pro, without the additional questions in my mind about how much of a fire this new request is, whether it has a connection to the fire I am fighting, or if it will require the same resources to fight.

      Put another way: I will get the request either way. It’s a demand on my time, for sure, but I am paid for this time. Not having to beg for getting the request feels much better to me.

      1. Dinwar*

        I have never viewed simple courtesy as begging, and am frankly baffled by the concept.

        1. Allonge*

          Ok, maybe begging is too strong a word. Still, if one of my colleageus obviously wants something from me, why is it on me to coax this information out of them?

          Or the other way around, why would it not be within the limits of courtesy for them to share their request? Just because they ask for something, it does not mean they expect an immediate, drop everything else response.

          It’s work, I am paid for this, I am happy to help, but some of the things I can help with take five seconds (which I can almost always do immediately and then we can be on our merry ways) and some take five days, and it’s helpful to me if I know which one we are talking about, more or less. So I really don’t think that sharing a request is discourteous as such.

    3. Nodramalama*

      Hi doesn’t put me in the driver’s seat at all! It makes me say “hi” back and then have to wait for them to say whatever they want.

      And sometimes it’s followed with “how are you” and we’re at least four messages before they tell me what on earth they want.

      1. Dinwar*

        “It makes me say “hi” back and then have to wait for them to say whatever they want.”

        Or you can ignore it, I’ll realize you’re busy, and I’ll find a different way to get what I need. Either way I now know a bit more about your availability than I would from the little green/yellow/red thingy on Teams. Or you can say “In the middle of something, can you set up a meeting?” Or you can say “I’m swamped; is this urgent?” (Not all urgent requests are obvious, I’ve had requests for well completion diagrams that needed to be done within the hour.) There are lots of responses possible other than “Hi”.

        In contrast, starting out with “I need you to send me these reports” always comes across as incredibly demanding and abrupt to me. It’s the equivalent of barging into my office, interrupting my work, and demanding I drop everything to deal with whatever it is you have decided is supposed to be my priority. If you’re my boss’s boss or the site is currently on fire, sure, that’s appropriate! But if you’re asking for something because you’re too lazy to look on the server where I told you it was six times, not so much. And in my experience most people don’t bother to check if I’m available or not fall into the latter category.

        “And sometimes it’s followed with “how are you” and we’re at least four messages before they tell me what on earth they want.”

        Sure. And I for one enjoy those sorts of conversations–the ones that ramble a bit and meander. Not merely because I prefer to interact with people as humans, but also because there are real financial gains from doing this. One such conversation saved my business group $50,000 and avoided a huge ding to our reputation (we did the math after the fact). Chatting with various folks who end up in our field office has allowed us to pre-empt any number of significant inconveniences (like our building’s power being shut off, which no one told us about). It’s also a great way to keep tabs on each other’s mental health, which can become a significant issue is my line of work. And of course if it’s my boss or his boss I’m going to chat, because I’m not stupid and I’m bucking for a promotion.

        Again, none of this is right or wrong. It’s all going to depend on the culture of the workplace and the relationship with the person in question. But the more chatty methods aren’t wrong either. They are just different approaches to conversation and different views on how text-base communication works.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Or you can ignore it, I’ll realize you’re busy, and I’ll find a different way to get what I need.

          Except if you told me upfront what you needed I might be able to take a second and get it to you. If all I see is “Hi” with nothing else my assumption is this isn’t something important.

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      No context at all benefits no one. Maybe you’re too busy for questions on X but questions on Y would actually be a top priority that trumps whatever you’re currently working on! There is no way for you to know how important or urgent their question might be if you don’t know anything other than “hi.”

      People don’t need to detail everything right away. If they are just checking to see if you’re available to chat then it’s better to say something like “Hi, do you have any availability to talk about the changes to the Y on the XYZ project?”

      1. Katara's side braids*

        Yes, exactly! I have no way of knowing if I’m too busy for what you need if I don’t know what you need. There have been plenty of times when someone thought I would have to go out of my way for something that ended up taking me 30 seconds, or vice versa. Just tell me what you want so I can accurately determine if I have the time.

