How to Address Couples: U.S. Military & Spouses



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HONOR & RESPECT

Abbess,
    Christian Orthodox       
Abbot,
    Christian Orthodox        
Accountant        
Acting Official       
Adjutant General     
Admiral
        

Admiral, Texas Navy   
Adventist Minister       
Alderman
        

Archbishop, Catholic        
Archbishop,
   Christian Orthodox        
Archdeacon, Episcopal        
Archimandrite        
Architect
Archpriest        
Ambassador, Goodwill
Ambassador of one country
   to another country      
Ambassador of the U.S.
   to another country
   by a U.S. citizen       
Ambassador of the U.S.
   to the U.K.  
American Indian Chief        
Assemblyman
   U.S., State / or           

   Assemblywoman            
Assistant Secretary
Associate Justice,
   U.S. Supreme Court          
Associate Justice of a
   State Supreme Court
Astronaut      
Attorney
         
Attorney General           
Attorney General,
       Assistant   
Attorney, U.S.         
Australian Officials    
Awards, Name on an

Baron, Baroness           
British Officials,
   Royalty, Nobility     
Brother, Catholic
         
Brother,
   Christian Orthodox          
Bishop, Catholic            
Bishop,
   Christian Orthodox         
Bishop, Episcopal        
Board Member     
Boy        
Brigadier General       
Business Cards      

Canadian Officials    
Candidate    
Captain,
   USA, USAF, USMC     
Cardinal
             
Certificate, Name on a 
Chairman
    Federal Reserve      
Chairwoman      
Chancellor      
Chaplain in the
    Armed Services        
Chaplain of Congress          

Chargé d’Affaires         
Chief Executive Officer 
Chief Judge          
Chief Justice,
      U.S. Supreme Court 
Chief Justice, of a State
      Supreme Court             

Chief of Police          
Chief of Staff     

Chief Operating
   Officer          
Child
           
Chiropractor     
City Manager
   
Clergy & Religious
    Officials     
Club Official          
Colonel, Kentucky      
Colonel, USA, USAF,
    or USMC     
Commandant       
Commissioner, Court     
Commissioner
         
Commodore of a         
      Yacht Club         
Congressman, U.S.               
Congresswoman, U.S.   
Consul and or
   Consul General   
 
Consultant      
Corporate Executive         
Councilman
    Councilwoman      
Counselor (Diplomat)      
Countess     
County Officials       
Couples     
    U.S. Military
    U.S. Officials
    Private Citizens    
    Same Sex
Curator        

Dalai Lama          
Deacon         
Dean, academic            
Dean, clergy            
Deceased Persons        
Degree, honorary      
Delegate, U.S., State
            

Dentist             
Deputy Chief of Mission
Deputy Marshal

Deputy Secretary      
Designate,
Elect,
    Pro Tempore      
Diploma, Name on a   
Diplomats
     

Director      
District Attorney
          
Doctor, Chiropractor     
Doctor of Dentistry
          
Doctor of Medicine              
Doctor, Military           
Doctor of
   Veterinary Medicine          
Doctor, Optometrist   
Doctor of Osteopathy            
Doctor, Other Disciplines     
Doctorate        
Doctorate, honorary      

Earl            
Elect, Designate
  
Pro Tempore      
Emeritus/emerita
     
Eminence     
Emperor    
Engineer    
Esquire, Esq.       
Excellency           

Family     
Fiancee      
Firefighter    
First, Second,
   Third , etc .        
First Lady, Spouse
   of the President of
   the United States 
First Lady, Member
    of Her   
    White House Staff      
First Lady, Spouse
   of a U.S. Governor
   or Lt. Gov.    
First Lady, Spouse
   of a U.S. Mayor    

First Lady
   of a Church      

First Lieuten
ant
   
Former Officials    
Freeholder       

Gay Couple      
Geshe

General
    USA, USAF, USMC
Girl       

Goodwill Ambassador      
Governor General         
Governor, Lieuten
ant
 
Governor, Lt., Spouse   

Governor, Tribal Council          
Governor, U.S. State       
Governor, Former    
Governor
    Spouse of     
Governor's Staff,
    Member of
     
Governors, Board of 

High Commissioner    
Honorable, The
          
Honorary Ambassador       
Honorary degrees
Honorary doctorate
   
Honourable, The
   
 
   

Indian Chief         
Inspector General    
Interim Official   
Introductions       
Invitations
  
   Writing &  
   Addressing  
Invitations
   
Military:
    Writing &
    Addressing

Judge, former     
Judge of US City

     County or State     
Judge, US Federal            
Junior, Senior,
    I, II, III, etc
.       

