Academics and professionals

Follow these rules to address and title academics and professionals correctly. The guidance focuses on academics, medical practitioners, dentists and veterinarians. Apply the rules when writing about individuals in other professions.

Use initial capitals for the titles of individual academics and professionals

The academic and professional titles held by individuals usually have initial capitals. This includes honorary titles.

Use lower case if you use a title generically.

Example

  • Adjunct Professor Monty Chiratte [Honorary academic title]
  • All general surgeons at the hospital attended Wednesday’s forum. [Generic use]

Use full titles in certain contexts

Academics and professionals are often addressed by their ‘full title’. A full title includes the title or honorific (with initial capitals), name, post-nominals, position and organisation.

Use a full title:

  • to introduce an individual as speaker
  • in address and signature blocks in correspondence
  • in official records of proceedings
  • in lists in organisational publications such as annual reports
  • if it is important to know where an individual works.

A full title is often about using titles in a display or presentation context (display text).

Example

  • Professor Margaret Gardner AC, President and Vice-Chancellor, Monash University [Full title]

Titles immediately before a name

Use initial capitals for titles that appear immediately before a person’s name. Do this unless the title is generic.

Also use initial capitals for the shortened forms of titles.

Example

  • Our new vice-chancellor and president is Professor Rufus Black.
  • We welcome Dr Jamilah Mulyadi to our clinic. Dr Mulyadi is now available for skin examinations.

Shortened forms for titles immediately before a name

Only use shortened forms of titles in limited circumstances. People might understand common contractions like ‘Prof’ for ‘Professor’, but some shortened forms are confusing. For example, the initialism for ‘Pro Vice-Chancellor’ is ‘PVC’. To ensure your content is readable, write the title in full.

Shortened forms are sometimes necessary because of limited space. For example, shortened forms often appear in tables. List the full form of any title that people might find confusing in a note.

The space available for image captions can be limited, but write the full names and titles as a default. If you have to use initials and the shortened forms of titles in a caption, always include the full forms in body text to provide context.

‘Dr’ is an exception in all instances. Like ‘Ms’ and ‘Mr’, ‘Dr’ is easy to understand when it appears before a name.

Example

  • Departmental officers recently attended Upsilon University’s annual Copyright Symposium. The academic panel (pictured below), chaired by Vice-Chancellor Tom Dhillon, discussed recent cases with implications for fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. [Body text: spelt-out titles]
  • Left to right: Associate Professor Sara Baird, Vice-Chancellor Tom Dhillon, Dean Frank Ealing, Adjunct Professor Olena Iraklidis, Dr Celia Nieminen [Image caption: preferred style]
  • Left to right: Assoc Prof S Baird, VC T Dhillon, Dean F Ealing, Adj Prof O Iraklidis, Dr C Nieminen [Image caption: only for limited space]

Titles that replace a name

Use initial capitals for official titles that replace a name.

Titles replacing a name also have initial capitals:

  • when you address someone directly
  • for salutations in correspondence.

For all other uses, titles that replace a name should be lower case.

These other uses include abbreviated titles and titles given by an organisation to a role or position. Academic and professional organisations might capitalise such titles as a mark of respect or status, but this is not Australian Government style. Treat them as generic and use lower case.

Example

  • The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania visited last week. [Initial capitals: official title replacing name]
  • The vice-chancellor visited Burnie campus last week. [Lower case: abbreviated title replacing name]
  • Dear Chancellor [Initial capital: salutation]
  • ‘We note your concerns Doctor. Thank you for bringing this evidence before the committee’. [Initial capital: direct address]

Titles after a name

Use lower case for most titles that appear after a name. These titles describe the individual and are generic.

There is one exception. Only use initial capitals for titles after a name in a full title.

This includes for:

  • address and signature blocks in correspondence
  • lists in organisational publications such as annual reports.

Follow your organisation’s template style for signature blocks. Templates apply design elements and list all elements in correct order. Some organisations prefer all capitals for names, titles and the organisation’s name.

