using one's academic titles

Subject: using one's academic titles
From: Cathy Quinones <quinones -at- MINDSPRING -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 1996 21:14:48 -0500

I'd love to hear what TW's think about this situation:

SCENARIO: My partner and I both have Ph.D's and do freelance technical and
business writing. Our degrees are in biology, which may or may not relate
to the content/topic of the jobs we take. How often should we "flash"
our titles??

MY OPINION: I feel it's adequate to have "Ph.D" on our business cards, and
when signing official documents (e.g., on cover letter accompanying a
completed project, on correspondence related to the job, etc.). I
don't think it is necessary to put these title on the document itself,
when authorship of the report is declared.

In science journals, for instance, the title of the person is not
included in the authorship line (the quality of the publication is what
counts, in theory!, not the authors' degrees). I feel that whatever
"edge" this title gives, it should register with the person (hereafter
"boss") who authorized the contract, and that the audience will pass their
own judgement on the content. The "boss" in this case is asking why we
didn't put our titles on the authorship page. The boss feels that our
title lends additional credibility to the report, and that since this is
BUSINESS (not academia), our titles simply make the report more
impressive. I am getting the feeling there's a subtext here:
that we missed an opportunity to make the boss look good to her peers and
superiors. By disclosing our titles, we apparently would have also
advertised the boss's good judgement in hiring what others would assume to
be extremely well qualified contractors.

In re-reading that last paragraph I just thought "the answer is, give the
boss what she want, she paid for it" :) :) :) That seems like a quite
legitimate reason.

What do you say, am I just guilty of misplaced idealism/modesty leading to
horrendous marketing? I mention marketing because, as these reports float
about, people that don't know us may want to use our services, and if the
Ph.D. titles brings in business, then it would be utterly stupid not to include
them. In the future, should I ask the boss "do you want our titles on the
report?" or should we always use them? This situation makes me very
antsy: should I write to Ms. Manners??! I am always underwhelmed
when people introduce themselves as Dr. Whatever in situations where their
titles are irrelevant; in this case, I'm worried I'm confusing social etiquette and
business saavy.

Thanks for all input.

cquinon -at- emory -dot- edu
quinones -at- mindspring -dot- com

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