acknowledgments...I'd like to thank Professor...

If someone’s thanking a professor in the acknowledgement section of an academic book he’s written, what is considered the proper way to do it? (I don’t know if it matters, but I’m talking Chicago format)

Dr. John Doe

Professor John Doe

Professor John Doe (Thomas Jones University)

Professor John Doe of Thomas Jones University

Professor John Doe, Joe Shmoe Chair of the Underwater Basket Weaving Department at Thomas Jones University

Professor John Doe, leading international expert on underwater basket weaving


Have you looked in your copy of Chicago? Mine (15th ed.) appears to be silent on the matter. In the books I’ve copyedited, I’ve seen quite a range. I think the important thing is to be consistent.

Personally I find that many acknowledgments tend to get rather bloated with too many titles and affiliations. “Professor John Doe of the Basket Weaving Department at Wicker University” seems sufficiently descriptive yet concise.

I’ve never used anyone’s academic title in the acknowledgements of any book or scientific publication I’ve written, and I’ve never had my title used in any paper where I’ve been acknowledged (Dr./Ph.D.).

If it’s an academic book in the hard sciences, I wouldn’t use the title. It may be used in academic books in the humanities.

I do not think there are any very hard and fast rules about this; it all depends on why you are doing the thanking. I would say, if you are doing this just to let the person who is being thanked know that you appreciate their help, thank them by the name you know them by: Johnny Doe.

If you are doing it more to make you or your book look more authoritative by association with them, thank them by the name that most readers will recognize. This depends how famous they are in the field. If everybody who has a clue about this field knows John Doe’s work, just say “John Doe” (and this also acts as a subtle compliment to him). The less well known he is, the more titles and details it is useful to add (although if he is a professor at Reallycrap University, it might be best not to mention that).

I think the only time you should need to mention what they are a professor of (or what they are a leading expert in) is if they are from a discipline different from yours and from that of the majority of your readers. Thus you will be indicating that although you yourself may not know very much about underwater basket weaving, and although your readers will probably mostly not know who does know about UBW, nevertheless the remarks you do make about UBW are not misleading, because you have checked them out with a “leading expert.” In that case, referring to him as “Chair of UBW at Reallygood U.,” if, in fact, he is that, makes the point most convincingly. However, if he is just an Assistant Prof. at Secondrate U. (but still, as may well be the case, a (or even the) leading expert on the relevant topic) then use “leading expert.”

For something I wrote, I once needed to acknowledge a guy called David Hilbert, at that time an Assistant Professor of philosophy, and not, of course, the David Hilbert (the famous mathematician, of whom many of my readers could be expected to have heard). I seriously considered saying “Dave Hilbert” just for that reason.

In most of the scientific writing I’ve ever seen (physics journal articles, mostly) I’ve never seen anything other than “J. Doe” or “John Doe” — no title, no institution, no field. Journal articles are supposed to be short, though; books can be a little more expansive. Here’s the acknowledgements from David Chandler’s Introduction to Modern Statistical Mechanics (1986):

And from Principles of Quantum Mechanics, by R. Shankar (1994):

So it varies. Acknowledgements sections are generally expected to be personal and idiosyncratic anyhow, so I wouldn’t worry too much about conforming to a fixed style.

Missed the edit window:

You will, of course, want to avoid listing “Johnny Doe” and “Dr Richard Roe, Harvard Distinguished Professor of UBW” in the same list. That could potentially be construed as subtly insulting, in different ways, to both of them. But you can have two separate lists of “general” and “special” acknowledgments, if need be, to deal with this problem, indicating that the latter gave more specific forms of help.

Another vote for no title, at least in the books I’ve read.