How to Address Couples: U.S. Officials and their Spouses

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    Christian Orthodox       
    Christian Orthodox        
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Admiral, Texas Navy   
Adventist Minister       

Archbishop, Catholic        
   Christian Orthodox        
Archdeacon, Episcopal        
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        
   U.S., State / or           

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

Baron, Baroness           
British Officials,
   Royalty, Nobility     
Brother, Catholic
   Christian Orthodox          
Bishop, Catholic            
   Christian Orthodox         
Bishop, Episcopal        
Board Member     
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Certificate, Name on a 
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Chaplain in the
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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
City Manager
Clergy & Religious
Club Official          
Colonel, Kentucky      
Colonel, USA, USAF,
    or USMC     
Commissioner, Court     
Commodore of a         
      Yacht Club         
Congressman, U.S.               
Congresswoman, U.S.   
Consul and or
   Consul General   
Corporate Executive         
Counselor (Diplomat)      
County Officials       
    U.S. Military
    U.S. Officials
    Private Citizens    
    Same Sex

Dalai Lama          
Dean, academic            
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Doctor, Military           
Doctor of
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Doctor, Optometrist   
Doctor of Osteopathy            
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Doctorate, honorary      

Elect, Designate
Pro Tempore      
Esquire, Esq.       

First Names, Use of
   Formal / Informal     
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
Former Officials    

Gay Couple      


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

Governor, Tribal Council          
Governor, U.S. State       
Governor, Former    
    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   
   Writing &  
    Writing &

Judge, former     
Judge of US City

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

Justice, Associate

     Supreme Court

Justice, Associate

     Supreme Court


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

Lieutenant Governor    

Major General,
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    
   Protestant Clergy       
   Christian Orthodox     
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

Officer, Police     

Pastor, Christian Clergy  
   Christian Orthodox  
   Ecumenical Patriarch
   of Constantinople  
People with Two Titles      
Petty Officer
Place Cards            
Plaque, Name on a    
Police Chief
Police Officer                     
Pope, Catholic
Pope, Coptic
Postmaster General         
Presbyter, Orthodox
President, corporate
President of
    College or
President of a
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  
    of the U.S.   
Priest, Catholic          
    Christian Orthodox 
Priest, Episcopal        
Prime Minister
   & Academics         
Pro Tempore,
   Elect, Designate    


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

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

Same Sex Couple      
Salvation Army    
School Board Member
   U.S. Department,
   Member of the Cabinet
   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 at Arms
Seventh Day
     Adventist Minister       
Sister, Catholic       

Solicitor General      
Speaker of the U.S.
   House of
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)         
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

Warrant Officer       
White House Staff    
Woman, business        
Woman, social        

Yacht Club Officer      


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

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 14 May 2020

General Rules about Addressing Couples     
Couples When One is in the Military

How To Address Two People,
         BOTH Addressed as "The Honorable"  

How To Address a Someone Addressed as "The Honorable"
        and His/Her Spouse -- If They Use Different Family Names?         

How To Address a Someone Addressed as "The Honorable"
         and His/Her Spouse -- If They Use The Same Family Name?        

How To Address a Member of a City Council and Spouse?            
How To Address a Judge and Spouse

How To Address The President and First Lady?         
How To Address The Vice President and Spouse?     
How To Address a former US President and First Lady?      

How To Address an Invitation to Hillary and Bill Clinton?      

How To Address an Ambassador and Spouse?   

How to Address a Former US Official and His/Her Spouse?         
How To Address a Current US Official and His/Her Spouse?   
How To Address Two Honorables?      

How to Address an Someone Addressed as
"The Honorable (Full Name)" and His/Her Spouse?
   How does one address an invitation to the mayor and his wife?
        -- Susan Hensley

   I need to address our elected sheriff and his wife. Is it: The Honorable and Mrs. James Smith?
        -- Agnes Harrington

   How do I address a senator and her husband?
        -- J.K. in Virginia

   How do I address a judge and and her husband?
        -- Ann Buchanan

Dear S.H, A.H. and J.K.:
I cover how to every type of elected official and spouse in Chapter Nine: Joint Forms of Address.
What all these U.S. officials have in common is that they are addressed on an envelope as the Honorable. None of you mentioned their names ... so here are the formulas.
    (1) If "the Honorable" is a man and if his spouse uses (Mrs.) + (same family name), then traditionally her given name does not appear:
       The Honorable William Stanton
        and Mrs. Stanton
    (2If "the Honorable" is a man and If she a different family last name ... then her full name does appear:
       The Honorable William Smith
        and Ms. Linda Blake