    5. Katara's side braids*

      I disagree with your second point – I definitely feel that way about phone calls; anyone who calls me MUST think that whatever they want is more important than what I’m doing in the moment. But if they message me on Teams instead of calling me, the very fact that they chose an asynchronous medium means they’re ok with me not dropping everything to get to their message. That’s why it makes no sense to me to just send “hi” and nothing else. I still start my Teams message with “hi”, but include my actual question in the rest of the message. Most people seem to understand that I’m not making an urgent/immediate demand the way a phone call would imply.

    6. YouControlResponses*

      Your ,mistake is thinking that messages need to be addressed immediately. They don’t, unless someone messages you that something is on fire or someone is dying (but really, they should gave better and more immediate ways to call out for help). Messaging is a convenience you can deal with as you see fit. No one is ever owed an immediate response (unless it’s your boss who says drop everything – then you should reply asap).

  41. Leira*

    I just started at a company that uses Teams, so I’m learning the etiquette for the first time. To me, when I reach out with just “Hi X” what I mean is, “are you available to talk now?” So if they respond I launch into the context and question, and if they don’t respond I reach for a different mode of communication (phone if it’s really time sensitive and email if it can wait a bit or just be an FYI). If I email, I usually try to close the loop by just messaging “sent you an email.”

    The things I’m messaging are Unscheduled and need a response to move forward, and can be very time sensitive, because of the nature of my work. And I have learned this method directly by watching others in my role do it.

    1. Leira*

      I will add that because of my role, the person I’m messaging will pretty much always have an idea of what I’m messaging about (and that there’s probably a relatively time sensitive component). But this generally seems to be the norm, so I’m really surprised that people hate it so much!

      1. Allonge*

        To be honest, this part (knowing what it’s about and if it’s urgent) makes a huge difference to me. I get chat questions from an org of over 300 people, and they have a huge variety of ‘where is this thing’
        ‘are you in the office to give me llama brushes’
        ‘is there a way to find out what X usually costs’ (where the response may be sure, it’s 500 dollars or it will take a week as we don’t have reporting organised that way)
        ‘what was the latest on teapot curvature’
        ‘what is the deadline for Y’
        ‘have you seen this email from finance, what do they mean’
        ‘can you sign this’
        ‘can I sign this’
        ‘do you know where your boss is, and can we schedule a meeting with the two of you for 13 October 10-11.00’
        ‘when three weeks ago you reported that you will spend 40 000 dollars on chocolate events in 2027, where did that number come from and why did it go up from 38 000 in 2023’
        ‘can you walk me through this 60-page report chapter by chapter’
        and so on – with varying deadlines.

        Frankly, I need some context before I can decide if I have time to deal with you in the 10 minutes before my next meeting. So a Hi is pretty useless for this.

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        The thing is, I think everyone understands that “Hi X” is really the universal sign for “are you available to talk” but most of us want context to understand if you’re asking for a 5 second ask or an ask that requires at least an hour of my time. My entire day could get eaten up in the number of asks that I get from people pinging me, leaving me with nothing done on my own to-do list.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          this this this this this! we all get that you’re trying to figure out if we’re available, but we can’t accurately respond to that without knowing what you want.

    2. Jo*

      I’m so surprised by the strong feelings against this. I share your interpretation. It’s merely a greeting testing the waters as to the person’s availability. Even with the tags for away or busy, people often show as “available” when they’d rather focus on their current task. They may be in conversation with a collogue standing at their desk. Or otherwise engaged even though Teams shows them as available.

      I’d liken it more to a phone RINGING sound. Answer or don’t answer at your convenience. If all you get is the phone ring and no actual message, there’s no need to call back. That person will track you down in another attempt if they need you. And I’m from the Jones generation so not one of the “new kids”.

      1. Jo*

        Oops, this may not be positioned where I thought it was…under the comment about being a contrarian on this and taking the opposite view…

      2. Allonge*

        I guess my thing is: I may or may not be available for handling your specific request right now, depending on what that is. Part of my job – frankly, part of just about everyone’s job at our org, with the exception of some very hihg level people – is to be available for random-ish requests.

