Do you add a suffix to your name in your email signature?
May 27, 2009 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Do you add a suffix after your name in your email signature? For example, if you are a certified project manager, do you add PMP after your name? Or if you have your MBA, do you add 'MBA' after your name? If so, why? I ask because I believe in 99% of the cases where I've seen a suffix, it is unnecessary and not used within the right context or it just simply isn't worthy of being added after a name. I would be interested in some responses arguing both sides of the issue.
posted by dudleybdawson to Work & Money (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In my profession, it's necessary to add one's degree, title, and license number to all printed matter (this is a rule that I think originates from the ethics board). So I do, because an email is the same in purpose as a printed letter would be.

Unrelated note: "Esq." really irritates me, for whatever reason, though.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:53 PM on May 27, 2009

My work e-mail signature includes my academic/professional qualifications, since it adds weight to my opinions/arguments/suggestions.
But unless I feel it's useful for such purposes and since I don't want to come across as arrogant or pompous, I often just delete the signature and sign off with just my first name.
Generally, if it's my first correspondence with somebody I'll include the signature, since it includes that info as well as my phone number and address; after that I leave it off any further messages
posted by Flashman at 9:06 PM on May 27, 2009

I rarely sign with it, its on my letterhead. I'm a lawyer.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:06 PM on May 27, 2009

I'm a lawyer and I NEVER use Esq. after my name. Totally pretentious and unnecessary. I also hate those 10 line long e-signatures that gives every last detail about you that's clearly meant to convey how important you are.
posted by calgirl13 at 9:07 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't, but some people I work with have a email signature that has name, title, phone, address. Sometimes it's convenient when you get a lot of emails from different people to know what role they have professionally. It's superfluous when you know the person well, but like Flashman says, if it's initial and distant contact it can be helpful.
posted by demiurge at 9:07 PM on May 27, 2009

From what I've seen, it's rare for university faculty in my department to throw on the "Ph.D." at the end of their name, especially for interdepartmental purposes.

For more formal email purposes (e.g., listservs) there seems to be a tendency for less established researchers to append the the suffix, but the "names" are far more casual. It's kind of cute how insecure junior faculty are.

In my case, it's totally superfluous. If the name "Awesome Fantastico" doesn't command immediate respect, I doubt a "Ph.D." after the fact is going to do much.
posted by logicpunk at 9:17 PM on May 27, 2009

For more formal email purposes (e.g., listservs) there seems to be a tendency for less established researchers to append the the suffix, but the "names" are far more casual. It's kind of cute how insecure junior faculty are.

Oh yeah, this is totally the case I've noticed in the museum world, too. The curators (and folks in related fields) who insist on putting the Ph.D. after their names are inevitably junior staff with ego issues who can't write for shit. The really smart, confident, accomplished ones never, ever use it. They don't have to.
posted by scody at 9:35 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

A bit back, I was working outside my field for a company that I had found more and more disagreeable. I was expected to fill out reams of paperwork, and on one particular occasion, the new boss wadded up a page of one of my documents and threw it at me. I have a Master's Degree (albeit in an unrelated subject) and after that low point, I was always "thebreakdown, M.S." on all my paperwork. Yes, it was petty, too subtle, and in the end not nearly enough satisfaction to keep me from quitting, but for a few months, I signed it with a grand "fuck you" flourish.

So, don't rule out being petty.
posted by thebrokedown at 9:46 PM on May 27, 2009

Unless you are required to do so, don't. It's either unnecessary (in which case it comes off as preening, especially when you're interacting with people who likely have some of the same or equal credentials), or if it's really important, it should be communicated directly to the person you're speaking with, not relegated to a part of the page many people skip over.

I have been told that the above rules apply only in the US, and that in Europe, many people credential themselves this way.
posted by decathecting at 9:47 PM on May 27, 2009

Note that "esquire" is used in the third person but not in the first. Read about the American usage here --
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:48 PM on May 27, 2009

Unless there is a requirement to do so, the only thing it accomplishes is looking really douchey and self-important. Resist the urge!
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:02 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Not sure about suffixes (like "MBA") in particular, but it can be useful to put your title/position in your email signature, which in my case, is also my professional qualification (attorney). This is because when you write to people outside the firm, they do not necessarily know if you are a paralegal or a secretary, whether they should expect to see your name on the pleadings, etc.