    (3)  If "the Honorable" is a woman his full name appears whether he uses the same or different family name:
       The Honorable Linda Stanton
        and Mr. William Stanton
        The Honorable Linda Blake
        and Mr. William Smith

    When person is the Honorable -- they get their name as unit -- not combined with anyone else's name. So what you want to avoid is:
       The Honorable and Mrs. William Stanton
    (4If the spouse has her own rank, courtesy title, or some special honorific, and does not have higher precedence, then both get their full name:
        The Honorable (full name)
        and Lieutenant (full name)
       The Honorable (full name)
       and Dr. Linda Stanton
        The Honorable (full name)
        and the Reverend (full name)

    Probably more answer than you wanted ... but I hope it is useful.

         -- Robert Hickey

How to Address Someone Addressed as
"The Honorable" and Her Husband?

    What is the proper form of address for an American ambassador-at-large, who is a woman, and her husband? Is it:
          The Honorable Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe
         or The Honorable Jane Doe and Mr. Doe?
    Also, how about the salutation? Is it: 
          Dear Ms. Doe and Mr. Doe
          or Dear Ms. and Mr. Doe?
     Is that covered in your book? Thanks!
           -- AC in NYC

Dear GB:
    Yes, I have a chapter on joint forms of address. This combination is covered on page 145. The correct address would be:
               The Honorable Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe
     ... because men get their full names when their wives name is listed first due to her higher precedence.
     For a formal salutation use:   
               Dear Madame Ambassador and Mr. Doe:
     Although using "ambassador" as the honorific would also be O.K.:   
               Dear Ambassador Doe and Mr. Doe:
               -- Robert Hickey

How to Address Someone Addressed as
"The Honorable" and His/Her Spouse
When they Have Different Family Names?

       How do you address a husband and wife when the wife is an MD and her husband is our new Mayor? She still uses her maiden name since she got her MD degree in that name and was established with that name when she got married.
       -- EG in Atlanta

        How do you address a judge and her spouse when they don't have the same last name?
       -- EG in Atlanta

Dear EG:
        In my book Chapter Nine is just on joint forms of address. It has all the different combinations covered, so if this sort of thing comes up often, my book might be a good resource for you.
       In the US we address those elected to office as "the Honorable (Full Name)" in writing.  The name of the "The Honorable" is listed first when their spouse doesn't have a higher personal rank .... and being "The Honorable" is higher in precedence than holding academic degrees or holding a military rank.

      If it is the man who is higher ... here are some examples:

               The Honorable John Doe
                     and Ms. Jane Smith
               The Honorable John Doe
                     and Dr. Jane Smith

                The Honorable John Doe
                     and Captain Jane Smith

      If it is the woman who is higher ... here are some examples:
               The Honorable Jane Smith
                     and Mr. John Doe
               The Honorable Jane Smith
                     and Dr. John Doe

                The Honorable Jane Smith
                     and Captain John Doe

       There technically could be a situation in which the non-The Honorable would be first: If it's the non-the Honorable's event / her or she is actually the 'invitee'  -- and "The Honorable" is being included only as a courtesy -- then the non-The Honorable would be first.  But that would be really unusual!
                -- 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 Two Honorables?
     I need to send a letter to two people (husband and wife) who are married and both need to be addressed as The Honorable in an address.  How do I address them?!  Thanks.
     -- Rick Eckis on Capital Hill

Dear Mr. Eckis:
      I include how to cover how to address two 'honorables' in Chapter 9: Joint Forms of Address.
(1) First determine which person has higher precedence so you can know whose name is listed first.
     (2) Then list each person's name on a line by itself. Anyone's who is The Honorable gets his or her name written in full on a line by itself.
     (3) the "t" in "the" is not capitalized on the second line. Only on the first.
Neither age nor gender are considerations. So if you determine he has higher precedence, his name is on the first line and hers in on the second. If she has higher precedence she is listed first.
           The Honorable (full name)
         and the Honorable (full name)
    -- Robert Hickey

How To Address Two Officials Addressed as
The Honorable on an Envelope?

Please tell me what the joint salutation would be for married officials, both addressed as "The Honorable" (in this case they are both U.S. ambassadors) with different last names. Am I correct in that the mail names would be ... 
     The Honorable Jack G. Small
     and The Honorable Ann K. Jones

                 -- Debbie

Dear Debbie:
    Yes ... that is perfect. Each gets their full name spelled out on their own line.
    Next question is whose name is listed first? You listed Jack Small. Officially the one who became an ambassador earlier has higher precedence ... and would be listed first ... unless you are writing to one of them at their post ... and an ambassador at his or her post has the higher precedence.

