I am a Chinese student. I was emailing a professor for graduate study opportunity. He replied with the title: Dear Mr. Li Actually, I am a female. Would it be a little strange if I told him in my reply? and how do I put this, should I say "I am a female?" Thank you very much.
How about you reply like this:
Dear Professor Smith,
(content of your reply)
Thanks and Regards,
Ms. Li Wei
That avoids the issue of "correcting" him altogether. He would hopefully get the hint.
Edit: Per StoneyB's suggestion in the below comment, I changed Miss to Ms..
I agree with the suggestion offered by Happy & StoneyB; that is, you could simply sign your name with "Ms.", and hope that he notices and gets the hint.
That said, your question asked about a good way to phrase it.
I think the best policy is to be gracious and try not to embarrass the other party. As for the use of "female," you could use that, or you could say "a woman" instead. Here's what I might recommend:
By the way, I noticed you greeted me using "Mr." Perhaps there's a little mix-up there, as I am a woman. No offense taken.
You might also soften the blow by using an emoticon.
By the way, I noticed you greeted me using "Mr." I just wanted to let you know that I'm a woman. But please don't worry about it. :-)
This is a recurring problem in email conversations for people with Chinese names, as when only seeing the English transliteration and not the actual Chinese character of the name, it can be impossible to infer the person's gender.
In some business conversation I encountered, people would add a hint to their email signature, for example
Li Wei (Ms.)
I don't know if you're using a signature, but this would definitely be a subtle way of letting the professor know that you're female and also of avoiding this problem in the future.
Maybe in this case, since the professor has presumably already seen your old signature, you could think about about explaining this to him in the postscriptum of your next email:
PS: I happened to notice that you adressed me as Mr. Don't worry about it though, that's actually not the first time this has happened. Since my name makes it very easy for this to occur, I have now added a little hint to my signature.
For anyone curious to know how it ended, @wei responded:
Thank you all for your answers and suggestions. I replied last night using happy's suggestions. The Professor replied me with even a Chinese sentence, if I translate it, it would be "Sorry, Miss Li, is it?" (and he also wrote English expressing similar meaning of apology)
I really think it is not easy to keep email contact with foreign professors. Sometimes I think I should talk about academic questions in every email sometimes I think it is kind of unnatural.
This happens all the time in academia and in the business world, too. I would just suggest always getting in the habit of putting Ms. in front of your name when there may even be the hint of an issue. I work at a university where there are lots of students coming and going and I see this all the time.
Believe me the professor is probably trying to be diligent and will definitely notice if there is a Ms. in front of the name the next time. I know I would. If it happens repeatedly after you start using the Ms. prefix, then I would explicitly call attention. But probably not before. After all, at this point it is just a single character mistake in an email (Mr. vs. Ms.) and I would treat it as such until it is clear that the prof. is clearly not paying attention.
Knowing more about the style of his answer would help focusing this diplomatic operation better, but Happy's excellent suggestion is almost surely the best bet.
If you still don't quite like it for some reason (you haven't marked it accepted), here's an alternative idea, that might work.
Assuming his answer was encouraging, and you are replying him because your case is proceeding (rather than to just tell him you are a woman ;) ), then that means a CV must be involved somewhere in the process. So, just add a field to your personal data section:
(In case you've already submitted one without that, you can almost always find a way to re-send an updated/fixed version.)
If this happens from time to time, you may want to consider changing your email contact information so that your 'From' name in your email client is set to 'Ms. Wei Whatever.' That way, you can still be informal in the body of your emails yet you are giving more information to new contacts in a perfectly acceptable and non-confrontational manner.