manners Manners for a young man


Starting Member
And so I write my first post. Hopefully I'm not doing something disastrous in making it.

After having spent a few days reading these fora, I realize I very much appreciate the.. attitude, I suppose.. that seems to pervade AAAC.

I am a 20-year-old college student. Having received negligible schooling (and instruction!) on etiquette, I have lots of questions to ask.

The first of these:
How should I appropriately address my college professors? I go to school in PA, and my campus culture is very liberal. I never know whether to call a professor "Professor Surname" versus "Professor Given Name" versus "Doctor Surname" etc. A friend of mine ardently refuses to address professors by anything other than their first name -- he believes ignoring norms is a matter of self respect.

I am presently working in an internship at a startup company -- How do I address my coworkers? Being an engineer and my workplace being a startup, the "rules" are very lax. However, because I am not a Professional Engineer, AND because I am still a student, I feel that I SHOULD be demonstrating significant deference to my superiors. Do I go with seems usual run of business (calling everyone their given name)? Or do I act as I feel I ought to?

As a final, incredibly broad question:
How should I interact with my peers? How hard should I try to dress, speak, and carry myself "well"? Oftentimes it seems that "well" and appropriate are incongruous. I always wonder if it is better to be indistinguishable in a crowd of peers or to stand out. It seems that the greatest mandate of my generation has been an imposition of mediocrity and normalcy. I've seen advice that it's bad to stand out sometimes, but OK -- even good -- to stand out at other times! Is it better to be decried as a fop and a dandy or be another one of the guys?

Haha. Woe is me. :cry:

I'm something of an obsessive aesthete. I look forward to hearing ya'lls opinions.

PS: I'm getting an etiquette book on my kindle as soon as I get home.
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Professor or Doctor should be followed by a surname.

If you wish to call someone so bestowed by their first name then do not use the rank or title.

Debrett's Correct Form is the book you need.
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Super Member
(1) I would call your professors etc. 'Professor Surname' unless they specifically ask you not to do so. Through my undergraduate days I always did this as a mark of respect. Just dont make a big deal of it, make it sound natural.

(2) I think at a company, unless it is very formal, then use the first names if everyone else is doing so. Otherwise you risk looking stiff and stand-offish. However, with the senior management you can exercise a bit of discretion, nobody is going to shoot you for calling them 'Mr ****' etc. and at worst it will look like you have very good manners.

(3) You should act and dress true to yourself but also sensitively to your peers. If your peers are all wearing boardshorts and ripped tee shirts, you needn't feel the requirement to dress the same way if you don't feel that's who you are. On the other hand, no need to go completely overboard and dress up in a three piece suit or top hat if thats not appropriate to the company you are with. A gentleman, where possible, tries to make himself agreeable. Certainly do not try and evoke an air of superiority, for that is bad manners and will distance you from potential friends. But if you dance to a different drum - celebrate it and share it with others.
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Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Speaking as someone who is addressed as 'Professor Surname' by my students, I would only add that someone with a Doctorate generally prefers to be called 'Doctor Surname' rather than Professor. (I myself only have a Masters) I'm sure it varies from school to school, but a student once made the mistake of using my first name when speaking with a Dean. Although when I was told of the incident I myself didn't care, it seems that said Dean regarded the incident as tantamount to high treason and made her opinion quite clear. Again, it does depend on the school, and I would adhere to the plague of custom on your campus.


Elite Member
I agree with everything posted, but I'll put a spin on it:

1) "Professors" are not necessarily "Doctors." Call them "Doctor Lastname" if they are one, "Professor Lastname" if they're not. In both cases if you don't know their last name, call them "Professor." It helps to know what their first names on the odd chance you'll be looking for them or need to refer to them by name and more than one instructor has the same last name.

(Don't assume this only happens with common last names; there are a lot of married couples that are both professors.)

2) At my company we call everyone by their first name, even the President and the CEO. However, when referring to them in conversation with people outside the company, the higher-ranking people are "Mr. Smith" and "Ms. Jones." Calling someone so far above you in the hierarchy by their first name to outsiders implies familiarity, which even if you do have you shouldn't make people aware of it.

3) You can be slightly more put together than your colleagues, provided it comes across as something you're more comfortable wearing, rather than something designed to highlight their inferior style. Through an odd combination of turnover and reorginization, I found myself the only man in my department for a short period. I started wearing dress shirts and slacks during the week and long-sleeved sportshirts and chinos on Fridays, which was slightly more formal than we were when I had male co-workers. The new people in my department followed my lead, because there was no one else to follow.

4) The second person plural pronoun is "you" and is sometimes referred to as "you all" to distinguish from second person singular. In environments where "you all" is commonly used in spoken language, the contraction is "y'all." "ya'll," I assume, is a contraction for "yak ball" or "yawning hell."


New Member
Let me weigh in on this, I am myself in my 20's.

I attended school at University of FL for computer Science and I went to Harvard Divinity for my master of theological studies. Now, I grew up in private academies where the norm was always very formal. While this was a lot of times thought of to be over the top, I grew to appreciate it as I got older. Now lets try to address your questions.

