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#1
Old 03-25-2013, 01:00 PM
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Addressing PhD in email

I received an email signed "John Smith, PhD" and was wondering how to address this person. I should still write "Dr. Smith" even though he didn't, right?

Thank you!
#2
Old 03-25-2013, 01:02 PM
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In a professional setting, yes. If you are emailing him about an eBay listing, don't bother.

ETA: relevant thread: http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...d.php?t=665577

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 03-25-2013 at 01:04 PM.
#3
Old 03-25-2013, 01:04 PM
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He is the head of the department in my university program. Thanks for the quick response.

Last edited by andstufflikethat; 03-25-2013 at 01:04 PM.
#4
Old 03-25-2013, 01:05 PM
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Then yes. Can't hurt if you do, might hurt if you don't. You're probably better off with Professor XYZ, though.
#5
Old 03-25-2013, 01:08 PM
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In that case, "Professor Smith" would also be appropriate, but either one is technically correct. Speaking as a professor (and PhD) myself, I prefer "Professor", but I wouldn't take offense at either one.
#6
Old 03-25-2013, 01:17 PM
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I concur. "Dr. Smith" or "Professor Smith". Definitely not "Mr. Smith", if that's what you were otherwise considering. There are circumstances where "John" would be appropriate, but given that you're asking this question, yours isn't one.
#7
Old 03-25-2013, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Pasta View Post
I concur. "Dr. Smith" or "Professor Smith". Definitely not "Mr. Smith", if that's what you were otherwise considering. There are circumstances where "John" would be appropriate....
And there also are circumstances where "honey-bunny schmoopsie big-boy love machine" would be appropriate.

Just for the record.
#8
Old 03-25-2013, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Then yes. Can't hurt if you do, might hurt if you don't. You're probably better off with Professor XYZ, though.
It depends on whether you're in the UK or the US, though (the OP doesn't say where s/he is) -- 'professor' is a distinct title and not used to address every lecturer (and some professors here get very cross when addressed merely as 'Dr.')

I went by both Doctor and Professor when I taught in the States, but as a lecturer in Britain am addressed in writing as Doctor. *(A few years back a British friend asked me what I did, and I said I was a history professor -- his response: ' Bit young, surely?' as professors here are usually very senior faculty.)

If that's the case, OP, the department website should have your instructor's position listed so that you know how you ought to address them.

*And it startled the heck out of me to find out that at least at my university it's commonplace for the students to address even the most senior faculty by our first names!

Last edited by Ms Boods; 03-25-2013 at 01:45 PM.
#9
Old 03-25-2013, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Leo Bloom View Post
And there also are circumstances where "honey-bunny schmoopsie big-boy love machine" would be appropriate.

Just for the record.

That's Dr. honey-bunny schmoopsie big-boy love machine.

I worked hard for that title.

Last edited by Frylock; 03-25-2013 at 02:04 PM.
#10
Old 03-25-2013, 02:18 PM
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at least at my university it's commonplace for the students to address even the most senior faculty by our first names!
This goes toward the "just 'John'" circumstances. In research-oriented universities, students and faculty often interact as research colleagues rather than as teacher-and-student. In scientific fields at least, the philosophy that ideas and reason trump hierarchy has shaped the social dynamics. The transition from overtly deferential greetings to "Hi, John" typically happens in graduate school, occasionally earlier, although even grad students often seem uncertain about what to call those senior to them. (This isn't universal. In Japan, for example, hierarchy is more deeply rooted in social interactions, and deference is often overt even in scientific settings.)
#11
Old 03-25-2013, 02:32 PM
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First, it is really odd that someone at a high level in a university program uses PhD in a signature. It is kind of assumed.

But in any case Professor usually is considered better than Doctor, since the department might have a bunch of post Docs not at the professor level. The only exception I know if is one school where some professors didn't have doctorates.
#12
Old 03-25-2013, 02:44 PM
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If he's the head of a department, he may not be a professor, and so calling him professor may be inappropriate. At least in my experience all through grad school, I never had a professor take issue with being called Doctor, but that could be different depending on the culture. My department was pretty laid back and, in fact, many of my professors had students calling them by first name.

