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My question is that sometimes if I am unsure of a person's specific title, is it rude to use Mr. or Ms. if they do indeed have a doctorate? I often try to just address them as Dear John Doe, until I know what their title is. However, does it come across as rude or too relaxed if I use both their first and last name instead of a title?

  • It would be uncommon in an average US workplace to refer to someone as "Dr. Doe" even if they had a doctorate (unless they were working as a medical doctor which you generally would know). This sort of question (at least in the US) would be much more common if you were in academia which may have different conventions (and has a different site). – Justin Cave Jul 11 '18 at 21:38
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    The answer would vary by culture and industry, so please specify those to get more useful answers. – Masked Man Jul 13 '18 at 4:06
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However, does it come across as rude or too relaxed if I use both their first and last name instead of a title?

Depends, but generally speaking there should be no problem with that.

If you have met this person before, or you know them already, using their first names is OK, otherwise I'd try not to use just their first names as it is more personal phrasing.

Using Mr./Ms. + last name is OK to do in case you don't know the specific title they have.

If you then happen to find their title, you can use it instead. However, have in mind that sometimes people don't like being called by titles, so the best course of action would be to ask them how do they prefer to be addressed. Some people I've met even foresee this and ask in advance to drop the titles.

Bottom line, using Mr./Ms. is Ok when in doubt, and use titles only if the person is not uncomfortable or against such use.

  • Depending on how you meant this answer, I might disagree with it. If you know that someone has a doctoral degree, as mentioned in the question, it might be quite offensive to address them with the title Mr. or Ms., as some people see it as diminishing the value of the degree. Of course it depends on the person; the point is, saying that it's "always OK" to use Mr./Ms. is dangerous because situations do exist where it's very much not OK. – David Z Jul 13 '18 at 4:49
  • @DavidZ I meant it that it's ok when you dont know the title (which is the second half of that sentence actually...). It's true that it's better to use it if you know it, I'll edit to clarify on the always part. Thanks for your suggestion. – DarkCygnus Jul 13 '18 at 5:37
  • Thanks. I should have been more clear that I was talking about the case where you know the person has a doctorate but you don't know what form of address they prefer. (for example there are other titles such as "Professor" that would sometimes be preferred even over "Doctor".) – David Z Jul 13 '18 at 5:42
  • @DavidZ that's why it's a good idea to ask how they prefer to be addressed, to avoid inconveniences. I've met Doctors who don't like being called with titles, but also others that love to hear the sound of it... – DarkCygnus Jul 13 '18 at 5:45
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The answer is totally country-dependent. I would not advise you to do this in Austria - there you should always try to find out the titles of the person and use them.

More generally, you should always use the norms of the country these persons are in. Try to google these norms - if in doubt, ask someone in your area or ask a question here with country-tag.

  • Quite contrary, I never assumed anything on my answer, and even said it Depends. As a suggestion, I'd advice on removing from your answer the part where you assume that we assumed those things, as it does not address the question (I could remove it myself, but I won't for respect of your answer). – DarkCygnus Jul 12 '18 at 18:55
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No it's not rude to just use Mr. or Ms. I typically use just the person's first name (it's more inclusive non-binary individuals than Mr. or Ms.) that I am emailing unless it's a medical doctor or a professor.

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