If you know a doctor socially, either as a colleague, friend or family member, you might seldom call him "Doctor" during conversation. However, addressing a letter to this person is a different story. Regardless of your reason for writing, you must follow the proper rules of etiquette to ensure you address the doctor correctly on the envelope and in the letter itself.
Write the doctor's first and last name on the top line of the address portion of your letter's envelope, followed by a comma.
Include "MD" after the comma on the first line. For example, if your doctor's name is Stephen Williams, your first line should read, "Stephen Williams, MD." Note that it's redundant to include "Dr." and "MD" on either end of the doctor's name. For someone who holds a doctorate, address your letter's envelope with "Dr." and the person's first and last names. It's not necessary to use this designation if the person doesn't refer to herself as "Dr."
Add the doctor's mailing address on the next line of the letter. For example, write, "123 Main St., Anywhere, CA, 09512." In the event you've chosen to write to the doctor at work, write the name of the doctor's clinic or hospital on the second line of the letter. For example, write, "Western Regional Hospital." Write the mailing address on the next line.
Write "Dear Dr." and the doctor's last name on the top line of the letter itself. For example, begin your message with, "Dear Dr. Williams." Use this prefix for those with doctorates, too, unless the person has specifically told you to avoid doing so.
If you're writing to a doctor whose spouse isn't a doctor, write something such as, "Dr. Elizabeth James and Mr. Thomas James." For a male doctor whose wife isn't a doctor, follow the same approach. In the event both people are doctors, write "The Drs." and the couple's last name or "Drs." and each person's given name, followed by the surname.
If you choose to send an email to your doctor, obtain the doctor's email address from her business card or the clinic website. Begin the email with, "Dear Dr." and the doctor's last name.
Professional Titles in Other Branches of Medicine
An optometrist is a medical doctor that specializes in the health of the eyes, but rather than using "M.D." when addressing a letter to an optometrist, you would use "O.D." after her name and comma. A dentist is a doctor of oral health and uses the designations of either "DDS" for Doctor of Dental Surgery or "DMD" for Doctor of Dental Medicine.
- The Protocol School of Washington's Honor & Respect: How to Address a Doctor
- Emily Post: Professional Titles
- The Protocol School of Washington's Honor & Respect: How to Address a Person with a Ph.D.
- American Dental Association: Dentists: Doctors of Oral Health
- Vita Park Eye Associates: What is an M.D., O.D., or D.O.?