That said, my rule would be that if someone has PhD in their signature, then Doctor ought to be appropriate. If they wanted to be Professor, they should have some version of professor in their signature instead, like:

John Smith, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Mathematics

So, I'd say address him as Dr. Smith or Dr. John Smith. If you have a more precise title you can look up, go with that. But generally, people who include stuff like PhD or whatever in their signatures do so because that's how they want to be addressed.
#13
Old 03-25-2013, 03:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andstufflikethat View Post
I received an email signed "John Smith, PhD" and was wondering how to address this person. I should still write "Dr. Smith" even though he didn't, right?
"John Smith, Ph.D" is equivalent to "Dr. John Smith"*. So practically, he did refer to himself as a "Dr.", and so should you. Although as others said, if he is a Professor, that is also acceptable and may be preferable.

(* Except of course the latter is less precise, as it may refer to a John Smith, MD. Or Ed.D. Or a few other possibilities.)

Last edited by scr4; 03-25-2013 at 03:01 PM.
#14
Old 03-25-2013, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
...But in any case Professor usually is considered better than Doctor, since the department might have a bunch of post Docs not at the professor level. The only exception I know if is one school where some professors didn't have doctorates.
Junior colleges & community colleges often have professors who don't have doctorates. This is also common in some departments of 4-yr schools. I've had professors who only had MBAs.
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#15
Old 03-25-2013, 03:30 PM
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So, all this is strongly dependent on the culture of the place. It might be that the guy does a lot of consulting and uses PhD in his signature as a marketing too, but doesn't expect it to be used within the school.
I'm on a committee where maybe 40% of us have PhDs, and if anyone called anyone else Doctor everyone would break out laughing.
When I worked in Bell Labs someone started calling everyone Doctor this and Doctor that, and was gently told not to since "we don't want people coming to us with their headaches."
#16
Old 03-25-2013, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
When I worked in Bell Labs someone started calling everyone Doctor this and Doctor that, and was gently told not to since "we don't want people coming to us with their headaches."
In Engineering I have found that those in University settings tend to emphasize the Dr a lot more and expect it. In government and private industry it is used a lot less among researchers.
#17
Old 03-25-2013, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Ms Boods View Post
I went by both Doctor and Professor when I taught in the States, but as a lecturer in Britain am addressed in writing as Doctor. *(A few years back a British friend asked me what I did, and I said I was a history professor -- his response: ' Bit young, surely?' as professors here are usually very senior faculty.)
What do they call the equivalent of lower-level professors? Are they just called "lecturer" or "researcher"?

In my experience in the States all tenure-track people are some sort of "professor", e.g. Assisstant Professor, Associate Professor, etc., whereas a "lecturer" is not someone working towards tenure.
#18
Old 03-25-2013, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by tim314 View Post
What do they call the equivalent of lower-level professors? Are they just called "lecturer" or "researcher"?

In my experience in the States all tenure-track people are some sort of "professor", e.g. Assisstant Professor, Associate Professor, etc., whereas a "lecturer" is not someone working towards tenure.
The approximate US/UK mapping is:
assistant professor / lecturer
associate professor / reader
professor / professor
#19
Old 03-25-2013, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Leo Bloom View Post
And there also are circumstances where "honey-bunny schmoopsie big-boy love machine" would be appropriate.

Just for the record.
And don't forget, "Hey, Asshole!"

...just to complete the record.

I occasionally receive mail saluted, "Dear Dr. NitroPress" which tickles me. They're usually academics who assume that I must be a phud to have... come to their attention.

Last edited by Amateur Barbarian; 03-25-2013 at 04:17 PM.
#20
Old 03-25-2013, 06:44 PM
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To be clear, was the "John Smith, PhD" part in the portion of the e-mail he typed himself in his correspondence with you, or was it part of a block of contact-information signature at the bottom? Because a block signature is always highly formal, but putting the PhD in the hand-typed part is a bit pretentious.
#21
Old 03-25-2013, 07:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
"John Smith, Ph.D" is equivalent to "Dr. John Smith"*. So practically, he did refer to himself as a "Dr.", and so should you.
"Dr." is form of address. One does not properly refer to oneself using a form of address, notwithstanding that many people find it necessary to induce fawning over their various advanced degrees and professional certifications. Is it incorrect to sign a letter as "Dr. John Smith" the same as you would not sign a letter as "Mr. John Doe."

