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They earned the degrees, so show a decent respect | COMMENTARY

Graduating from a college or university is an achievement, so let’s not be sloppy or excessively casual in references to these accomplishments.

Item: The Associated Press Stylebook capitalizes the names of academic degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science, etc. It uses periods with the abbreviations: B.A., M.S., Ph.D. (The Chicago Manual of Style does the reverse, lowercasing the names of the degrees and omitting periods, so pay attention to what your house style is.)

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A person does not earn a master’s, but a master’s degree. And if you render it a masters, I will be coming after you.

Item: AP restricts the use of doctor as a title before a name to people who have earned the degree in various medical fields, such as medicine, podiatry, or veterinary medicine. AP does not want you to use doctor before the name of someone who holds an earned doctorate in any other field, preferring that you instead write about “X, who has a doctorate in physics.”

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AP does this because it thinks that the public associates the title exclusively with medicine. In AP’s world, when courtesy titles are used, someone holding a doctorate in nuclear physics would be a Ms., while her optometrist would be a Dr. But anyone who has ever set foot on a college campus knows how promiscuously references to Dr. X and Dr. Y are slung around.

If your publication indulges in sanity, it ought to permit you to use Dr. in reference to any person who holds an earned doctorate, in any field.

Item: Latin has not completely lost its grip on English, and it is still the case that a male graduate is an alumnus, a female graduate is an alumna, two or more male graduates or male and female graduates are alumni, and exclusively female graduates are alumnae.  

If you write an alumni, I will by the shade of the Blessed Henry Watson Fowler come after you.

OK, school’s out.

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