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:
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.
Request for Answer Clarification by
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
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)