However, andstufflikethat may certainly address him as "Dr." if he is a professional superior, as he seems to be.
#22
Old 03-26-2013, 08:50 AM
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There are a hell of a lot more PhDs than there are professors. I always considered the latter as more exalted. I dislike being addressed as Dr. outside of my professional life. Right after I got my PhD, my mother introduced me to some random stranger as Dr. _____. I was annoyed and told her so, but she didn't stop.
#23
Old 03-26-2013, 10:55 AM
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Me too on that one, sort of. When I introduce somebody to my father, very old now and famous-in-his-field, an emeritus Distinguished Professor still churning out books, with a Ph.D so long ago he hasn't given a fuck for 70 years, I always say "Dr. Bloom," because I'm proud of him.

He'll immediately say, with a self-deprecating wave-off of the title, "Hi, I'm Fritz." Although I'm fairly certain he digs the introduction still.

Last edited by Leo Bloom; 03-26-2013 at 10:57 AM.
#24
Old 03-26-2013, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Pasta View Post
This goes toward the "just 'John'" circumstances. In research-oriented universities, students and faculty often interact as research colleagues rather than as teacher-and-student. In scientific fields at least, the philosophy that ideas and reason trump hierarchy has shaped the social dynamics. The transition from overtly deferential greetings to "Hi, John" typically happens in graduate school, occasionally earlier, although even grad students often seem uncertain about what to call those senior to them. (This isn't universal. In Japan, for example, hierarchy is more deeply rooted in social interactions, and deference is often overt even in scientific settings.)
I'm not at a research orientated university, and these are first years through final year undergraduates; that's what startled me. I'm used to grad students addressing professors by first names, but it's an odd experience having a first year address me by my first name. (Been in the professoring sort of business on and off for about 20 years).

Yep, tim314 -- as a lecturer I'm addressed as Doctor in formal situations/writing/official school literature.

At my school it's

Lecturer -- US assistant professor
Senior Lecturer -- US associate professor
Professor -- US full professor.

We have Readers, but they sort of exist outside of that scheme as you apply for that promotion in a different way than going up the route from lecturer-senior lecturer-professor. Readers can be 'Doctor' or 'Professor.' No tenure system here.

Last edited by Ms Boods; 03-26-2013 at 11:12 AM.
#25
Old 03-26-2013, 11:28 AM
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There's a not so long ago thread, a longish one, on protocol and customs for speaking with college faculty by name.*

*One of my typical half-assed cites.
#26
Old 03-26-2013, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Ms Boods View Post
...

At my school it's

Lecturer -- US assistant professor
Senior Lecturer -- US associate professor
Professor -- US full professor.

We have Readers, but they sort of exist outside of that scheme as you apply for that promotion in a different way than going up the route from lecturer-senior lecturer-professor. Readers can be 'Doctor' or 'Professor.' No tenure system here.
I often wondered about this. In the US, a lecturer is the lowest of the low, beneath assistant professor and often a grad student.

And--what, no tenure?! I can't begin to tell you how different the entire academic profession, and meritocracy, such as there is, must differ.
#27
Old 03-26-2013, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Ms Boods View Post
We have Readers, but they sort of exist outside of that scheme as you apply for that promotion in a different way than going up the route from lecturer-senior lecturer-professor. Readers can be 'Doctor' or 'Professor.' No tenure system here.
Is that true? A reader is a reader in my field, never heard of a reader being simultaneously a professor at the same institution.

I'm a professor in the UK and in the context of work, being addressed in an email by someone you don't know it has to be Prof Scissors. If I do know them, exchanged emails etc then it'll likely be first name terms. What really sticks out like a sore thumb is the occasional 'Mr Scissors'. I get that now and again from German exchange students who have their own elaborate naming rituals, and something is getting lost in translation. Herr Dr Dr etc.
#28
Old 03-26-2013, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by flight View Post
In Engineering I have found that those in University settings tend to emphasize the Dr a lot more and expect it. In government and private industry it is used a lot less among researchers.
I've also noticed that the only guy with a PhD in a big department of a company uses it a lot more than someone in a research lab.
#29
Old 03-26-2013, 12:48 PM
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The key is are you referring to him (Ph.D) or addressing him directly (Dr.)?
I'd go along with this when addressing a formal letter:

John Dough, Ph.D.
University Address
etc.


Saint Cad, Ed.D., NBCT (and no Ph.D. and Dr. are not "equivalent" scr4)
Other University address
etc.