        Just because I cannot answer Hi back this moment, does not mean I could not handle yours in the next 10 minutes / hour. Similarly, saying hello back means nothing other than my desk is not actively on fire right now. ‘Hi’ is not a very reliable way to judge whether or not I can respond to your request.

      3. MCMonkeybean*

        But how can someone know if they would rather focus on their current task if they don’t know what the alternative is? There might be some things I would drop my current task for because your issue is a higher priority, and there is no way to know if that’s the case if you don’t give me any context.

    3. tabloidtained*

      Why would you bother with Teams at all then? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just call or email, depending on what you need?

    4. A. Noni Mouse*

      I think that’s fair and it sounds like it works at your company. For me, the reason I’d rather there be more context in the additional message is so that I know whether I should pull away from my current work or not. When someone messages me, “Hi”, I often don’t know how to prioritize that message until they give more context. So I’ll write back, “Hi” as well at which point they’ll note what they need. If it’s low priority, I’ve now been pulled away from my previous task long enough that it’s going to take me a minute to get back into it. If it’s high priority, I can address it right away. However, if they start the message with, “Hi, I’ve got the TPS document that I need your signature on”, then I know just from glancing at the notification if I need to stop my current task or if I can keep on it until I reach a good stopping point and then turn to the Teams message. It allows me the option to stay focused or not, whereas just a generic “Hi” message forces me to interrupt what I’m doing and makes me feel like I need to respond to get the context I need.

      However, it sounds like that’s not how it works at your organization. I would just give the heads up that other organizations may feel strongly differently (based on the responses here especially!), so I’d be ready to consider changing this if you ever move to another company.

    5. Managing While Female*

      “if they don’t respond I reach for a different mode of communication (phone if it’s really time sensitive and email if it can wait a bit or just be an FYI).”

      Am I understanding this right? You’re testing whether they’re available with the ‘hi’ IM and if the recipient indicates that they’re NOT available by not responding you cold call them? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just put the context of your ask into the original message so that the receiver can appropriately prioritize what is on their own plate with your ask? Then, whenever they have a second to answer your question, they can just IM you back real quick? Or call you if it needs more of an explanation? Or let you know when they will be available to address your question?

      It takes SO MUCH MORE TIME to play the ‘hi’ game than it does to just add context for what you’re IMing about.

  42. Hawk*

    LW 1: I know I’m guilty of this. I usually do it to make sure someone is actually available vs the symbol that they are? But also I know exactly what you mean. I (and others I know) will often respond with “Hi, what’s up?” as a way to ask what they need but it’s also a social greeting? (I’m neurodivergent and small talk stuff is not my favorite)

    LW5: That’s an automated service. I just helped someone with it at my library. Be prepared for a lengthy website with a lot of questions and then an upload with a reference letter. My poor patron spoke English as a second language and it was rough. Good luck.

  43. HonorBox*

    Immediately jumping in to comment on the first letter.

    I HATE the “hi” message. My kids do this when they text me. I’ve told them I don’t need a “hi” or a “hey Dad” to open up the conversation. Just ask the question. It slows things down a bunch when you’re expected to acknowledge the opening to the conversation. I think I’d tell your coworkers to just ask the question versus waiting to have you respond to their greeting. It will speed things up, especially when you’re not right there to have the back and forth with the greetings. “I’ve noticed that you just say Hi or something like that, and then it takes a bit of time to get to the meat of your question. Please feel free to just write what you need so I can get to it more quickly and there aren’t lengthy delays.”

  44. cosmicgorilla*

    Ugh, I also hate the “hi” without any further indication of what they want.

    Even worse is the, “hi cosmicgorilla, how are you?”

    then crickets. Sure, observe the social niceties, but then tell me what you want! The beauty of chat is that it can be used for asynchronous communication. Just leaving the “hi, how are you” wastes both of our time. I could research your answer or have fixed the issue by the time you came back online (multiple timezones at play) if you’d just give me an indication of what you want.

    1. Dinwar*

      “The beauty of chat is that it can be used for asynchronous communication.”