Justice, Associate

     Federal
     Supreme Court

Justice, Associate

     State
     Supreme Court

King     
Knight      

Late, The
   (deceased persons)
       
Lawyer      
Lesbian Couple    
Lieutenant      
Lieutenant Colonel,     
   USA, USAF, USMC      
    
Lieutenant General,
   USA, USAF, USMC      

Lieutenant Governor    
     

Ma'am          
Major
   USA, USAF, USMC  
Major General,
   USA, USAF, USMC   
Man, business
          
Man, social
         
Marquess / Marchioness
 
 
Married Women       
Marshal for a
   Judicial District, U.S. 
Mayor, U.S. City   
Mayor, Canadian City    
Mayor Pro Tempore
     
Mayor, Vice    
Medic      
Minister,
   Protestant Clergy       
Miss      
Monk,
   Christian Orthodox     
Monsignor       
Most Reverend, The        
Mother Superior
    
Mr. (Social)      
Mr. (Business)      
Mrs., Ms. (Use, Social Forms)      
Mrs. vs. Ms.     
Mr. & Mrs. / Couples   
   

Name Badges or Tags     
Nobility, UK/British
       
Nobility, Other & Former     
Nun, Catholic
  
Nun, Orthodox
Nurse           

Officer, Police     
Optometrist     

Pastor, Christian Clergy  
Patriarch,
   Christian Orthodox  
Patriarch,
   Ecumenical Patriarch
   of Constantinople  
People with Two Titles      
Permanent
     Representative        
Petty Officer
      
Pharmacist     
Physician
        
PhD     
Place Cards            
Plaque, Name on a    
Police Chief
Police Officer                     
Pope, Catholic
  
Pope, Coptic
      
Postmaster General         
Post-Nominal
    Abbreviations    
Presbyter, Orthodox
   
President, corporate
President of
    College or
    University   
President of a
    Secondary
    School      
President of a
    US State Assembly 
President (current)
   of the U.S.A.          
President (former)
   of the U.S.A.     
     
President of the
    U.S.A., spouse of  
President-elect
    of the U.S.   
Priest, Catholic          
Priest,
    Christian Orthodox 
Priest, Episcopal        
Prime Minister
       
Principal      
Professionals
   & Academics         
Professor
     
Pro Tempore,
   Elect, Designate    
Psychologist      

Queen

Rabbi               
Ranger, Texas        
Representative,
   U.S., Federal           
Representative,
   U.S., State            
Reservist, Military      
Resident
    Commissioner 
Retired Military
   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    
 

   3. Q&A on
       How to Address
       Retired Military   
Retiree        
Reverend, The
      
Right Reverend, The         

Same Sex Couple      
Salvation Army    
School Board Member
     
Second
Lieutenant        
Secretary,
   U.S. Department,
   Member of the Cabinet
Secretary
   of Defense, U.S.       
Secretary, Assistant       
Secretary General
   of the U.N.            
Senator, U.S., Federal       
Senator, U.S., State         
Senator, Canadian       
Senior, Junior,
     I, II, III, etc.         
Senior Judge 
      
Sergeant       
Sergeant at Arms
          
Seventh Day
     Adventist Minister       
Sheriff       
Sister, Catholic       
Sir       

Solicitor General      
Speaker of the U.S.
   House of
   Representatives.           
Specialist       
Spouse of the
    President of the U.S.       
Spouse of the
    Vice President
    of the U.S.           
Spouse of an
    Elected Official            
State Attorney     
Surgeon General          

Texas Ranger        
Titles & Forms of
    Address, Useless?        
Tombstones, Names on
Town Justice
     
Town Manager       
The Honorable     
Tribal Officials     
Two Titles,
    Person With

Under Secretary       
US Attorney
       
US Federal Officials
     
US State Officials     
US Municipal Officials

Venerable, The        
Veteran (not Retired)         
Veterinarian
           
Very Reverend, The         
VFW Officer/Official    
Vice Mayor       
Vice President
    of the U.S.
Spouse of the
    Vice President
   
of the U.S.
Vice President-elect
    of the U.S.      
 