Example

  • They met with Associate Professor Dianne Stephens OAM, medical director of the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre.  [Lower case: generic descriptive title in body text]
  • Associate Professor Dianne Stephens OAM, Medical Director, National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre  [Initial capitals: full title]
  • Professor Chris Goodnow FAA FRS
    Executive Director
    Garvan Institute of Medical Research
    384 Victoria Street
    Darlinghurst NSW 2010
    Australia  [Initial capitals: full title for address block]
  • Dr Fatima Dashti FASM
    Director (Research)
    Institute for Viruses
    telephone
    email
    website  [Initial capitals: full title for signature block. Order of elements might vary.]
  • #LIVE #COVID Update with Professor Paul Kelly, Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health. [Initial capitals: full title to introduce speaker in government video.]
  • 2021 Innovation Award recipients

    Dr Joanne Zheng
    Senior Research Scientist
    AcmeCo Australia

    Professor Alexander Bannon
    Senior Lecturer in Rehabilitation Medicine
    Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
    University of Adelaide

    [Initial capitals: full titles for list in annual report]

Use lower case for titles used in a generic way

Generic use of academic and professional titles includes:

  • titles that describe a named individual
  • plural titles
  • common nouns.

As shown in the previous section, most titles that appear after a name are generic.

Some titles appearing immediately before a name are also generic because they describe the individual. These titles are usually preceded by ‘the’ or a modifier. Adjectives are modifiers because they restrict the meaning of a noun.

Example

  • Professor Bartlett, the university’s vice-chancellor, welcomed alumni to the reception. [Lower case: descriptive title after a name]
  • The research fellow Lydia Mbegngue wrote extensively on this topic. [Lower case: title before a name, modified by ‘the’]
  • Several postdoctoral fellows in the research facility met last week. [Lower case: plural title]
  • A provost oversees a university’s academic performance. [Lower case: common noun]
  • Dhriti Saxena is a local doctor in general practice. [Lower case: common noun and descriptive title after a name]
  • They met with former medical director Tom Perera. [Lower case: title immediately before a name, modified by ‘former’]
  • Two doctors from this practice attended the conference. [Lower case: plural title]
  • It is important to see your doctor to develop an asthma action plan. [Lower case: common noun]

Use title, name and post-nominals at first mention

When you write about an individual, it’s respectful to use their title.

The first time you mention someone in body text, use their academic or professional title before their first name and last name, followed by post-nominals.

If you mention the individual again, only use the title and last name. Some academic titles have an accepted abbreviated title you can use after the first mention.

Example

  • Emeritus Professor Stephen Duckett has extensive experience in health care at senior leadership level. Professor Duckett’s membership of the RMIT Council concludes in 2022.
  • [‘Professor’ is the accepted abbreviated title for an Emeritus or Emerita Professor.]

Never use the shortened form of the title in body text (‘Prof’ for example), except for the contraction ‘Dr’.

Write this

This year’s graduate cohort asked Deputy Vice-Chancellor Jonquil Johansson to moderate their debate.

Not this

DVC Jonquil Johansson to moderate their debate.

Write post-nominals after the name in academic and professional titles

Post-nominals are letters after a name that stand for academic, civil and military awards and honours.

Make sure you write post-nominals in the right order.

Don’t use commas before or between post-nominals.

Example

  • Professor Sally Wheeler OBE MRIA FAcSS FAAL

Use post-nominals at first mention only

The first time you write a name in body text, use the academic and professional title along with the first and last name. Include the post-nominal for a civil or military honour in the title.

If you mention the name again, use the title and last name, but don’t include the post-nominal.

Example

  • Dr Ziggy Switkowski AO has been chancellor of RMIT since 2011. Dr Switkowski is also chair of NBN Co.

Include post-nominals in the shortened forms of titles

Retain any post-nominals for civil and military honours when using the shortened forms of titles.