But yeah, putting "Esq." is douchy and unnecessary.
posted by rkent at 10:15 PM on May 27, 2009

To follow up on rkent's comment, I use it in emails when I'm acting as an attorney. Although my firm's name should make it clear that I'm not a secretary, I've found that there's still some sexism going on in the world. When a male (particularly a male attorney) receives my correspondence and sees my female name at the bottom, he tends to assume I'm a secretary, not the attorney working the case. How they come to that conclusion boggles me. If my name is Lola Torney, then the firm's name is Torney Law Firm. Catch a clue.

I've had one assume that I was the wife of the name on the letterhead.

For this reason, I use Esq. I don't *sign* my name that way, but under my (usually illegible) scrawl, I use: Lola Torney, Esq.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:42 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's definitely worthless if it's not immediately identifiable, and if it doesn't mean that you have any actual special skills. I've worked with some people who had a long list of abbreviations after their name; I didn't recognize them and I don't feel particularly inclined to look them up. It just becomes the junk that everyone adds onto their signature to make themselves feel important. Everyone else thinks they look foolish, especially peers who would be equally qualified.

I would only use them if they actually conveyed some special responsibility or made your role clear, ie: I am a *lawyer* and this is *legal advice*, but even in that situation it's important enough so that it shouldn't be delegated to the signature.
posted by meowzilla at 11:13 PM on May 27, 2009

If the designation or degree is truly, directly related to the position, it's appropriate. If it's not, it's pretentious.

I work at a company where one of the managers has a PhD in a completely unrelated discipline to his field of work. He insists on using his degree wherever possible, and this has become one of those underground jokes throughout the company. Nobody wants to be "that guy".
posted by parkerama at 11:23 PM on May 27, 2009

Yeah, in the US credentials are totally unnecessary and a mark of insecurity among your professional peers or friends. But LOLAttorney2009's experience is common for women with advanced degrees across the board, I think. So I use PhD in written communications with MDs I know to be jerks, in complaint letters to corporations and to State Attorney offices to complain about those corporations, and basically in all formal writing I expect to be contentious.

A senior professor tells me he used PhD pre-9/11 because sometimes it resulted in unexpected, delightful bumps into business class, or so he thought.
posted by vincele at 11:39 PM on May 27, 2009

I'm an undergraduate student. When sending emails to my professors, I put '11 after my name to let them know my class year. This information my be helpful in providing overrides for lacking prerequisites or for getting grades in at the end of the year. (Senior grades are due earlier.)

Note: '11 is not a suffix by default, only when emailing professors about classes.
posted by cmchap at 11:56 PM on May 27, 2009

The longer your signature, the more you have to prove.
posted by randomstriker at 12:07 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Okay, as a former adjunct faculty member and museum curator, I have used "Ph.D." as a suffix on professional emails so that people know I have it, sure. I don't think it's ego so much as, here's how to address that envelope, thanks. In both situations, whether or not someone in my position might have a terminal degree was ambiguous, and sure, I liked people to know who they were talking to. In analogous situations, I've liked to know about other people -- it's a courtesy in situations where there may be a lack of clarity.

And although it's obviously also a status thing, I would argue that it's a useful status to know about -- I have a lot more expertise than someone in my field without one who is otherwise the same age/level of work experience. So in a professional email, communicating that fact is to the point.

Also, it has had an impact on the non-experts with whom I engaged on a daily basis: for example, when I got a job at a certain museum, our newsletter editor (a medical doctor) suggested that I might want to be called simply "Ms. Obliquicity" rather than "Dr. Obliquicity" because I am not "a real doctor." I pointed out that no one in their right mind reading a museum newsletter would parse "Dr." as referring to medicine, but they would understand that our museum was holding their curatorial staff to a high standard of expertise if they saw either the "Dr." or a reference to my Ph.D. in some other form (i.e., a suffix). Which is useful PR, apart from anything else -- especially in a context where 75% of our membership, in that case, had terminal degrees in their fields.