Viscount and/or
   Viscountess        

Warrant Officer       
Widow
     
White House Staff    
Woman, business        
Woman, social        

Yacht Club Officer      


 

How to Address Couples:
Joint Forms of Address
for
U.S. Military & Their Spouses

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog


Site updated by Robert Hickey on 23 June 2017

How to Address Couples: Private Citizens    

How to Address Couples: U.S. Officials & Spouses            

How To Address Married Military Personnel and Spouse?      
How To Address Married Military Personnel with the Same Rank?      
How To Address Married Military Personnel with the Same Rank:      
      One is Active Duty, the Other is Retired?

How To Address Married Military Personnel with Different Ranks?      
How to Address a Member of the Military and a Spouse Who Is a Medical Doctor?      
How to Address a Member of the Military and a Spouse Who Is a Dentist?    

How To Address a Retired Member of the Military and Spouse?     
How To Address a Retired Member of the Military and Spouse who is "the Honorable"?      

How to Address Married Military Personnel
and His/Her Spouse?

    If you are addressing an envelope to Joe Schmo and his wife and he’s a 2nd Lieutenant in the USMC, how should it read?
         --- Marilyn Huddleston

   How do I address an envelope to 2nd Lieutenant in the USN and his wife. She kept her maiden name.
         --- David Kramer

Dear Ms. Huddleston & Mr. Kramer:
  
  I cover this in Chapter 9: Joint Forms of Address.
     The formula is.
           (Rank) (Full Name)
     
            and Mrs. (Surname Name Only)
                        (street)
                              (state and ZIP code)
           (Rank) (Name)
     
            and Mr. (Full Name)
                        (street)
                              (state and ZIP code)

    
The envelope should read:
           Second Lieutenant Joseph Schmo
     
            and Mrs. Schmo
                        (street)
                              (state and ZIP code)
      If she uses a different surname it should read:
           Second Lieutenant Joseph Schmo
     
            and Ms. (Her First and Last Name)
                        (street)
                              (state and ZIP code)
      If the spouse is a man, it should read:
           Second Lieutenant Jennifer Schmo
     
            and Mr. (His First and Last Name)
                        (street)
                              (state and ZIP code)

      1) The member of the armed services is listed first (people with ranks are listed before people without ranks).
Use of and between their names (before the spouse's name) implies they are married.
      2) On social correspondence branch of service -- USMC or USN -- is not included. On an official letter to the Second Lieutenant you would include branch of service.
      3) Formally you don't break up a rank + name.  Second Lieutenant and Mrs. Joseph Schmo is frowned on in the armed services. I've seen it on envelopes addressed by civilians, but it not the best form. People with ranks get their name on a line by itself, so put the spouse's name on the next line.
      4) if you are interested in the use of Mrs. vs. Ms. for wives, I have several postings on that issue.

           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address Someone Addressed as
"The Honorable" and Their Spouse
Who Has a Military Rank?

          I am addressing envelopes for invitations and one couple being invited is a retired judge and her brigadier general (Army) husband, also retired.  Your book says that once honorable, always an honorable.  Is a judgeship considered a “rank”?  Who has the higher rank in this situation?
        ~ Virginia @ Public Works

Dear V@PW:
          Joint forms can be complicated.  I cover all this in my book in Chapter 9 on Joint Forms of Address if these sorts of things come up often.
          Yes, being "the Honorable" is a personal rank which stays with the person. As a retired judge she is still the honorable.
          On the envelope it would be:
                    The Honorable Nancy Doe
                             
and Brigadier General William Doe
          There are service-specific abbreviations for military ranks, but above I've show it fully written out.  Writing every word fully is the most formal.
          The General's branch of service,
USA (United States Army), and Retired are not used on social correspondence.
          Elected officials and judges of federal, state, and municipals courts have higher precedence than armed service officers, so if you are inviting the judge, or both equally, the judge's name is listed first. The officer could be first if the officer were the intended invitee. Invitees are listed before their guests.
          On the inside envelope write their names as you would address them in conversation:
                    Judge Doe and General Doe
           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Member of the Military & Dentist? 
 
       How do I address an envelope to a Navy captain and a dentist who are married?
                Captain Joshua & Dr. Brooke Jones?
 