Example

  • Attendees: Dr Z Switkowski AO, Prof M Bean CBE, Dr S Andrews, Ms J Latchford, Prof S Duckett, Ms T McLaughin and Mr D Hoogstra. [Extract from minutes of a university council meeting]

Use post-nominals for academic and professional qualifications in 2 contexts

Post-nominals can also stand for tertiary and professional qualifications.

Use these post-nominals:

  • for correspondence within the academic community
  • to show relevant expertise.

Don’t include both ‘Dr’ (doctorate) and ‘PhD’ (Doctor of Philosophy) for the one name. It is conventional to use either the title or the post-nominal. This also applies to PhD equivalents such as ‘LLD’ (Doctor of Laws).

Don’t include post-nominals for master and bachelor degrees in correspondence.

Example

  • Dr Zdenka Svoboda or Zdenka Svoboda PhD [Individual with doctorate]
  • Dr Amin Salke MD FRACGP [Medical practitioner]
  • Brent Hulot CPA [Accountant]
  • Mark Price BEngTech TMIEAust [Engineer]
  • Mia Lillard BCom CFP [Financial planner]

Titles for academics

In most contexts, address academics with their full title: title or honorific, name, position, post-nominals and academic institution.

Example

  • Associate Professor Peter Spencer, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University [Full title]
  • Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt AO
    Director of Research
    Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research
    University of Technology Sydney
    PO Box 123
    Broadway NSW 2007
    Australia    [Full title: address block]

An academic who is knighted

Use ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ after the academic title.

Example

  • Chancellor Dame Leonie Kramer AC DBE
  • Chancellor Sir Albert Axon KBE

Emails and letters to academics

Keep the initial capital for the title in correspondence when you’re writing to a specific person.

In formal correspondence:

  • Open with ‘Chancellor’ (or ‘Vice-Chancellor’, ‘Professor’ and so on).
  • Conclude with ‘Yours faithfully’.

In less formal correspondence:

  • Open with ‘Dear Chancellor’ (or ‘Vice-Chancellor’, ‘Professor’ and so on).
  • Conclude with ‘Yours sincerely’.

Don’t include a comma after these phrases. Australian Government style is to write salutations without punctuation.

Write this

Dear Associate Professor … Yours faithfully

Dear Assistant Professor … Yours sincerely

Not this

Dear Associate Professor, … Yours faithfully,

Dear Assistant Professor, … Yours sincerely,

How to address associate and assistant professors correctly in correspondence differs by country and educational institution.

For Australian correspondence, write ‘Dear Associate Professor’ and ‘Dear Assistant Professor’ not ‘Dear Doctor’ or ‘Dear Professor’.

People with doctorates

You can address people who hold a doctorate as ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr’ (without a full stop). Today, it is acceptable to use ‘Dear Dr Name’ for both formal and informal correspondence.

When writing ‘Dear’ without the person’s name in emails and letters, write the title ‘Doctor’ in full.

Don’t include a comma after these phrases.

Example

  • Dear Dr Muecke
  • Dear Doctor

A holder of a doctorate who is knighted

If the holder of a doctorate is knighted, don’t address them as ‘Doctor’.

Instead, address the person by ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’. Write the post-nominals for the knighthood after the name, followed by any other post-nominals. Don’t insert commas before or between the post-nominals.

Example

  • Dame Bridget Ogilvie AC DBE FRS FAA

Titles for medical practitioners, dentists and veterinarians

Use ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr’ for medical practitioners, dentists and veterinarians, whether or not they hold a doctorate. Those with a doctorate may choose to add the post-nominal ‘PhD’.

Use ‘Professor’, ‘Associate Professor’ or ‘Assistant Professor’ for doctors who hold these titles at academic institutions. Some doctors who hold professorships choose to use ‘Dr’ when working in clinical practice.

Surgeons in human medicine are traditionally called ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’ or their preferred gender-appropriate honorific. Some surgeons prefer to use ‘Dr’. For example, a search of the website of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons shows that council members use ‘Dr’, ‘Miss’, ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’, ‘Professor’ and ‘Associate Professor’.