1. If you wish to address your professors appropriately as you say, then you should always address them as professor surname. BUT, this is if you wish to have a certain proper persona about yourself. You may find yourself more social with some professors and may end up calling them on even first name basis. I did with one professor I would frequent lunch with to discuss religion, we had a similar viewpoint.

2. I understand your co-worker question, I am a systems administrator for a Aviation company with government contracts, I address anyone above me very properly because they simply are my superior. As far as people at my level or below me go I address them on first name basis. Mind you if you're interning everyone is below you, but most people won't like being address overly formally. You have to see which people socially require formality and which defer it.

3. I cannot stress enough how if you would like to carry yourself properly, and be known for such, it must be done so at all times while in public. I am not saying you need a suit and tie for class. But you should always be respectful to your peers, never lash out in class, do not be a clown, college isn't highschool. I'm not saying you can't go out with friends and drink and have a bit of fun, but this must be done in a place where it is deemed appropriate. If you constantly carry yourself in a respectful way, people will notice. This will follow you, I promise.


Super Member
As a professor type, I prefer students to directly refer to me a either Dr. Xxxx or Prof. Xxxx. Prof. feels a bit more formal, but is okay. In third person in my sphere, one generally refers to a professor or scientist by their last names, "I stopped by Xxxx's office, but he was not there." - this extends to colleagues, too, I refer to my friends as Xxxx in third person. This is because, I think, they should be known for their work, which is referred to by citation as, e.g., Xxxx 2013. When you are nearly universally known by your last name, it is sort of a sign of success. In German-speaking Europe, where I also work, people are formally referred to (e.g., introduced to audiences, formal correspondence) using all of their titles, e.g., several of my colleagues are Prof. Dr. Dr. Xxxxx (professorial status is an employment position separate from earned degree and some are M.D./Ph.Ds).

Personally, I also refer to my colleagues as Dr. Xxxx in person and correspondence until they tell me otherwise or sign off a message with their first name. One has to be careful, I think, to find out when this is appropriate. I spend some time researching a person, say, in administration before writing because I want to call the Dr. Xxxx if that is appropriate, but I want to spare someone the awkwardness of telling me they don't have a doctorate. Ph.D.s won't care that much, but I want to use the title as a sign of respect if available.

In turn, I refer to my students as Mr. or Ms. Yyyyy. As more of a relationship develops, e.g., advancement to doctoral candidacy or working in my lab, I will tend to mix Mr./Ms (Ms. Smith) and firstname (Katie) or lastname (Smith), but try to be consistent in a given context. That is, in the lab, I might refer to everyone by their first name, but at a seminar, I would refer to everyone as Mr./Ms. even if they are my advanced graduate students.

Interesting cultural notes, I taught at a workshop in Turkey. There the students referred to each other by a Turkish/Arabic word I can't recall. I was told it means "teacher" and was originally used as a sign of respect for professors, but it was eventually decided that we can learn from everyone, so the students use it to refer to each other. In Italy, my friend refers to her children's school teachers as "Professor", and I have been referred to as "Maestro" there - kind of cool when I first heard it.

In my own experience, everyone was Dr. Xxxxx as an undergraduate except one professor I worked with a lot. In graduate school, all faculty, except one, were referred to by their first names. The one was a very formal, older, professor from Europe. He was ALWAYS Dr. Xxxxx. When I defended my thesis (he was one my dissertation committee), he sent me a hand-written, personal congratulatory letter and signed it "Sincerely, Bob". I ran through the halls showing it to everyone I met. I never was able to transition from Dr. Xxxx to Bob, though. It has been twenty years since my defense, and I am still a tiny bit uncomfortable calling my advisor, now friend and collaborator, by his first name.
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Super Member
When I am in an academic situation, I refer to my professors as "Doctor" (if they are such) or "Professor". I had a prof last semester who insisted we call him "Dr. David". I phoned his office one time and they were certain there was no Dr. David there, but there was a Dr. XXXX who's first name was David.

That said, if I am working on a political campaign and a professor of mine is present, it's first names. If I am working as his colleague and not his student it's alright. That said, if there is more than one XYZ, it generally is firstnames, lastnames, but not Dr. Lastname.

If you are meeting a professor in a social setting, I would still call him Professor XYZ. When I was an undergrad, I belonged to certain clubs which invited the professors to go drinking with the students on a regular basis. Even well into a drunken evening, it was still Professor XYZ.

Snow Hill Pond

Elite Member
It could go like this:

"Professor Jones, may I ask you a question?" <sincere smile>
"Of course, please call me John."

Or like this:

"Professor Jones, may I ask you a question?" <sincere smile>
"What?" <Impatient scowl>

If the former, you're in good shape. If the latter, I might consider signing up for the same class taught by the TA.


A friend of mine ardently refuses to address professors by anything other than their first name -- he believes ignoring norms is a matter of self respect.

This is a good starting point for knowing how to separate the grown ups from the children. Pre-pubescent attitudes of rebellion and reforming social norms really should die out by your sophomore year.


Honors Member
A friend of mine ardently refuses to address professors by anything other than their first name -- he believes ignoring norms is a matter of self respect.

This is a good starting point for knowing how to separate the grown ups from the children. Pre-pubescent attitudes of rebellion and reforming social norms really should die out by your sophomore year.

And if this guy comes to visit, make sure the valuables are locked up.
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