      I think this is where the divide arises. For me, chat systems like Teams are not asynchronous communications. They’re more akin to a phone call, a way of dealing with information transfer quickly in real-time. If I want asynchronous communication I send an email. And I think most of the people I work with share that view, so it works.

      I don’t think either way of looking at things is wrong, necessarily! It’s one of those “office culture” things, where there are a bunch of ways to resolve the issue, an office just needs to pick one and stick with it.

      1. kalli*

        Same. Chat is for when you need to have a quick discussion and if someone doesn’t respond they’re not available. If it can wait or needs context, it goes in an email.

        Then you get the people ringing to see if you’ve got the email and other various cases where they’ve picked an inappropriate medium for their personalised sense of urgency and want to make that someone else’s problem, but while chat can be used asynchronously it’s not the most effective tool for the job for things that need to be asynchronous.

        1. Parakeet*

          This is super interesting to me because the idea of defaulting to “chat = synchronous” has never occurred to me before! Do you use messaging this way in your personal life too? Or is it a work-specific thing?

          1. kalli*

            Yep, my main method of communication is instant message. At work it’s Zoom, at home it’s Discord.

      2. JM60*

        I’d argue that it’s objectively true that chat is an asynchronous form of communication (albeit, one that’s faster than most asynchronous forms of communication). With chat, you can type and send a message regardless of whether or not the other person is at their device. The other person can read your message, type up their reply, and send it regardless of whether or not you’re at your device. That’s pretty much the definition of asynchronous.

  45. Delta Delta*

    #1 – “hi” is irritating. I think “hi” with a short “here’s what I need/want to tell you” is more helpful.

    #3 – I am a part time professor. Students call me “professor delta.” I tell them I appreciate their politeness but they’re free just to call me Delta. They still don’t do it. Shrug.

  46. Future*

    I have recently had to deal with signing up to a few German organisations’ websites and some of the ones who presumably skimped on paying for good translations default to “Mrs” for women in English. It is so jarring.

    1. BellaStella*

      Same in Switzerland. As a single woman it is something I have to manage in all my bills etc.

    2. münchner kindl*

      Because the German equivalent to Miss (Fräulein) was dropped from use in the 1980s; all adult women, regardless of married status, are addressed as Frau. There never was an equivalent to Ms in German language. And not using any adress is very impolite in German, so what is the correct equivalent in English?

  47. kalli*

    Part of this is going to be company style – I’m part time and if I’m not on at my usual time I’m required to go into the admin chat and say hello so people know that I’m available. I don’t have to say anything other than hello for that, and the actual instruction was ‘just come in the chat and say hi so people know in case they need you’. Sometimes these kinds of things get embedded in the company culture over time and you just have to learn them, which after two years you should have enough data to figure it out even if you don’t pick them up intuitively.

    So if someone says ‘hi’ and there’s nothing else when I log in, I usually take it as they wanted to know if I was there and my lack of response told them I was not. The assumption is therefore that if there isn’t a message or email or smoke signal then they figured it out on their own and I certainly don’t need to track them down to find out why they said hi because that is 100% weird and over the top and can read as obsessive, just like tracking someone down because they didn’t say goodbye would be. If there is a message, email or even a bunch of dots and dashes playing through my speakers, then they realised I wasn’t there but still need me and gave me the information about how to deal with that, whether it’s to perform a task or get back to them so we can have a discussion first. But people generally know how to leave messages and will do so if they need to – and informing them of that won’t generally come off as friendly and helpful, although tone can stop it from coming off as as patronising as being told how to use a computer when you’ve been using them longer than people in the office have been alive.

  48. Brian*

    Letter three: I am constantly referred to as “Mrs.” at my job as an elementary school teacher and it drives me crazy…because I’m a man. Students are so used to every teacher being a woman it’s hard for them to shift gears. “Mrs. Brian! Mrs. Brian!”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a great example of children picking up on a norm, and then applying it.

