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Q: Ph.D. Signature ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Ph.D. Signature
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: sbernardc-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 28 Apr 2004 10:55 PDT
Expires: 28 May 2004 10:55 PDT
Question ID: 337723
I am a graduate student who is finishing up the requirements for the
Ph.D. Degree.  My question is simple, how do I sign my name.  Do I
sign as Dr. John Doe whenever I sign my name or do I sign as John Doe,

Clarification of Question by sbernardc-ga on 28 Apr 2004 10:59 PDT
I am a graduate student who is finishing up the requirements for the
Ph.D. Degree.  My question is simple, how do I sign my name when I am
done.  Do I sign as Dr. John Doe whenever I sign my name or do I sign
as John Doe,
Ph.D.?  Also, is other general Ph.D. information available in an
etiquette or some other type of book for new Ph.D.'s?
Subject: Re: Ph.D. Signature
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 28 Apr 2004 12:46 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
If you choose to use the title conferred by your degree as part of
your signature, it is best to place the abbreviation representing the
degree after your name, separated from the name by a comma (as in John
Smith, Ph.D. or Mary Jones, M.D.). Whether or not to include the
periods is a matter of some debate; many university stylebooks suggest
leaving them out.

Placing the degree after the name is generally considered more
appropriate than signing as "Dr. John Smith."

A signature of "Dr. John Smith, Ph.D." is almost universally frowned
upon, since it is a redundancy.

Most of my friends who travel in academic circles have dropped the PhD
from their signatures, with a few job-related exceptions. Some
consider it an affectation to append a degree to one's name unless the
possession of the degree is relevant to the content of the
correspondence. The well-known etiquette columnist "Miss Manners" once
suggested that, although newly-degreed people may be tempted to
display their hard-won titles as part of their names, it's best not to
do so. Miss  Manners' analogy was that a person with an advanced
degree is like a lady who has invested in some fine silk underwear:
she should derive her satisfaction from the knowledge that she is
wearing it, and share that knowledge only with intimate associates.

Here are some online references that may be helpful:

"Incidentally, doctorates are also given in law and medicine; I'm not
sure why the former never use the title Dr., though they sometimes put
J.D. (Juris Doctorate - Doctor of Letters) or Esq. (Esquire) after
their names. Medical doctors always use the term Dr. before their name
or M.D. (Medical Doctor) - or some specialty like D.D.S. after the

Judith Martin (Miss Manners) once noted that the term Dr. is used only
by medical doctors or by professors at colleges where some professors
have the doctorate and others do not. She exaggerates, but there is
some truth to this."

Bridgewater State College: What's Up, Doc?

Some university style guides discourage the use of either 'Dr' before
the name or 'PhD' after it:

"Degrees (academic)

Do not use periods in PhD, BS, MBA, etc. 

Do not capitalize bachelor of science, master of arts, etc. Likewise,
do not capitalize the field (bachelor of arts in philosophy) unless,
of course, it is a proper noun (bachelor of arts in English).

For people with PhDs, do not use PhD after the name or Dr. before it.
See further discussion under 'Dr.'

Use an apostrophe in bachelor's degree and master's degree...


Most style guides reserve Dr. for medical doctors and dentists.
Because people with PhDs are sometimes offended by not receiving that
courtesy title, you might want to avoid using Dr. for MDs and DDSs,
too. One way to do so is to identify a specialty after the name or use
some other language that implies a medical degree (John Smith, an
orthodontist; Mary Brown, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern
University Medical School)."

Northwestern University Style Guide

I hope this helps. If anything is unclear, please request
clarification; I'll be glad to offer further assistance before you
rate my answer.

Best regards,

Request for Answer Clarification by sbernardc-ga on 28 Apr 2004 13:46 PDT
So, as in most things in life, your answer is somewhat complex (or in
the grey area).  It appears to be more acceptable to place the PhD,
with no periods, after the signature, although many style guides even
frown on this practice and people in the field, at least that you
know, have also moved away from this practice.  Thus, a quandary
presents itself, use the PhD after the signature and it may be
considered an affectation, use not, and no immediate recognition
and/or preferential treatment for 6 years of work (2 for Masters and 4
for PhD) is received.  Hmmm..........

Clarification of Answer by pinkfreud-ga on 28 Apr 2004 14:00 PDT
As you say, this does fall into a "grey area." The only hard-and-fast
rule is not to use both 'Dr' and 'PhD' when signing your name.

From a personal standpoint...

If I had recently earned my doctorate, I would append the abbreviation
of my degree to my signature in business correspondence. If I were
writing or emailing my friends or relatives, I would use my name only,
omitting reference to the degree.

This is a matter of personal style. It has been my observation that
newly-degreed people who are justifiably proud of their
accomplishments are more likely to sign "John Smith, PhD" than are
those who received their degrees decades ago. Most of my friends in
academia are old folks, and they have jettisoned the formalities by
choice. I once had a neighbor whom I knew for several years before
learning that he had a PhD. It had never been particularly germane to
our conversation, so he hadn't mentioned it.

When my late father received his master's degree, he (quite seriously)
demanded that his wife and children address him as "Master." Now, THAT
was an affectation. In my view, placing PhD after your name is not.

~pinkfreud, GAR (Google Answers Researcher)
sbernardc-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00

Subject: Re: Ph.D. Signature
From: owain-ga on 28 Apr 2004 14:00 PDT
When actually signing your name (writing your signature) you use
neither Dr nor PhD, as your qualification is not part of your name. In
serious academic circles you will be presumed to have at least a first
doctorate, and outside those circles it is irrelevant.

Whatever you do, don't do as a neighbour of mine did and have your
chequebooks reprinted Jane Smith BA :-)

Subject: Re: Ph.D. Signature
From: pinkfreud-ga on 28 Apr 2004 14:52 PDT
Thank you very much for the five-star rating and the tip!

Congratulations on your upcoming PhD. Regardless of whether or not you
decide to display those initials after your name, you have achieved
something of note, and you should be proud.

Subject: Re: Ph.D. Signature
From: ssmithfl-ga on 28 Mar 2005 16:39 PST
Re why lawyers don't use "doctor" either: the "Esquire" already
supplies the "desired" information (a practicing attorney, thus with a
JD). Originally, lawyers didn't receive a JD, but an LLB (bachelor of
laws), followed by a master of law and doctor of juridical science
degree, which led to the "quirky" result for 4 undergraduate + 3 law
years resulting in "yet another/only a bachelors" the
usage changed to make the degree a JD (thus equivalent, more or less,
to the time to receive a "doctors" degree in other fields). This, in
turn, led to the current "quirky" result of a long-term law student
receiving first a doctorate, then a masters, then another doctorate,
lol. Thus, most "advanced" attorneys do use the LLM or SJD on their
card or correspondence to denote "a more advanced law degree." The
"sole" use of JD after a name or on a card now, curiously, tends to
mark the person as someone who finished law school somewhere, but is
not licensed in the jurisdiction otherwise listed as the address of
the card ... and tends to be viewed with the same "amusement" that
others view the use of the BA or PhD outside of an academic setting. I
think most folks over 45 were taught that one is a "doctor" only
either (1) as an MD / Dentist or (2) a PhD in a university town who
looks down on those with "only" a masters degree. The use of the PhD
is tolerated more when it is used as a signature on a piece of "expert
witness" correspondence, for example, when some degree of education
evaluation is important to the "weight" to place on the advice.

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