                   -- Robert Hickey

How to Address "the Honorable" and His/Her Spouse?
      My first cousin is married to a U.S. Congressman from South Carolina.  I want to send them a thank-you note.  I'm considering the following as the first line on my envelope:
                  The Honorable Joe and Dana Baxter
      Is this correct? Thanks,
                -- Jeff Williams, Laurel, Texas

     How do I address a married couple where the wife is the Honorable and husband is a Mr.?
               -- iPhone Diva

Dear Jeff & I.D.,
    If you are going to be writing to officials on a regular basis, my book has all these forms.
    The formal way is to NOT break up the official person's name. Give the name a line by itself. So, on the mailing envelope it would be:
        The Honorable (Full Name)
            and Mrs. (Surname Only)

        The Honorable (Full Name)
            and Mr. (Full Name)
    That's the way the White House would send out the envelopes. Officials get their full name as a unit (not mixed up with their spouse's name): list the official's name, then, list their spouse's name. 
     Traditionally wives of officials who use the same surname as their spouse are (on an envelope) Mrs. (Their Shared Surname Only). Traditionally, women who use the same surname as their husbands don't get their first name in a joint address.
     Women who use a different surname DO get their own first and last name, e.g.,
... and Ms. (Her First Name + Her Own Surname).
    And I'd would not suggest you use Mrs. (Her First Name + Their Shared Surname) since traditionally that is the form for a divorced woman -- who was formerly
Mrs. (His First and Surname). You will meet a married woman for whom Mrs. (Her First Name + Their Shared Surname) is her personal preference, and for that woman I would write her name as she prefers, but it's not traditionally the correct form.
    Husbands of officials get their full names -- Mr. (Full Name).
            -- Robert

How to Address a Former U.S. Official Who Was
Addressed as The Honorable and His/Her Spouse?

    How do I address a wedding invitation to a former U.S. official (in this case a U.S. Senator) and his wife?
        -- Marcia Buchanan

Dear Ms. Buchanan:
I cover how to address every level of elected officials (federal, state, and municipal) in Chapter Nine: Joint Forms of Address.
For a wife, on the invitation's envelope write their names like this -- line for line:
       The Honorable William T. Buchanan
       and Mrs. Buchanan
For a husband, on the invitation's envelope write their names like this -- line for line:
        The Honorable Mary Buchanan
       and Mr.. William T. Buchanan
    Write the official's name on a line by itself. People with special honorifics and courtesy titles don't get their names combined with spouses.
    If his wife uses the same last name, tradition dictates she does not get her first name. Husbands of officials do get their full names.
    If his wife uses a different last name, write it like this -- line for line.
    The Honorable William T. Buchanan
            and Ms. Marcia Smith

      -- Robert Hickey

How to Write a Couple's Name On a Donor List
When the One of them Has a Special Title?

     I am President of our Friends of the Library and are engraving some bricks for a new sidewalk path being installed.  We are including our Council Members and their wives, but are unsure the proper way of titling them.   We are given 3 rows of 16 characters or spaces each.  Would you please provide us some guidance?  Would we list them as:
            Council Member Drexel and Kate Douglas
            Council Member Drexel & Kate Douglas
            Council Member Pam and Adam Steel
            Council Member Pam & Adam Steel

     Or some other variation? 
            -- Jack Scott

Dear Mr. Scott,
    Hummmm. The options you suggest are awkward because you are combining official and social forms of address ... including an official's elected office ... with .... the couple's names in an social way.
    Members of city councils are typically addressed on an envelope or in the letter by whatever honorific they are entitled to (Mr./Ms./Dr./etc.), and identified as a member of a council: Mr. Drexel Douglas, Member, Hudson County Council
You would never see Senator Evan and Susan Bayh in Washington, DC. Formally when someone holds an office they get their name as a complete unit, not combined with someone else's name.
     If you are limited for space and must include spouses, include the names and leave off the Council Member.  Bricks are permanent, membership on the city council is fleeting. A better option would be simply:
  Pam & Adam Steel
         -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Thank-you Note to a Former President
of the United States and a Former First Lady?

     I was invited to dinner by President George H. W. Bush Sr. and Mrs. Bush last week at the Bush Library and Museum and the Presidential Center. There wasn't a written invitation - it was a verbal invitation - so I don't have something that says  "The President and Mrs. Bush invites you", or "The President invites you" -- so I can be certain exactly who was the host and/or hostess of the event.
    Should a thank you card be written to “The President” only?  Or should it be addressed to "The President and Mrs. Bush"? 
    Should my note be hand written?
    My thought is that the card should be written to the President only, but I'm not sure what is correct.
                                       -- DH and SB in Aerospace.