      When my daughter was in first grade I got a call from “Ann Carpenter” that assured me nothing was wrong and started talking about my daughter and I pondered “Is this someone from gymnastics?” and finally realized “Oh! You’re Mrs. A. Carpenter, her teacher.” There was also a first grade Mrs. J. Carpenter, and apparently the parents had followed the children to render this as “MrsACarpenter” all one undeviating word.

      1. bamcheeks*

        My daughter’s Year 3 teacher keeps signing himself “Tony” on Class Dojo and me and my partner are DEEPLY uncomfortable with it. There’s literally nowhere else in the world I use titles, but I’m still weirded out by using teachers’ first names even when they’re not my teacher.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      My employer misgendered me (a cis man) as a woman on engraved plaques signifying that I had won an officewide award two years in a row. I figured that trying to have them corrected would look oddly oversensitive for a cis man and let it go.

  49. HailRobonia*

    #1: My old boss would do that. I would get a message “HailRobonia, can we talk?” At first I was super worried it was something bad. Nope, it was always just a routine request like “what are the enrollment numbers” or “has X been confirmed yet?”

    I tried to guide her a bit, I said it would help me prioritize and work more efficiently if she just put the request in the first message. Alas, she still kept her old habits, but at least I trained myself to not misinterpret the tone of the message.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I had a boss sort of do a year-end review/salary review to me like this once. On Thursday, there was a full staff meeting where he said he’d be talking to everyone sometime in the next month about salaries for the following year. Two Mondays later he and I were talking briefly about something going on in Project A. He then said, “hey, we need to catch up later this week” so I reasonably believed he meant about Project A. On Wednesday he comes in and says, “hey is now a good time to catch up?” It was fine, so I pulled out my notes on Project A and started talking about the various parts of it. He said, no, that he was coming in to catch up about salary. I felt completely flat-footed and I told him that. Felt very unfair to try to have a serious conversation about salary/benefits/review stuff with no warning.

      This was about 10 years ago and I’m still a little salty.

  50. H.Regalis*

    LW2 – No advice, just sympathy. I’m not looking forward to this as I get older.

    Even now, I had to take my laptop to main IT department at work because the battery swelled up and needed to be replaced, and the 20-something tier one guys were blown away that I had used a screwdriver to unscrew the battery compartment cover and remove Battery-Acid-Explosion-To-Be.

  51. Ex-prof*

    LW 3– As a matter of historical interest, “Mrs.” as a title long predates its use to indicate marital status. It formerly denoted social or professional status.

    1. Sara without an H*

      True. I believe it’s a contraction for “mistress,” which generally meant that the woman, or her family, owned some property or a business. When Mistress Nell Quickly, owner of the Boarshead Tavern, married Ancient Pistol, she became known as Mistress Pistol. She may have taken her new husband’s name, but her title didn’t change. (See Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.)

      1. Ex-prof*

        Exactly. Or were in professional authority over someone else. Managers.
        I’ve seen historical novels and regency romances make much of the fact that upper servants were called “Mrs.” even though they weren’t married !!1! But it was simply a title they were given because they had people below them in the hierarchy. Reports, as it were.

        1. Sara without an H*

          If I recall correctly, cooks and housekeepers, in particular, were always “Mrs.,” regardless of marital status.

  52. Overthinking it*

    OP 1, I think Allison’s wording “feel free to launch right in. . . ” is too soft. It doesn’t make it clear that you PREFER they “launch right in!” I like using “I wish you would/wouldn’t. . .” when asking for a change in behavior that you strongly prefer, but don’t have standing to require or demand. You state what you want, and they have the ability to acquiesce. . .or not, if they also feel strongly. (“I wish you would. . ” might also be language to use with that awful boss who forbade people saying “please”)

  53. spititout*

    #1 I agree, on the receiving end it creates extra back and forth when I could have used the info to handle the request at a time that works for me. But from the other side I think the sender is worried it will sound too demanding. I’m more of a “here’s what I need” sort of person without a lot of extra chitchat but I know I can come off abrupt (when I think I’m just being efficient), especially with written communication. So I try to at least start off with “Hi” or “Good morning” which seems like a like a good compromise before launching into what I need, but then if you don’t get an immediate reply it seems shallow to just launch into what you want. “I was only saying Good Morning because I needed something from you.”

