I sometimes notice students acting similarly in trying to figure out how to address faculty. So here is some general advice for addressing faculty, or unknown people who may or may not be faculty.
You can just about never go wrong erring on the side of formal and calling your instructor “Dr.” even though she may not have a doctorate. Has anyone without a PhD or MD ever been offended that you called her doctor? Does a grad student teaching a course mind if a student incorrectly addresses him as Dr.?
Similarly, if you’re writing job applications and the name of the person you’re sending it to doesn’t have a degree on it, you can’t go wrong with “Dr.” You won’t offend an administrative assistant if you call him “Dr.” but you easily could offend a faculty member if you call him “Mr.”
Every department and every person has different norms for how students should address faculty. My department is pretty informal and most graduate students address us by first name. With undergraduates, my colleagues are pretty mixed, with some comfortable being called by first name, and others preferring to be called Dr. or Professor. That said, if you’re a new graduate student and you aren’t sure how to address your adviser, or if you’re taking a class with someone you don’t know well, the safe bet is to start addressing the instructor as “Dr.” and if he corrects you to use his first name, then feel free to do so.
In summary of this post that’s longer than it needs to be: Call everyone doctor unless you know for sure you shouldn’t.
“The post How to address others first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on November 20, 2014.”