Dear DH and SB:
    You refer to your host as The President which is not correct for a former President. This event was hosted by “Bush-41” -- a former President is traditionally addressed as Mr. (Surname), in this case Mr. Bush.  Holders of office of which there is only one at a time do not continue to use the "title" after leaving the office (see page 85). They revert to either “The Honorable (full name)” -OR- “Mr./Ms. (surname)” and are identified as "the former …”.
    When Thomas Jefferson left the White House he returned to being Mr. Jefferson. When Dwight Eisenhower returned to Gettysburg he returned to being General Eisenhower.
    If you addressed “Bush-41” as President Bush he would probably not correct you. At the Bush-43 White House they did write the place card for the former Presidents as "President (surname)" as a courtesy, with the reasoning that they are returning to their former home. It remains to be seen it the current administration continues this new style.
     Regarding the thank you note, even though there was no written invitation, it's always correct to thank your host/hostess with a prompt note. Socially when the hosts are a Mr. & Mrs., the note is addressed to the hostess. Mail your hand-written note within 24 hours. Address the envelope to “Mrs. George H.W. Bush.” Use the salutation “Dear Mrs. Bush,.”  If you want to mention your appreciation to the former president, you could include something like “… and please extend my thanks to Mr. Bush” in the text.
             -- Robert Hickey

How to Address The President and First Lady?
    What is the correct way to address an envelope and salutation to use when writing Presidential couple at the White House. In your book I find how to address him at the White House and how to address her at the White House. But I want to write a letter to the both of them.
         --- Desiree Whitley

Dear Ms. Whitley:
     You don't see a joint form in my book because my book is for official forms of address ... and an official letter would not be jointly addressed to the both.
I guess one could imagine them opening their mail together, but that's not what happens.  Each has their own office ... his in the West Wing ... and hers in the East Wing ... both at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So separate correspondence would be sent to each.  If you address it to them both then someone will have to decide which wing open it I guess.
    But that said ... if you are set on writing them as a couple write it line-for-line like this:
        The President
            and Mrs. (Surname)
                The White House
                    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
                        Washington, DC 20500

        Open the letter with the salutation:
            Dear Mr. President and Mrs. (Surname):
        Close the letter with:
            Most Respectfully,
            Desiree Whitley

                           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address the Vice President and Spouse?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
    I am sending a formal invitation to several government officials. How would I address an envelope to the VP and his wife?
          -- Melanie Schaeffer, Moline, Illinois

Dear Ms. Schaeffer:
The formula a Vice President whose wife used “Mrs.” would be:
        The Vice President
            and Mrs. (surname)

         -- Robert Hickey

How To Address an Invitation to Hillary & Bill Clinton?
How do you address an invitation to Hillary Clinton and her husband, now that she is no longer Secretary of State?
        -- Phyllis Brown

Dear Ms. Brown:
    Truth is you probably wouldn't send an joint invitation unless you are a very close personal friend: it's not like just anyone could say "Hillary, come to dinner and bring Bill." They each have an office (and scheduler) you'd have to contact. But that said -- Bill Clinton has higher precedence as a former president, so his name would be first.
     As a former president of the United States he is most formally The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton ... and a former Secretary of State (and a former United States Senator) she is The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    If you were to list their names on an envelope it would be:
        The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
        and The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
    The inside envelope would be:
         Mr. Clinton and Senator Clinton:
    Many people ask when they see this: not President and Secretary Clinton?
    Well, the answer is no and here is why: After leaving the office Presidents and Secretaries formally go back to the highest honorific to which he or she was entitled before assuming office. That doesn't mean you don't hear it in the media, but it's not correct as a form of address.
For Bill, it's Mr..  Neither governors nor presidents continue to be formally addressed in the style of their former office.
    For Hillary it is Senator. Former senators are addressed as Senator (Name).
    A former President, Governor, nor Secretary of State continues to be addressed as The Honorable, but other than that, those offices are roles that do not come with a personal rank that continues.

            -- Robert Hickey

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
(1) At left is a list offices/officials covered and (2) below are other topics covered in my blog. Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     But after checking both lists 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 – but I always change the names and specifics.
      -- Robert Hickey

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      

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        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
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 14 May 2020


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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

Available in   Hardcover   /  Kindle   /  Apple Book

Copyright © 2020 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.