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Does This Email Require a Reply?

A reader asked whether she needed to reply to an email. She had written to her professor, he had responded, and now she wondered whether a response was required or unnecessary. Read her email and the professor's reply. What would you advise? (Note: I have changed all names.) 

Subject: Textbook for Psychology 104

Hello, Professor Rogers. 

I am enrolled in your Psychology 104 class this semester. I see that "Introduction to Psychology" by Marks is the required textbook. I have the third edition instead of the fourth. Would the third edition still be adequate for this class? 

I look forward to the class. 

Claire Kwon


Professor Rogers replied:

The 3rd edition is not optimal for following along in class or completing assignments, because the page numbers are different. I list specific page numbers in the syllabus schedule, homework assignments, and lectures to make using the book and learning the material easier.  

If you decide to use the 3rd, I ask that you not interrupt the class to ask for help finding pages. 

See you next week. 

John Rogers 


After reading Professor Rogers' reply, Claire decided to invest in the fourth edition of the textbook, but she did not know whether she needed to respond to the professor. Was "Thank you" the right response or something else? 

Tomorrow evening I will share my advice for Claire. But feel free to jump in ahead of me! 

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17 comments on “Does This Email Require a Reply?”

  • As someone who has these sorts of exchanges several times a semester, I say: Send a thanks! At a minimum, it makes it a little more likely that the professor will put a face to her name in class and that could lead to better performance – by students and the prof – in the class.

  • I agree with McClain. The professor sent a thoughtful reply, including the reasoning behind the preference for the 4th edition, and an option to use the less preferable 3rd edition anyway as long as Claire didn’t disrupt the class. He closed with a friendly message about seeing her in class.

    While not strictly necessary, a reply from Claire indicating that she appreciated the advice and purchased the 4th edition would be completely appropriate and polite.

  • I think it depends on the personality of the Professor, which may be hard to judge if the class has just started. Some people would appreciate a “thank you” message, but I suspect others might find it more of an annoyance in a busy day filled with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of emails to sift through.

  • Best bet: say “thanks” in person in class! You express appreciation, have the opportunity to elaborate that you went with the 4th edition, and you don’t annoy the busy prof! Thank yous are always best face to face!

  • Definitely reply. Just a ‘thanks for your advice and I bought the 4th edition’. Email etiquette. If you were speaking to the professor, yiu would do so.’

  • Required no, but it would be a good thing to do. Just a quick thank you for your input and I appreciate your advice I look forward to the class. As far as thanking in person, you may not have time. There will be a bunch students with questions the first day, needing him to sign transfer class forms, waitlist forms and he has another class to teach and you have another class to get to! There may not be an oppotunity to say thanks in person especially if it is a large class. Do it in email and then if there is a chance first day you can say I got the 4th edition thanks again.

  • i would think that it’s best to at least thank the professor for taking time to respond. And the info which the professor shared was helpful – highlighting that the page numbers are different for 3rd and the 4th edition.

  • Thank you, McClain, Arjay, Phil, Jennifer, Joanne, Emily, and Sidney, for your comments.

    I agree with you, McClain and others, that a reply is not required–and that it is a smart message to send.

    Here’s why (as several of you noted):

    1. The professor took the time to respond and explain. He deserves a brief thanks.

    2. It’s a good idea to get off to a positive start in a class. If Claire responds politely, letting the professor know that she has bought the 4th edition, he is likely to remember her positively, depending on the size of the class.

    3. Without a response, the professor may dread having to deal with one or more students using the old edition of the textbook.

    Joanne, your brief message is all that is necessary:

    Thanks for your advice. I bought the 4th edition.

    See you next week.

    Claire Kwon

    Jennifer, an in-person thank-you might work. I agree with Emily, though, that the professor may be too busy on the first day. Claire’s quick spoken thanks might not even make sense to him in a hectic moment. When I taught a large class of MBA students, at the beginning and end of the first day of class many students had questions they wanted to ask individually.

    Again, thanks for sharing your views!


  • What about a the following text “thank you for you explanation regarding the 3th edition” solely in the mail subject? That would save the professor opening a pile of e-mails while still getting the message.

  • The student should definitely reply. It is good form to acknowledge that you’ve received the communication. And, I agree that it helps the professor to remember who you are going forward. (Of course, this could backfire, if you’re not a good student!)

  • I agree, the student should respond to the professor for this simple reason, to close the communication loop with the professor and to let him know she got the email. Without a response, the professor might think the student has not read the email and expect question on that issue in class. So, my advice is, “close the communication loop or gap”. It is also a polite thing to do.

  • Agreed, a follow-up message is a good idea. It takes little time on either the writer’s or reader’s part and furthers communication. Additionally, as a former English 101 instructor during grad school, I always advise students to stop by during their professors’ office hours early in the semester, just to say “Hi” and get to know them. Familiarity helps instructors teach, helps students understand, and creates bonds that can pay off long after school. (I’ve seen so many instructors champion students they’ve come to know, recommending them for programs and awards the students would never have been aware of otherwise.)

  • Hi, Cecile. Communicating the entire message in the subject can work well, especially when people know each other well. An example is the receptionist sending an email to a coworker saying “Your 10 o’clock appt. is here.”

    I wouldn’t use that approach with the professor. It feels too informal for a professor-student relationship that is just beginning. Also, that approach doesn’t allow the student to state that she has bought the 4th edition.

    Thanks for sharing the idea.


  • Hi, Tola. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of closing the communication loop. In this case, I agree that Claire should do that.

    Sometimes people over-communicate with emails that say just “Thanks” and “You’re welcome.” But Claire does have a specific message to communicate.


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