  54. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – The “hi” without context is guaranteed to get a non-response from me until they tell me what they want. I’m not eagerly awaiting someone else’s work. But also, my colleagues have a tendency to ask for things on Teams that should be in an email (things that need to be traceable, documented, and/or require more context than reasonably put in a teams chat) and it is so frustrating. I’m constantly writing back “Can you please send this in an email”. I am pretty responsive via email so I wish they would learn that they would get their answer faster in one email than by trying to play Teams Tag and giving me the information in pieces.

    #3 – Absolutely correct them. Even among those of us who are not doctors, the default for females is not Mrs., but also help them understand that the things we treat as little nuances like someone’s title, pronouns, how they spell their name, etc., are all important pieces of someone’s diversity that deserve our attention.

  55. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    LW#3, I hope you do explain to students how to address you, for all the reasons Alison gives. It really will do them a big favor. Students do not tend to be aware of how ranking and achievement work in academia; often they don’t know what an adjunct professor is or how the tenure track works.

    Perhaps you can invite them to “practice” on getting it right with you? That way, when you point out where they’ve defaulted to “Mrs.” more of them will see your doing so as helpful instead of as overly concerned with hierarchy?

  56. Managing While Female*

    LW 1 — The ‘hi’ with no additional context is probably my biggest work pet peeve. I saw a few people upthread say that they employ that and, if they don’t get an answer, just COLD CALL the person they’re trying to reach. OMG NO. Just SAY WHAT YOU WANT so that the person you’re communicating with can appropriately prioritize what you’re asking them. Jeez Louise!

    LW 3 — Definitely by college you would think that kids would understand that if someone introduces themselves as Dr or Professor Smith that you should refer to them as such. I’d definitely correct them if they do not, and I’m side-eyeing the fact that they’re not picking up on the context clue there.

    As a side-rant, I have a kid who loves Peppa Pig and it drives me INSANE that seemingly every female character (with the exception of Miss Rabbit, who is just the person who does literally every job in this world, and Dr. Hamster, the vet) is referred to as “Mrs”. Even when Peppa (as a child) is playing a doctor/dentist, the kids refer to her as “Mrs. Peppa” instead of “Dr”. There are also ducks (who, despite every other animal being andromorphic, are just ducks) are called “Mrs. Duck”.

    1. Professor Dr. She Who Shall Not Be Named*

      This is wild! After rereading several times, I find myself wondering if the hamster has a preferred gender.

  57. CTA*

    LW #2

    I’m glad to hear you have support at your workplace. If she continues to do this even after being spoken to, then she’s the one who needs to work on her own issues. IDK if having HR tell her this is age discrimination will improve things. You do what is best for your situation.

    I’ve had to deal with a person like this (not on a leadership level, but on a peer level), and things didn’t get better. For my situation, even though folks tried to point out flaws in that person’s logic, this person still treated me like crap. It wasn’t in a work environment and we were adult students, so I was left to fend for myself. I didn’t want to expend energy trying to stick up for myself anymore because experience has taught me there’s no point. I learned that some people who act like this are actually displaying anxiety and it manifests as being overly “helpful” or perfectionist. I know we shouldn’t diagnose people, but that possibility helped me move on from my trauma.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Try being a 56 year old Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer and being lectured to on basic life stuff by a 25 year old Lieutenant. What I -wanted- to do was to say “Boy, I have socks older than you. Shut your five dollar a$$ up before I make change”. What I did was smile, nod, and walk away from him.

  58. Nancy*

    LW3: just write ‘please address me as X,’ sign your name the same way, and introduce yourself at the beginning of the semester with the name you prefer. Students are not used to calling instructors Dr or Professor, and as many pointed out here, they may not know Ms exists. Most are trying to be polite.

    1. Lily Potter*

      Absolutely. One of my “rules of life” is “until you’re shown otherwise, always assume positive intent”. The vast majority of people using “Mrs” aren’t doing it to be a pain in the butt. Correct them kindly, and move on.

