If you’re writing at a university or on an education beat, chances are great that you’ll reference academic degrees.
The Associated Press Stylebook provides specific rules to negate questions about how to reference academic degrees in your writing.
Avoid abbreviations like M.A. or Ph.D. when writing academic titles. Instead, if an academic degree reference is necessary to establish a source’s credentials, use the full title.
For example, Jon Dough, who has a doctorate in psychology, said the likelihood of a person being happy is greater than ever before.
When writing about the degrees, they are possessive.
For example, Jon Dough has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.
However, the formal degree names are not possessive.
For example, John Dough has a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications.
Note that the degree area (mass communications in these examples) is not capitalized unless it is a language (English, for example).
Use an abbreviation like Ph.D. only when it is necessary to establish a person’s credentials. You should never use an academic title after just a last name.
For example, Jon Dough, Ph.D., spoke at the conference, not Dough, Ph.D. spoke at the conference.
You should, in general, avoid courtesy titles in your writing. If you must use a courtesy title referencing the academic degree, you should not follow it with the abbreviation for the degree on the same reference.
For example, it is incorrect to write, Dr. Jon Dough, who has a doctorate in psychology, said the likelihood of a person being happy is greater than ever before.
The rules become easier to remember once you write these a few times. Until then, you can reference this post or the academic degrees listing in your AP Stylebook.
Now go forth and use words correctly!