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When Doctors Marry

Lately I have been getting email with questions about addressing married doctors:

What is the proper way to address a letter to a husband and wife who are both doctors?

If a married doctor couple has the same last name, what goes on the envelope?

What if the doctors have different last names?

What if the wife is a doctor and the husband is not?

I checked The Gregg Reference Manual (Gregg) for “official” responses. Shown below are Gregg-approved answers, along with places where I would deviate from the recommended format.

Graphic illustrating which names to use when doctors marry. For example. if two doctors have the same surname, they should be addressed as such. If two doctors have different surnames, address each doctor by their respective name. If the wife is the doctor, and the husband is not, address the doctor first, then the husband.

1. If the doctors have the same surname, use this style for the envelope, inside address, and greeting:

Dr. Angel Espinoza
Dr. Marguerite Espinoza

Dear Drs. Espinoza:

Gregg stipulates the style above. However, I believe it would be perfectly acceptable to use this style on the envelope and inside address:

Drs. Angel and Marguerite Espinoza

I personally like both names on one line for a married couple, but if you need a reference manual to support your decision, use the Gregg approach of one name above the other.

2. If the husband and wife have different surnames, Gregg recommends this style:

Dr. Angel Espinoza
Dr. Marguerite Gordon 

Dear Dr. Espinoza and Dr. Gordon:

Once again, because the vertical list has a sense of separation, I would type both names on one line. I also like one professional title rather than two:

Drs. Angel Espinoza and Marguerite Gordon

Dear Drs. Espinoza and Gordon:

3. If the wife is a doctor and the husband is not, do this:

Dr. Pitta Moussa
Mr. James Gomes

Dear Dr. Moussa and Mr. Gomes:

Or do this:

Dr. Nicole Cillo
Mr. Leon Cillo

Dear Dr. and Mr. Cillo:

These posts cover other challenges in letter greetings: Advice on Special Salutations and Salutations in Letters and Email.

I have described the accepted style in the United States. If styles differ in your country, please let me know.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

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