       -- D. Bainbridge

Dear Mr. D. Bainbridge:

        Most formally people with titles and ranks get their names as a unit ... not combined with another person's name. Since he is in uniform ... military uniformed personnel have precedence over civilians ... so the USN Captain is listed first.
        So the form would be:
                Captain Joshua Jones
                and Dr. Brooke Jones
                (Address)
       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Military Officer and a Medical Doctor?
What is the correct form for a joint salutation when the wife is a medical doctor and the husband is a Colonel (not sure of the branch)? They share the same last name.  Is there a hierarchy to which is listed first?
    Same question for the address on the envelope: Should the male go first or does a Dr. trump a Colonel regardless of the gender?
         -- Jeanie Farrell in Arkansas

Dear Ms. Farrell:
    1) One doesn’t specify the branch of service on a social letter ... so you are off the hook!  When writing an official letter to a Colonel at his office ... you would include USA or USAF after his name ... and you would need to find out the branch.
    2) In this combination the Colonel goes first: he has an official rank. The doctor has an academic degree, but
not an official rank.
    3) Wives of officials are usually written as  "Mrs. (surname)", but since she’s a “Dr.”, it would be acceptable to use her first and last name as I suggest below.
    On the envelope write this line for line (does not have to be indented however):
   
    Colonel John Wilson
     
       and Dr. Mary Wilson
         
   
   (Address)
    In the salutation write:
   
    Dear Colonel Wilson and Dr. Wilson,
         -- Robert Hickey

Robert,
     I have a follow-up question. I have been under the assumption that if a couple shares the same last name it is not necessary to repeat it in the joint salutation or the joint mail name. Is it wrong in your opinion to say?
 
        On the envelope: Colonel John and Dr. Mary Wilson 
    
     In the salutation: Dear Colonel and Dr. Wilson
     Thank you so much,
         -- Jeanie Farrell in Arkansas

Jeanie,
    I always suggest the most formal way ... figuring formal is never wrong ... and being casual might be. And the most formal way to write any name is do so completely, all on a line by itself.
        Colonel John Wilson
            and Dr. Mary Wilson
                (Address)

    When the couple uses the same last name and the wife uses Mrs. -- you see the following used on a holiday cards but not on anything very formal:
        Colonel and Mrs. John Wilson
            (Address)

    Most formally it's:
        Colonel John Wilson
            and Mrs. Wilson
                (Address)

    When it's the woman who is the official it becomes:
        Colonel Mary Wilson
            and Mr. John Wilson
                (Address)

    Men using the same last name get their full names, wives don't. That's the tradition!
    A salutation is based on what one calls the other in conversation.
  
      Most formally in a salutation use: Dear Colonel Wilson and Dr. Wilson,
  
      Less formally in a salutation use: Dear Colonel and Dr. Wilson,    
    I'd use on of the formal salutations until I was ready to use simply Dear John and Mary,
    -- Robert

How to Address a Military Officer & Medical Doctor
... But They Use Different Last Names?


     I need to address an envelope for a husband and wife who use different last names. The woman is a M.D. medical doctor and her husband is a captain in the military.
         -- Pat

Dear Pat,

      1. Standard protocol is that a person with a rank will have higher precedence than a person without a rank. So the captain's name is first. (See also #4 below.)
      2. If this social correspondence then his branch of service ... USA or USN ... is not included. Official would include situations when you are writing to him as a Captain ... and it was regarding his service in the the Armed Forces
      3. If this is social correspondence then she is "Dr." before ... not "MD" after
 
         Captain William Henderson
        
      and Dr. Mary Smith
   
              (address)
      4. If she is the invited guest and he is being invited as a courtesy ... as her escort ... then the precedence reverses. The guest is granted higher precedence and the guest's name is first.
 
         Dr. Mary Smith
 
             and Captain William Henderson
 
                 (address)
    FYI, your question is answered in my book in my chapter on joint forms of address.

    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address Married Military Officers with Different Ranks?