Now that I have a tenure-stream job at a university, my title is implicitly indicative of my degree status, so when I need/want to use a title (or suffix), I use "Professor" (which has its own ambiguities internationally, but is fairly comprehensible in the US, where I work). Using "Prof." rather than "Dr." was presented to me as the appropriate thing to do by my dissertation advisor, so I've stuck with that advice (and it's also why I tended to use the "Ph.D." suffix rather than "Dr." when I wasn't a professor).
posted by obliquicity at 12:42 AM on May 28, 2009

Some people use an e-mail signature that has all the information you would expect to find on a business card; name, major qualifications, address, telephone number, cell phone number, and website. Mostly people then type their name informally, with their signature down the bottom of the e-mail.

IMHO it's reasonable enough to include your qualifications if you're doing a business card style signature, because you'd put that information on a business card. Obviously, if you were signing your name with qualifications after it every time, that would be weird.

I think it's a kind of neat thing, hearkening back to the early days of the internet when everyone would give out their phone number and address on usenet - not like nowadays when people are afraid to even say their e-mail address for fear of spam :)

When a male (particularly a male attorney) receives my correspondence and sees my female name at the bottom, he tends to assume I'm a secretary, not the attorney working the case.

In academia, for practising researchers, it goes without saying that they have a stack of qualifications; but administrators with postgraduate qualifications prefer to mention their qualifications because it isn't implied by their role. So a person applying to a funding body might not include PhD on their e-mails, but the person replying is more likely to, to make it clear that they aren't an 18-year-old junior administrator.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:57 AM on May 28, 2009

I add it because I am pompous and insufferable.

ActingTheGoat, PI
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:40 AM on May 28, 2009

I use mine (PharmD, RPh) occasionally when I need to identify myself. Never both, though, one at a time is bad enough. One denotes academic credentials and the other licensure, but either conveys "is pharmacist", and that's all I want to communicate. (If I could get away with it I would just write "IS PHARMIST". Preferably in crayon. Don't know how well that would go over at work, though.)

Anyway, this seems to be standard for the field, outside of academia, which is more formal. The only time I'm ever called Dr. is when someone sends me a wedding invitation or something, and even then it makes me cringe. Yep, I feel kinda douchey and self-important just typing this answer.
posted by little e at 1:43 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

European perspective: I wouldn't use any kind of suffix, either. As others have said, it reeks of insecurity or pomposity. I don't need to know what qualifications you have, it simply isn't relevant in the course of our transaction.

Besides, in my experience, you don't prove your competence through accreditations and qualifications, but by demonstrable experience in the subject-matter area.

Leave off the suffix.
posted by Lleyam at 1:48 AM on May 28, 2009

It seems to me that the people who take most issue with including titles and suffixes in email signatures are those that don't have any.

I agree with the comment that for work purposes, an email signature is like a business card. And depending on what sector you work in, it is entirely acceptable to list your qualifications.

I am proud of the work I did to become Dr OtherGuy, and I shouldn't have to hide it away to cater to other people's insecurities.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:42 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I worked in academia, the formal policy was no suffix on emails or business cards.

I'm at a consulting firm now, and the formal policy is to include M.D. or Ph.D., but no others.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:05 AM on May 28, 2009

I am proud of the work I did to become Dr OtherGuy, and I shouldn't have to hide it away to cater to other people's insecurities.

