ABD – All But Decent

In professional correspondence, mostly with graduate students, I sign my name with TWELVE letters.  Jill Craddock, Ed.D, ABD, MBA, MHA.  One day this year, it will be just three.  What does ABD mean?  Apparently different things to different folks, but a topic labeled “cringeworthy” in a Chronicle of Higher Education chatroom.


A colleague (with a terminal degree) recently saw my signature line and wrote to me that I “claimed” to have completed my doctorate and “WOW…Congratulations on this huge accomplishment!”  I appreciate the kind words of encouragement, and researched what others thought of using “ABD” or if it created confusion.  Many people use it, but what is the perception?


Anonymous chat boards skew toward spew, and I was ready for some super silly supercilious perspectives.  The poll question, “What does ABD mean to you?” elicited 115 responses with the majority stating that it means “all but dissertation, have to collect data, write, and defend thesis.”


Check out some of these comments!


  • I just cringe for this one particular guy because I think he’s doomed to be ABD forever. He also uses 14-point Comic Sans for his e-mail sig., followed by a long and rambling quotation.

<sad trombone>
Is there such a thing as an email sig intervention?
There should be.


  • I cringe for him.


  • I’ve seen this on a cv or two, and it’s embarrassing.


  • No doubt!  I have a grad-student friend who has this on her email sig line.  I’m embarrassed for her.


  • It is nevertheless an embarrassingly dumb distinction.  A person either has a PhD or does not have a PhD. If a person is somewhere in the process, they should say “I’m a grad student” and leave it at that.  The more someone brags about having finished her or his comps or language exams or coursework… the more convinced I become that she or he will never finish the degree.


These comments are from Locutus, Wielder of the Chillax, Grade Despot, Senior Member, Mad Hatter, and Distinguished Senior Member.


I’d hate to read their comments on YouTube videos.


I will keep using it because it is inspiring to me personally and it adds credibility to my expertise in the field of education.  I have taken dozens of hours in doctoral courses and researched a very specialized field.  It helps most when I tell students I am with them in the journey, which is an important part of teaching from what I have gathered ABD.

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