  59. Valerie Loves Me*

    I hate the “hi”

    In my case, this is usually followed by something that the sender doesn’t want anyone else to accidentally see. Typically, either they did something I need to fix or they want to give me something that is part of their job.

    Unless it has an exclamation point, usually that’s a buddy who has gossip or good news.

  60. Ruby Soho*

    I love #3. I had a professor in grad school, who had a JD, plus Masters degrees in the science-related fields she taught, and I don’t even know how many certifications and stuff. Her last name included “Green”, so this obviously made me think of her. She is one of the most intelligent and sharp-witted (and sarcastic!) people I have ever met, with an old-school style a la Katherine Hepburn with her hair in victory rolls! She could also be very kind, but like, don’t let it get around lol. Basically, just a force to be reckoned with; a force that I would love to emulate! But she was very much NOT a Mrs!
    As a rule, students should know to default to Dr, if appropriate, or Professor. That’s it, those are your 2 choices, unless the professor tells you otherwise. I went to Catholic school my whole life, and we certainly knew, from a young age, whether to call teachers Ms, Mrs, Mr, Father, Sister, Monsignor, etc. It’s not that hard! If a student isn’t getting it, then just spell it out for them.

  61. Person from the Resume*

    For LW#1, I recommend you respond to their “Hi”s with one message which says:

    “Hi. Can I help you?” OR “Hi. Do you need something from me?”

    You may not be able to break people of their habits, but if you communicate with someone a lot I also recommend using Alison’s advice.

    It bugs me too. When chatting, I put my “hi” and the rest of the message in a single message. It’s efficient. Not everyone is efficient and it’s annoying to me, but it’s not anything that’s inherently wrong or rude (just a different communication style) so you may have to live with it.

  62. Anon for this one*

    For LW 3 and fellow annoyed people – I know it is different in academia and/or in a place where someone is interacting with you regularly, but in the times I have used Mrs. X to refer to someone it was in no way tied to their marital status. Please gently correct those who are addressing you incorrectly like you would if someone used the wrong first name or pronoun.

    1. SarahKay*

      But…. calling me Mrs is related to marital status; specifically it is assuming I am married. Ms is the title which does not imply marital status; may I suggest you use that instead?

      I’m not rude about correcting people who do it (well, not the first time or so, anyway), but I will absolutely say “actually, it’s Ms Kay” because (a) my marital status is irrelevant to any conversation we will be having, and (b) my marital status is irrelevant to any conversation we will be having.

      1. NaoNao*

        I worked overseas and “Miss [First Name]” or if you appear older “Mrs. [First Name]” is a casual honorific like “Madame” might be (which I understand Madame means “married” but in use in English, it generally means “older woman of means” colloquially) so I get how it can be used in a very general sense. But it’s kind of like a younger person calling me “Ma’am” like…how old do you think I am!?!?

        1. Lily Potter*

          I’m flashing to the British TV series “Downton Abbey” – where Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Pattmore had never been married, but each “got” the title of Mrs. because of their senior roles in the household staff, as a sign of respect. Of course, that series was set in the 1910s – 1920s but old habits die hard……

        2. metadata minion*

          “But it’s kind of like a younger person calling me “Ma’am” like…how old do you think I am!?!?”

          What do you want them to call you?

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If it’s not tied to marital status though, you’d use Ms.

      Mrs. is by definition tied to marital status.

    3. Michigander*

      Add me to the list of people who are confused about why you would use Mrs if it was in no way tied to their marital status. That’s the whole reason that Ms was created.

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      It is inherently tied to marital status by definition. This has nothing to do with academia.

  63. zolk*

    LW#1 – This is a dick move, but I simply don’t respond to “hi” messages on teams unless it’s someone senior to me (which it never is). I’m trying to train people pavlovian-style to actually send their ask in the first message, and it seems to be working.

    1. el l*

      It’s not horribly out of line. Similar YMMV responses to ignoring: “Whaddya need?” or especially in case of repeat offenders, “State your request, please.”

    2. Orange You Glad*

      This is what I do too. If you send me a detailed message with an actual question or request, I respond timely. Plain greetings get ignored.

