For example, if you are talking to another researcher from a foreign university, how do you ask him or her what title would he or she be preferred to be called by?

"What's your preferred title" sounds too formal.

"What do you like to be called" sounds too informal.

"Can I call you by your first name" sounds too demanding.

"Are you comfortable with me calling you Doctor. John" sounds...awkward.

Can someone please teach me some academic etiquette?

  • 1
    In my version of English, "Professor X" would not fail to be ok. If it's someone you've just met, the issue of preferred form of address is very subordinate to other things, I think, and should not be broached right away. If the other person has strong feelings about informality or anything else, they themselves would likely take the initiative... "please call me Y"... Otherwise, it is most polite to ... be polite. May 16, 2017 at 23:34
  • 1
    My go-to rule is unless they actively asked for a change, call them with the most formal title. May 16, 2017 at 23:36
  • 6
    I believe you are significantly overthinking this.
    – eykanal
    May 17, 2017 at 13:38

2 Answers 2


I think that it is best to err on the side of being too formal. I tend to ask after I refer to their name for the first time: "It's so nice to talk with you, Dr. Smith- Do you prefer Dr. Smith or do you go by another name or title?..." Then continue with your conversation.

  • 2
    If he does go by another name or title though, wouldn't you get your answer just by calling him Dr Smith? I mean, if he dosn't react badly to Dr Smith, just keep calling him that.
    – sgf
    May 18, 2017 at 23:20

Additionally to Nicole's answer I'd like to mention that often you can influence people. If you introduce yourself as "Nice to meet you, I am Dr. Foo Bar, but please call me Foo" they will often introduce themselves the same way. If you are on roughly the same academic level, they might even be glad that you took a leap and they don't have to face the same dilemma you had in the first place. Of course, as an undergraduate you should not do this with a professor. But as a PhD candidate to a post doc it should be fine, in my opinion.

  • I have to say that I would find someone who introduces themselves "I am Dr. XXX" rather pretentious, even if they followed up by "but call me Y"... But I guess social norms vary.
    – user9646
    May 17, 2017 at 14:24
  • I think it depends. In the U.S., minorities and women in academia often report that they are overlooked for their achievements and sometimes viewed as being lest prestigious as their white/male peers. So, I think that it's okay to acknowledge that you have a PhD, but then show that you are approachable by having people call you by your first name. At my former institution, I worked with mostly men. I sometimes showed up at university events with my name tag being the only one without the title "Dr." May 17, 2017 at 18:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .