Changing and Using Your Title – Everything You Need to Know

As far as changing your name goes, it can be simple. The process varies depending on your location and the reason for your name change. Whether it’s a deed poll or a statutory declaration, it’s simply a matter of paperwork and whether or not you’re eligible for it.

However, things are a bit different when it comes to changing your title. And by different, we mean they’re pretty much out of your control. You can’t just choose any title you want. That’s not bad, by any means, because it means that there isn’t much you should be doing yourself.

When it comes to naming titles, there are different types. In this article, learn about them and the considerations for changing and using them.

Social Titles

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Social titles are Mr., Ms., Mrs., and Mx. If you need to change them, you need to inform your organization or any particular community in which any of these titles are used before your name. There’s no need for a change of title deed because using any social title doesn’t require any documentary evidence.

Social titles are not legally considered part of a name and aren’t used for identity purposes, and often, recognition of these social titles is just a matter of courtesy. These titles are not added to names in passports at all.

In some parts of the world, people who are transgender are free to use titles of the opposite gender, especially if they have a gender recognition certificate or any document of that nature.

For those who want a gender-neutral title, they can opt for the less-popular Mx, as an alternative to Mr., Ms., and Mrs. It has evolved as a title in the same way as the title Ms started to be used by women who don’t want to identify themselves as married or unmarried. In the same way, Mx meets a need for people who do not want to be identified as any gender or for those who don’t feel comfortable using a gender-specific title. It’s not the only gender-neutral title used nowadays but the most common.

To sum it up, there is no need to follow any formal procedure if you just want to change your title. All you need to do is start using it and notify your record-holders, as we mentioned. So, a deed poll or statutory declaration is optional; if you don’t want to, you don’t have to bother with it.

And as with other social titles, you don’t need a deed poll to use gender-neutral titles like Mx. However, Mx is still relatively new, and many government agencies and organizations won’t recognize it.

Law-Controlled Titles


Law-controlled titles are regulated by law, meaning that these titles are restricted to individuals who meet certain qualifications or requirements. These qualifications may include education, training, experience, and professional licensing.

Examples of law-controlled titles include professional titles like “Judge,” “Doctor,” “Nurse,” “Lawyer,” “Architect,” and “Engineer.” These titles are typically protected by laws or regulations that prohibit unauthorized individuals from using them. This is done to ensure that the public can trust that individuals using these titles have the necessary knowledge, skills, and training to perform their duties competently and ethically.

The specific requirements for obtaining and using law-controlled titles vary by jurisdiction and profession. In general, individuals must meet certain educational and professional requirements, pass qualifying exams, and maintain their licensure through ongoing education and training.

Other titles not considered part of the name may need documentary evidence if you’d like it added to legal documents like passports. Also, some titles are governed by law when it comes to rights that any person can exercise with a specific title. Here are some other titles that can be law-controlled:

  • Justice of Peace
  • Honors and military decorations
  • Manorial titles
  • Scottish feudal baronies
  • Officers of the armed services (active or retired)
  • Foreign titles of nobility

When it comes to clerical and religious titles like Reverend, Pastor, Priest, Bishop, Minister, or Sister, the title may or may not be governed by law, depending on the laws of the country.

In the United States, no official qualifications are required by law to assume titles like these because the government does not regulate the practice of religion. Most of these titles only matter to the religious groups, churches, and congregations involved, so technically, they can be considered social titles when it comes to some countries.

It is important for individuals to understand the laws and regulations that govern the use of law-controlled titles, as unauthorized use can result in penalties and legal action.

Titles of Nobility

Titles of nobility are different, for these are considered part of the name and identity of a person. If you have a legitimate title of nobility (which is used in aristocratic societies), it can be included in your passport or legal documents. These titles apply to:

  • Dukes or Duchess
  • Marquess or Marchioness
  • Earl or Countess
  • Viscount or Viscountess
  • Baron or Baroness
  • Members of the House of Lords (including bishops and archbishops), their wives, and families
  • Baronets, holders of knighthoods, and their wives
  • Baronetesses and holders of damehoods

How to Correctly Use the “Dr.” and “Ph.D.” Titles


When it comes to professional titles, people who have earned the Dr. and Ph.D. degrees are subsequently referred to as “doctor” in formal speech. The same is true with a person who is a medical doctor, dentist, psychologist, or veterinarian. But the rules are different in writing when addressing someone who has earned a doctorate. The titles “Dr.” and “Ph.D.” aren’t interchangeable in written form.

Identify the Type of Doctor

To properly use the titles, you should first identify what type of doctor you are addressing. The doctors performing healthcare services, like doctors of medicine, dentistry, psychology, and veterinary medicine, must be addressed differently than academic doctors who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy doctoral degree.

There are many other types of doctoral degrees. For example, there are Doctor of Education (Ed.D), Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.), Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.), and so forth. It’s just that the Doctor of Philosophy is more common and accounts for the majority of non-medical doctorate degrees because a Ph.D. can be pursued in a wide range of academic or professional fields – from the humanities to scientific disciplines. The titles associated with different doctoral degrees aren’t interchangeable, and only those who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree must be addressed as Ph.D.

Using the Dr. Titles in Professional Settings

Individuals who have earned any doctorate degree can use the title Doctor (Dr.) in front of their name, though the proper etiquette associated with this user may be subject to the professional ethics of their field. Those who teach at universities or work in educational, academic, or research fields are usually addressed by this title professionally and socially in a letter salutation or conversation.

Alternatively, doctorate holders may use post-nominal letters, such as “Ph.D.” after their name. However, it’s incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time. For instance, you cannot use “Dr. Elizabeth Smith, Ph.D.,” even if the person is a medical doctor who also earned a doctorate in philosophy.

When using the title Ph.D. in writing, put a comma after the name, then add “Ph.D.” Do not combine the title of Ph.D. with other titles, even if a different title could appropriately address the person.

If you work in a university as a lecturer, a professor, a researcher, or a postdoc, just about everyone has a Ph.D., and beyond the name on your door or on your desk, only some may address you as Dr. from day to day. Some respectful students may insist on calling you a Dr., but you may ask them to call you by your first name.

Using the Dr. Titles in Social Settings

Beyond academia, doctorate titles are slipping out of everyday use, as addressing someone as Dr. in normal social interactions can feel a little forced. While it’s appropriate to use these titles in more formal settings, such as wedding invitations or job interviews, it can look a little pompous if you use it in daily speech, like when introducing yourself to someone or adding it to your name on social media.

Academics often play down their titles in social settings as it may create social barriers. Sometimes, it can give respectability and clout, like when setting up an informative blog or social media page, dealing with cold callers, or renegotiating your postgrad loan. But most of the time, the Dr. title must be saved for university contexts or your parents’ boasts.

But when it comes to medical doctors, dentists, and other professionals in the medical field, these people are often called “doctors” socially, even if they are not in the hospital, clinic, or any workplace.

Some PhDs maintain different identities effectively. For instance, women like the freedom that the Dr. title brings because it frees them from having to identify with their marital status as Ms. or Mrs., which men do not have to worry about. Some married women in academic circles use two distinct names: Mrs. Married name when at home and banking, and use Dr. Maiden Name at work and in other correspondence.

When a married woman uses the Dr. title (either academic or medical) in social settings, addressing social correspondence with the couple is trickier. If her husband is not a doctor, letters are addressed to her name first, then her husband’s name (ex. Dr. Elizabeth and Mr. Robert Smith). Her name comes first because her professional title outranks his social title. But if her husband is also a doctor, they must be addressed as the Drs. Elizabeth and Robert Smith (the order of the names doesn’t matter.”