  64. el l*

    So automated reminder emails (let’s call them AREs) should bear more care for etiquette. On the one hand, they’re not spam, the sender did something to contact for them. On the other, they clearly don’t have the TLC or thought put into them as a proper personalized email – there’s not a person behind it. Which means they have the potential to cause more offense than just spamming someone or even lots of regular emails. Because at least with regular emails, barring a Baby Reindeer situation, they took effort to make.

    Example: I once agreed to take a sales call, for software if it matters, and scheduled it for a week out. I got an ARE a week beforehand confirming. No problem. I got an ARE 24 hours before. A little much, but fine. I then got 3 further AREs reminding me of the call coming up ahead, including one just an hour before the start and another 10 minutes before the start. 5 total! It was ridiculous, and was actively alienating (told this to the salesman, and turned out it was a thing of his boss).

    Final unrelated thought: The bit shown about “Respond within 72 hours or else” is especially irritating in context. The audience are busy people, and unless there’s a particular explainable reason, no, hiring processes don’t move THAT quickly.

    1. LW 5*

      LW 5 here. That totally encapsulates what I’m feeling. There is no consideration to the topic or the relationship between the parties. In particular your last point is very true in that this company is set up for reference checking and should be aware of the social context in which they are sending these emails.

      Also if it really is that urgent, pick up the phone!!!

  65. theletter*

    For a long time, I used the inefficient ‘hi’ b/c it can be very difficult to tell if the conversion is completely private. Information that might seem innoculous to me could be damning if shared during a screen share or pair-working with the wrong person.

    Now I try to just give a little context about what I need – but I’d love it if people understood that the inefficient hi is also a nod to boundaries and confidentiality.

      1. Cinnamon Stick*

        As someone who lives with anxiety, seeing just those words without any context around them would have me paranoid all day.

  66. Prof*

    OP3: it is NEVER ok to default to Ms. (or Mrs. or Miss or Mr.) for your professors. It is always Dr. or Professor. I (female) explain my title to students at the start of every semester. It happens less with that, but still…every bloody semester, I’m mistitled. My male colleagues? Never happens. No one uses Mr for them, they get the title right. Polled some of them a few years back and asked. They were shocked, never happened to them. Us women laughed and told them how many times it had happened to each of us in the few weeks of the current semester so far. It’s very annoying. Most students don’t mean anything by it, it’s not conscious disrespect. But it is exhausting.

    OP3, correct them. Introduce yourself at the start of classes and explain.

    1. Hyaline*

      I’m going to push back a little—depending on the course and program, many of a students’ instructors may not have doctorates and might not have the title of Professor. Prof. or Dr. isn’t necessarily the correct default. In professional etiquette, Ms. is the usual default. It’s not a horrible rude faux pas to call anyone Ms.—and it’s not a rude or offensive thing to correct someone to a more exact title, which OP should absolutely do. IMO Most students will end up in professional fields outside academia, so doing them the service of explaining why Ms. and Mrs. are both different and not equally acceptable defaults is probably wise.

      Also I’m very surprised by everyone saying “students get men’s titles correct but not women’s” as in my experience they’re fumbling through everything nervously getting most titles (and email etiquette and basic How To Student) wrong. Literally just cotaught a course with a man and students got our titles wrong consistently and equally. Assume good intentions when it comes to students and it usually works out well in my experience.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        “Also I’m very surprised by everyone saying “students get men’s titles correct but not women’s” as in my experience they’re fumbling through everything nervously getting most titles (and email etiquette and basic How To Student) wrong. Literally just cotaught a course with a man and students got our titles wrong consistently and equally. Assume good intentions when it comes to students and it usually works out well in my experience.”

        Please do not discount others very real experience just because you haven’t personally experienced it.

    2. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      Can confirm. I’m trans and people’s confusion about my title cleared up at the same time my voice deepened and hair showed up on my face.

      I also immediately started getting much higher student evals. When I was mistaken for a woman, no matter how much I did, students always demanded more nurturing and emotional investment from me. Suddenly, when I was seen as a man, I was hailed as a hero of nurturing and understanding. (It took one s