Why inconsistency with credentials on letters signatures?

Question: I'm wondering why The Spokesman-Review has changed its policy regarding personal titles in the "Letters" column. I've had friends with Ph.D.s have their credentials dropped, while you still recognize the titles of military men or even, in one case, of someone with a dental degree. What changed the policy, and why is there apparent preference given to men? Seems to me you should use whatever title the writer submits, or eliminate ALL titles. -- Carol Sloan, Spokane

Answer: Apparently we have a consistency problem to work on, possibly owing to recent changes in the personnel and procedures involved in handling letters to the editor. Generally, our policy is, or should be, as follows: The basic signature block will include the writer's name and town of residence. Additional information, such as an academic credential or organizational office, will be included only if it is materially important to the presentation of the letter.

Ah, you ask, what in the heck does "materially important" mean? Good question. Let's say a physician writes a letter talking about the incubation period for a particular disease. It would be appropriate to include "M.D." after the name. If the letter is about city budget decisions, we wouldn't include the credentials. None of this should result in any disparity based on the gender of the writer. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

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