Friday, November 26, 2004


Sometimes I wish that no one had ever decided that people with a Ph.D. should have the title Dr.

I'm totally OK with the practice that on a formal social invitation that it is only correct to use Dr. for an M.D. and that you should use Mr./Miss/Ms./Mrs. for people with a Ph.D. And if my cousin ends up marrying that rich New York lawyer, I will not mind if they send my invitation to Ms. Hirta (or even Miss Hirta).

But the etiquette people point out that it is correct to use professional titles in professional situations. And here is where it gets sticky. (I've sort of given up and no longer say anything when my students call me Mrs. Hirta.)

I've heard several stories of people who've supervised undergraduates writing senior theses and have encouraged their students to publish the results. Quite often when the journal writes back to the student, it's "Dear Dr. -----" or "Dear Professor -----". And it's a fair enough assumption on the part of the journal, since it's fairly unusual for undergraduates to submit papers to journals. The undergraduate usually gets a kick out of it.

So in this context, today I received an email from the journal that is going to publish my paper. It was addressed "Dear Ms. Hirta." Somehow I feel simultaneously snubbed and over-sensitive and petty.