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Personal titles [was: st: Thanks (was ...) ]


From   n j cox <n.j.cox@durham.ac.uk>
To   statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject   Personal titles [was: st: Thanks (was ...) ]
Date   Wed, 08 Aug 2007 19:13:28 +0100

I don't think this need be as difficult or
as complicated as might be feared, nor need we shy
off the topic as hypersensitive. I can't
comment on medieval practices, but here is
one middle-aged view.

I have the following suggestions:

0. In Stataland titles are reserved by statute for
graphs, graph axes, SMCL headings, and so forth.

1. Use the names people themselves use. If they don't
feel comfortable with that, they might let you know,
or (preferably) they should change their own style
to send the right kind of signal.

2. The next rule might be "Use the titles people
themselves use", except that my own impression is
that people don't use titles much on Statalist.
A partial exception, which isn't really an exception,
is that some people use fairly full professional
descriptions in their signatures. My guess is
that it is much more likely that such practices
reflect whatever is customary in the fields in
which people mostly work. Remember that most people
on Statalist probably send most of their emails
somewhere else, where different conventions may well
apply. There is another list which I sometimes
glance at in which one list superstar calls
himself "Professor XXXXX XXXXXX", whereas, as far as
I can see, many other people on the list are
also Professors but make nothing of it. People
choose their own styles, and others form their
own impressions....

3. Being worthy of respect is something earned, not
something asserted. That does not mean that anyone
need kow-tow to anyone, especially if they are
wrong!

4. Guessing at titles that people don't use is the
one bad idea on the whole:

(a) If people choose an informal way to refer to themselves
and you reply formally, they might well feel uncomfortable
that you changed the tone. Deference is better than the opposite,
but an interesting question or a smart answer is more engaging
than either.

(b) Getting it wrong and verbally depriving someone
of something they did earn can be at least a little upsetting.
People might not complain, but they won't enjoy the demotion.

(c) Getting it wrong and giving someone a title they didn't
earn -- even if in your personal view they deserve a Big Title --
can be at least as bad. There are cultures in which you flatter
by exaggeration, but there are cultures where inflation
is upsetting too, not least (but not only) because programming
or academic types can be picky people who like to see all the details correct. Keynes couldn't understand why US economists often assumed that he must be at least Dr if not Professor when he was neither, and they often couldn't understand his rather complicated feelings on the subject. Like Leontief, Keynes doesn't have an email address currently, but the principle applies more broadly.

5. As a expert on being obnoxiously British I should point
out that none of this applies to the British Royal Family.
However, if the Royal Family are members of Statalist they
are not making themselves obvious, so this rule need not
concern us much.

Nick
n.j.cox@durham.ac.uk


Hiroshi Maeda <hmaeda1@uic.edu>

Dear Maarten, Keith, and Austin,

Thank you for your advices. I now understand storage and precision issues much better. I almost never deal with fractions and my grasp of precision issues turns out to be not as good as I thought.

Hiroshi Maeda

P.S. Recently there was a thread about perceived cultural differences beneath the "harshness" of some postings. Here is another occasion of "cultural differences": I would have liked to address Maarten, Keith, and Austin with their respective titles and last names (e.g., Prof. Buis, as opposed to Maarten). But I could not tell Keith and Austin's titles. Hence I resorted to the good old American way of indiscriminately calling anyone by their first name regardless of their stature :-) This may sound almost medieval, but some of us want to be polite to those who offer help. Please note that I have no intention of starting a new thread concerning cultural differences by my comment. If you feel compelled to comment on my medieval way, please do so privately.
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