Nothing like that for me at least. I can only speak for my experience in my own profession, and I'm sure there are fields where practices are entirely different. But I've done a lot of cool things in my life (including all the stuff I had to accomplish to become Dr. little e) none of which I tack onto the end of every email I send. It's a basic aversion to flauntiness.
posted by little e at 3:40 AM on May 28, 2009

Depends on the country. For Americans and British it's almost an embarrassment. Germans? Pretty much required and expected.
posted by devnull at 4:00 AM on May 28, 2009

To me the justification for including your qualifications in your signature should be one of business - nothing more. If your qualifications happen to be relevant and materially important as a selling point for your employer (or for you as an independent consultant) then include them on all external mail. I have been asked to list mine when working for a research consultancy and would find them useful in correspondence with professionals I was looking to engage (for example I may be more likely to accept your higher than normal fees if I notice that you are a fellow of rather than simply a member).
posted by rongorongo at 4:42 AM on May 28, 2009

It seems to me that the people who take most issue with including titles and suffixes in email signatures are those that don't have any.

IMHO it's reasonable enough to include your qualifications if you're doing a business card style signature, because you'd put that information on a business card.

(Note: quotes are from separate posters)

I have a PhD., and I think it's tacky. In fact, I don't have it on my business card either. I do work in a field where my degree is related. In fact, part of the reason I think it's tacky to include it is that anyone in my job would have a PhD, so it goes without saying. No need to be blustery by pointing it out.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:05 AM on May 28, 2009

Building on Penguin's point, I think it makes sense to attach your title if (1) you have a business-card style signature in your email and (2) you're working in a field where people's qualifications vary, especially if the variation in qualifications changes the sort of work that people can do.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:53 AM on May 28, 2009

Years ago when I lived in Seattle, my housemate received, via U.S. mail, a letter from our next door neighbor complaining about her barking puppy. Although the neighbor's dot-matrix missive was silent on the salient points of tax preparation strategy, he saw fit to sign it "[First Name][Last Name], C.P.A." ...I still get a chuckle about that. ...Frankly, the guy had a valid complaint about my housemate's untrained dog, but the pompous signature endeared few to his cause.
posted by applemeat at 7:41 AM on May 28, 2009

To follow up my earlier comment. I work in academia, so there are people with various educational backgrounds that often require distinguishing.

Now, all the correspondance from my university administration is addressed to Dr OtherGuy (not my choice). The sign on my office door says Dr OtherGuy (again, not my choice).. and my entry in the staff directory is Dr OtherGuy (ditto.. not my choice). How then is me putting Dr in my work email signature a bridge too far?

But I've done a lot of cool things in my life ... none of which I tack onto the end of every email I send

Quite obviously we are talking work email accounts here. Do you really think I would sign that way if I were writing to Great Aunt Ursula from Wisconsin?
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:02 AM on May 28, 2009

I put PhD after my name on my work e-mail signatures and on my business cards, along with my contact info.

However, for my personal e-mail address, I never put it there, and I never use "Dr" as a title in any context (though people have addressed me that way on occasion).

With a strict separation of work e-mail and personal e-mail I run into less trouble on this issue.

I think some of this is like wearing a suit to an interview or an important meeting: you convey the important aspects of yourself and what you do up-front. With people you're more familiar with, there's no need to constantly remind everyone.
posted by deanc at 8:13 AM on May 28, 2009

On a resume, yes. On certain email and listservs to people who don't know who I am, I make sure to use my full .sig, with title and contact info. It annoys me when other people in our large, distributed enterprise don't. I can use search to find out that GeorgeD is manager of the Springfield branch location, but it's nicer to just provide the info.

I'm generally more impressed with a person when I find out later in our acquaintanceship they have a degree, rather than "Hey, Look, I have an M.Ed." However, anybody who's worked for a degree deserves some respect. Dr. Denis Leary does, too.
posted by theora55 at 9:42 AM on May 28, 2009

I never use PhD unless I'm in professional communication with an unknown person outside of my field. I might use it to try to get a meeting or an interview or something, for instance. In other circumstances in academia we rarely use it; it's assumed.
posted by B-squared at 4:21 PM on May 28, 2009

Quite obviously we are talking work email accounts here.

Yes, I know, I was talking about work email. Like I said, I was only talking about my own field, and I'm in no way trying to slam anyone for doing whatever is appropriate in theirs.
posted by little e at 10:18 PM on May 28, 2009

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