Dear Dr. Dough:

blahh blah blah

Yours very truly,
Saint Cad [no postnomials since I already used them. If I didn't have a return address in the heading I would put them here]


For an email which may be a little more informal you are addressing him so it would be Dr. and because it is informal other doctors would be addressed as Dr. IF he also knew the other doctor like at the same department or school. However an argument could be made that if he doesn't know the other doctor you could use his doctorate especially if it is not a Ph.D. since in the academic setting a "Dr." is assumed to be a Ph.D. holder.

:-( "Dr. Dough, I was just talking to Asswipe (Ahz-wee-pay) Jones, SJD ..."
:-) "Dr. Dough, I was just talking to Dr. Jones ..."
#30
Old 03-26-2013, 12:49 PM
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Yes, and MDs or Ph.D.'s shilling for a product or service in advertisements.

ETA: re Voyager

Last edited by Leo Bloom; 03-26-2013 at 12:49 PM.
#31
Old 03-26-2013, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
I've also noticed that the only guy with a PhD in a big department of a company uses it a lot more than someone in a research lab.
I had an English prof who had one of those third-rate "educational advancement" Ph.D.s that many in public institutions get by grinding through a summer session or two, report to HR in order to get the salary bump, and then (properly) hide in a drawer. This one insisted on being called "Dr. Pompousass" and it will give you some indication of her quality as an educator...
#32
Old 03-26-2013, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
"Dr." is form of address. One does not properly refer to oneself using a form of address, notwithstanding that many people find it necessary to induce fawning over their various advanced degrees and professional certifications. Is it incorrect to sign a letter as "Dr. John Smith" the same as you would not sign a letter as "Mr. John Doe."

However, andstufflikethat may certainly address him as "Dr." if he is a professional superior, as he seems to be.
It's incorrect for men to do so. Traditional etiquette dictated that a woman introduce herself that way so as to clue others in on which title she used. Signature blocks included her title in parentheses; ie (Miss) Jane Smith. This has all fallen by the wayside since "Ms" became popular.
#33
Old 03-26-2013, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Busy Scissors View Post
Is that true? A reader is a reader in my field, never heard of a reader being simultaneously a professor at the same institution.

I'm a professor in the UK and in the context of work, being addressed in an email by someone you don't know it has to be Prof Scissors. If I do know them, exchanged emails etc then it'll likely be first name terms. What really sticks out like a sore thumb is the occasional 'Mr Scissors'. I get that now and again from German exchange students who have their own elaborate naming rituals, and something is getting lost in translation. Herr Dr Dr etc.
Hmm., that's quite interesting! I have to admit being new to my school and the system here, and am acquainted with only one person who's a Reader; she insists on being called 'professor.' I'm suspecting now with your response that's she's a bit forward in that regard (she also likes to remind me that she's the 'second best authority!' in her particular field; one of my colleagues always adds, 'In a field of two!' ) Knowing how particular people are here about the title, I suspect she's being awfully cheeky then -- she does like to lord it over the newbies. I withdraw my comment then, as erroneous information!

Leo Bloom -- Yep, in the US, in my experience, lecturers/instructors were frequently adjuncts who had MAs or were ABDs ('all but dissertation) and were ranked below assistant professor in pay scale. Sometimes, though, non-PhDs were full time instructors, for example in the language or music department.

Over here, though, lecturer is what you'd call an assistant professor in the US. The equivalent of an adjunct at my school might be called a part time instructor or a 'fractional' because they are on anything from a .1 to a .9 contract (yet we have full-time fractional lecturers as well.) Some people choose to stay at a high fractional contract so that they don't get burdened with administrative duties.

Last edited by Ms Boods; 03-26-2013 at 05:13 PM.
#34
Old 03-26-2013, 08:21 PM
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Some particular departments (Art, Music, and the like) might have a slew of MFAs (performing artists' terminal-degree) and just a handful of PhDs (art/music historians and the like) or EdDs (art ed, music ed, and the like), but they'll all be considered terminal degreed' up; so 20 'professors' and only 3 of them are Dr.
#35
Old 03-26-2013, 09:34 PM
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I have found that "Dear John Smith" works well enough in situations like this.
#36
Old 03-27-2013, 12:05 AM
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My question is why you would need to address him at all. It's an email, not a piece of paper that might need to be routed to the proper recipient.
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