     My brother and my sister-in-law are USAF. My sister-in-law holds a higher rank (Lt Col) than my brother (Major).  When addressing an envelope does the higher rank come first, or does the male get first billing as done in "Mr. and Mrs."?
         -- Mary Vogelsang

Dear Ms. Vogelsang,

    I cover how to decide who is listed first in my book. Higher rank always is listed first in joint address when the letter is to them equally or to the higher person. So the order of the names should be:
  
          Lieutenant Colonel Linda Smith
   
            and Major William Smith
    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Military Officer & Spouse?
How do I address should an envelope to a retired Lt. Col. in the Air Force and his wife?
             --- Living near the Base

Dear Living near the Base:
     First off, there are two ways to address this couple in writing: the official way and the social way. (Use the forms I show under Joint Forms of Address, Members of the Armed Services.)
    The forms for an OFFICIAL envelope would be:
            (Rank) (Full Name), (Initials for the Branch of Service), Retired
       
         and Mrs. (Surname Only)
                      Address

     This would be used for an event when he's being invited as a retired officer, to attend in uniform and to participate in some official capacity, and she is specifically included.  Anyway, if your event is social where the officer is being invited as a person and not as an official ... keep reading.
   Formal forms for a SOCIAL envelope would be:
            (Rank) (Full Name)
      
          and Mrs. (Surname Only)
      
              Address
     1) Spelling out the rank is always the most formal: In the armed services, they use the service-specific abbreviations.  If you know them, there are service-specific form of the abbreviation the ranks.
     2) Abbreviations with the periods -- e.g., Lt. Col. -- are the form you will see in social etiquette books. They don't use them in the armed services (note #2), but there is nothing wrong with them.
     3) "Branch of Service" and 'Retired" are not used on social correspondence.
     4) The most formal way to write an official person's name is to not break up the rank and the name ... hence his name is on one line and Mrs. Thompson is on the next line -- not mixed up his rank and his name.

     -- Robert Hickey

How To Address Married Military Personnel
With the Same Rank?

     How do you address married couples in the military with the same rank.  Is it?
              Captains John and Mary Smith
     or is it?
             Captain John Smith and Captain Mary Smith
    Also what if they are married but have different last names?
 
         -- Candy J.

Dear PSC:
     I cover how to address two members of the military in Chapter Nine: Joint Forms of Address.
     l
am guessing this is a social form ... such as an invitation? And that both are captains in the same service?  O.K.? if so ...
     Outside envelope: When someone has a special title/rank .. most formally you write out their full name and you don't mix it with the other name:  So both get their rank + full name.
    But ... whose name goes first? His name? Her name? There is a protocol for this decision, and it's neither alphabetical nor ladies first. Military officers of the same rank are always ordered by seniority. One member of the couple has an earlier date of rank ... which gives that person higher precedence / greater seniority.
    I can guarantee you they have discussed this and the couple knows which of them has higher precedence/seniority by date of rank! So you need to contact them if you are determined to do it correctly.
    Since each is getting listed fully ... it does not matter if they have different last names

       
Captain John Smith
            and Captain Mary Smith  
 (if he has seniority)
                Address

        Captain Mary Smith
            and Captain John Smith   
 (if she has seniority)
                Address

    Yes, even when personnel have the same 'rank' one has seniority. If you are unsure list the man first, the woman second -- in the order established in "Mr. and Mrs."

Inside envelope:
    Captains Smith (same last name, most formally)
    Captain Smith and Captain Wilson
(different last names, more senior person listed first)
    Mary and William
(less formally if they are very close friends or family and in conversation you would be addressing them by their given names.)

 
         -- Robert Hickey 

How To Address Married Officers:
Equal Ranks, One Active, the Other Retired?

    What is the proper way to address two married members of the military when one is active duty and one is retired and they are the same rank on official correspondence? I couldn' find the answer on your site.
     
-- Tish

Dear Tish:
    The rule of precedence is that personnel are grouped by rank ... and active is before retired.
    The way it's phrased on the precedence list I include in my book (page 127) is for, say O-8's:
        VIP CODE 5
        43.    Two-star military: Major general, rear admirals, by seniority.
                 Retired officers by rank by after active duty officers

    I don't try and answer everything on the site .... I have a chapter in my book on precedence and joint forms of address if this sort of thing comes up often.

          -- Robert Hickey


Not Finding Your Question Answered?
Below are other topics covered in my blog and at right is a list of officials, Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     After hunting around a bit, if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – with your name and any personal specifics changed.
      -- Robert Hickey

USE OF NAMES & HONORIFICS   
Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
 
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

USE OF SPECIFIC OFFICIAL TITLES        
Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
           
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
           
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

SPECIFIC SITUATIONS
Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
,       
Couples           
  
Introductions, Names in
           
Invitations: Names on
       
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
         
Tombstones, Names on      


Site updated by Robert Hickey on 23 June 2017


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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

Copyright © 2016 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.