It is best to contact the doctor’s practice if you are unsure of their preferred honorific. You are unlikely to cause offence if you use the title (or honour) awarded most recently.

Example

  • Doctor Farida Khan [Medical practitioner]
  • Dr Wilson Chang MBBS [Medical practitioner]
  • Dr Tina Macleod MD PhD [Medical practitioner with doctorate]
  • Dr Phil Smith BDS [Dentist]
  • Dr Eve Fenton BVSc DVM [Veterinarian]
  • Miss Patricia Woo MBBS FRACS FAOrthA MsurgEd [Orthopaedic surgeon]
  • Professor Henry Nicklin MBBS FRANZCP [Psychiatrist with academic title]

Release notes

The digital edition includes the information from the sixth edition with updated and additional examples.

Capitalisation rules in digital edition are linked to the title’s position in relation to the name. The digital edition also introduces the concept of a ‘full title’, mostly used in display contexts.

The sixth edition included relevant information about titles for academics and professionals.

The Content Guide had very brief information about abbreviations for some academic qualifications.

About this page

Evidence

American Psychological Association (2020) ‘6.15: Job titles and positions’, Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edn, American Psychological Association, Washington DC.

Oxford University Press (2016) ‘5.10: Titles of office, rank, and relationship’, New Oxford style manual, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

University of Chicago (2017) ‘Names, terms and titles of work’,Chicago manual of style, 17th edn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

References

Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (Ahpra) (2021) National boards, Ahpra website, accessed 20 June 2021.

Australian National University (n.d.) University executive, ANU website, accessed 8 June 2020.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2016) It’s an honour, PM&C website, accessed 13 June 2020.

Engineers Australia (n.d.) Engineer of the Year Awards, Engineers Australia website, accessed 8 June 2020.

Garvan Institute of Medical Research (2021) ‘Leadership’, About the Garvan Institute, Garvan Institute website, accessed 7 June 2021.

Medical Board of Australia (2012) ‘Medical registration: what does it mean? Who should be registered?’, Codes, Guidelines and Policies, Ahpra website, accessed 26 July 2021.

Monash University (n.d.)Senior Monash staff’, Organisational governance and structure, Monash University website, accessed 10 June 2020.

Murdoch University (n.d.) ‘Environmental & Conservation Sciences’, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education: academic operations, Murdoch University website, accessed 19 July 2021.

National Centre of Biography (n.d.) Australian dictionary of biography, Australian Dictionary of Biography website, accessed 19 July 2021.

National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC) (n.d.) ‘Our people’, About Us, NCCTRC website, accessed 6 July 2021.

Podiatric Board of Australia (2012) ‘When is it necessary to be registered as a podiatry practitioner?’, General Registration, Ahpra website, accessed 26 July 2021.

RMIT University (2021) Governance and management, RMIT University website, accessed 22 June 2021.

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) (n.d.) Council, RACS website, accessed 28 June 2021.

The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia (n.d.) Australian honours and awards, The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia website, accessed 8 June 2020.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (n.d.) Fellowship, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners website, accessed 8 June 2020.

University of Melbourne (n.d.) ‘Honorary degree holders’, Notable alumni and staff, University of Melbourne website, accessed 10 June 2020.

University of Technology Sydney (n.d.) Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, UTS website, accessed 23 June 2021.

University of Technology Sydney (n.d.) ‘Our director: Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, UTS website, accessed 8 June 2020.

University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) (n.d.) Office of the Vice-Chancellor and President, USC website, accessed 16 July 2021.

University of Tasmania (2020), Biography, University of Tasmania website, accessed 19 May 2021.

University of Western Australia (2020) ‘Former officers of the university’, History of the university, University of Western Australia website, accessed 10 June 2020.

Veterinary Surgeons Board of Queensland (2018) Policy (general), Queensland Government website, accessed 20 June 2021.

This page was updated Thursday 6 June 2024.

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