Dr or No

Some media outlets have stopped using academic titles to refer to individuals. The historian Dr. Fern Riddell tweeted her displeasure and was then subjected to criticism for defending her right to use Dr. instead of Ms or Miss. As most critics were male it became a gender issue and women responded by putting Dr. in their Twitter handle. I am a male holder of a PhD and have often wondered when it is appropriate to use the title. The answer seems to be, at my discretion.

My first book was advertised as by Dr. Paul Williams. The others and my fiction are by Paul Williams. That book was an abridged version of my PhD thesis. Informing readers that I had an academic qualification gave them the reassurance that I was an expert on the topic. So, it is for Dr. Riddell, the author of several books in her field of expertise. I only now call myself Dr. in formal correspondence, especially complaints. That’s my choice. Others who have earned any qualification or award that confers a title, are free to do as they please. Everyone, including editors and social media users, should respect that.

After reading some of the unsavoury responses to Dr. Riddell’s tweet I was not surprised to learn that the USA, which awards more doctorates than any other country, has for the last eight consecutive years awarded more to women than men.

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