Editorial Style Guide

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Titles of people

Titles (of people)

Professional titles

When used in a sentence, professional titles should be uppercase before a person’s name and lowercase after. (When a title appears before a person’s name, it is seen as part of the name. When it appears after or on its own, it is seen as the name of the job and not the person, so it should not be capitalized.)

  • Please welcome Dean of Engineering Thomas Magnanti.
  • Thomas Magnanti is dean of the School of Engineering.
  • James Paradis is head of the writing and humanistic studies department.

A professional title without an associated name should be lowercase in running text unless it is a named position—e.g., an endowed chair—and in that case it is always uppercase.

  • Ronald Rivest is the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

When used in lists, on business cards or stationery, or otherwise set off from body copy, professional titles can be capitalized even after the name.

  • Thomas Magnanti, Dean of Engineering.

Academic titles

See professor. See also Courtesy Titles.

Jr./Sr.

See Jr. or Sr. See also Courtesy Titles.

  • Cuba Gooding Jr. is one of Caitlin’s favorite actors.

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Courtesy titles

Courtesy titles include Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Dr. Please save the use of Dr. for medical doctors. The best way to deal with professors is to use the capitalized Professor Irwin (second reference) for formal writing. In more informal writing, depending on the audience, a professor may be referred to by his or her first or last name on second reference. If the exact title of a person is necessary for the context, use Associate Professor and the like. See Ph.D. and titles (of people).

Do not mix courtesy titles and professional degrees. Also, use only one title with a name.

Incorrect:

  • Mr. Xavier Gabaix, Ph.D. (use Xavier Gabaix, Ph.D. )
  • Mr. John W. Smith, Esq. (use John W. Smith, Esq. )
  • the Honorable Judge Susan Webber Wright (use Judge Susan Webber Wright )
  • Dr. Marcus Welby, M.D. (use Marcus Welby, M.D. )

Correct:

  • Professor of Applied Mathematics Bonnie Berger has received several awards.
  • Professor Berger is also head of the Computation and Biology group at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS).
  • Bonnie Berger is a professor of applied mathematics at MIT.

Titles used with just a surname are spelled out, and titles with a full name are abbreviated.

  • General Anderson
  • Professor Berger
  • Senator Robb but Sen. Edward Kennedy
  • Hon. Frank M. Hull

Exception :When the is used with the title, then it is spelled out:

  • the Honorable Susan Webber Wright

Special situation:When both a husband and wife are doctors.

Incorrect:

  • Drs. William and Victoria Anderson
  • The Doctors Anderson

Correct:

  • Dr. William Anderson and Dr. Victoria Anderson

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