The word “doctor” can be abbreviated in several ways, and knowing which is correct can be confusing. This page examines the 2-letter abbreviations for “doctor” and explains when and how to use each form in written texts.
Dr. or Dr – Period or Not in the Abbreviation for Doctor?
In the USA and Canada, it is a requirement to use a period in abbreviations, so “doctor” is written as “Dr.” However, in the UK and Australia, the standard version is without the period, “Dr”, although many people still use the version with a period in these countries.
The rule for abbreviations varies somewhat between the UK and USA.
In the UK, if the first and last of the abbreviation are the same as the word, i.e. “d” and “r” in “doctor”, then you do not need to use a period because the period is supposed to represent the “missing letters” of the word.
However, in the USA, all abbreviations have a period, regardless of what the first and last letters of the word are.
Another issue with the UK system of abbreviating “doctor” is that if you are referring to somebody with a “doctorate”, then the abbreviation “Dr” should have a period because the last letter of “doctorate” is not “r”, indicating that the period needs to be added to show that letters are missing.
The problem with this rule is that it is often impossible to know whether someone has a “doctorate” or if they are simply a “doctor”, so knowing which version to use can be confusing.
This confusion has led to both versions being used in the UK, and most people writing the abbreviation do not consider this rule about the period and the missing letters.
Dr. or Dr in the UK?
In the UK, the standard abbreviation for a typical “doctor” would be “Dr” with no period because “r” is the last letter of “doctor.”
However, if you were referring to somebody with a “doctorate” degree, then the rule would indicate that you should use a period because the word ends in “e” rather than “r.”
The Google Ngram reveals that “Dr.” was more common in the UK than “Dr” from the 1900s to the late 1970s.
However, since the 1970s, “Dr” without a period has become more common and is now slightly more frequent than “Dr.” in British English.
Dr. or Dr in the US?
In the US, it is customary for all abbreviations to be used with a period at the end, regardless of the letter with which the word ends. Therefore, the correct abbreviation in the USA to refer to a “doctor” is “Dr.” with a period.
Furthermore, Google Ngram confirms that in the US, “Dr.” has always been more popular than “Dr”, although the use of the term, in general, has reduced significantly over the last century.
Dr. or Dr in Canada?
In Canadian English, they tend to follow US spelling and grammar rules, and it is more common to use the abbreviation for “doctor” with a period than without.
For example, the University of Ottawa indicates that when abbreviating “doctor” the abbreviation “Dr.” should be used.
You will, of course, still find some people in Canada who do not conform to the rule of adding a period to the end of abbreviations; however, it is more common to add it than not.
Dr. or Dr in Australia?
Australian English follows the same rules regarding abbreviations and periods as UK English. Therefore, the conventional method to abbreviate “doctor” in Australia is “Dr” with no periods.
However, similarly to other countries, you will still find people who use the period after “Dr”. Still, it is more of a stylistic preference or habit than obedience to the grammatical rule.
A search of Australian web pages reveals that “Dr” is more common than “Dr.” in Australia, although there are examples of both.
Dr. or Dr in Other Countries?
The Google Ngram for global use of “Dr.” and “Dr” shows that “Dr.” with the period has always been more common than “Dr” with no period.
However, at the start of the 20th century, “Dr.” was far more popular than today, and the disparity between the two terms in modern usage is almost non-existent.
Should You Abbreviate Doctor?
The word “doctor” is commonly abbreviated, and nothing states it should not be shortened.
The most common usage of the abbreviation for “doctor” is when referring to a person’s title or name on correspondence or signs.
It would be less common to use the abbreviation if you were writing a text that happened to mention “doctors”, and any abbreviation should be avoided in formal or academic writing.
In the USA, all abbreviations use a period, so the correct version of “doctor” in the US and Canada would be “Dr.” with a period. However, in the UK and Australia, it is less common to use periods on abbreviations, and the more standard version would be “Dr” with no period.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.