How to Write Names In a List or Program?

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    Christian Orthodox       
    Christian Orthodox        
Acting Official       
Adjutant General     

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     
Brigadier General       
Business Cards      

Canadian Officials    
   USA, USAF, USMC     
Certificate, Name on a 
    Federal Reserve      
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
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            
Dean, clergy            
Deceased Persons        
Degree, honorary      
Delegate, U.S., State

Deputy Chief of Mission
Deputy Marshal

Deputy Secretary      
    Pro Tempore      
Diploma, Name on a   

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, 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      


Writing Names In Lists, Texts
Programs, on Signs & Donor Walls

And Other Editorial Issues
Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 6 April 2020

How to Write Elected Officials Names on an Agenda?     
How to Write Elected Officials Names in a Program?     
How to Write An Official's Name on an Envelope?        
How to Write Current & Former Officials' Names           
How to Write a Deceased Person's Name?        
How to Write Elected Officials Names in the Minutes of a Board?     
How to Write Names in a Roster: With Dr.? Or with PhD/MD?     
How to Write The Name of the Holder of Many Former Offices?     

How to Name a Building/Road?              
How to Name a Building/Road for a U.S. Elected Official?        

When Can You Change a Name on a Mailing List?         

When Are Ranks and Offices Capitalized in Text?       
Abbreviate or Spell Out Military Ranks in Text?             
How To List Active, Retired, and Veterans in a Single List?        

How to Refer to an Official First and Subsequentially in Text?       

How to Write a Married Couple's Name on a Donor List?     
How to Write a Married Couple's Name When One is Deceased?      
How to Write An Official and Spouse on a Donor List?    

How to Write An Official's Name on a Plaque?      

How to Write A Name When The Submitted Style is Incorrect?     

How to Acknowledge Multiple Officials Seated In the Audience?     

Should I Include Honorifics and Post-Nominals
With A Person's Name When Naming a Building

       Our agency is in the process of naming a building after a deceased Executive Director. We are also having signage placed on the the building. Dr. Delaney earned a Doctorate of Public Administration. Our staff wishes to have the signage on the building as:
                Peter W. Delaney, DPA Head Start Center
        We believe that it should be:
                Dr. Peter W. Delaney Head Start Center
       -- Terry Kelly

Dear T.K.:
        Buildings are usually named for people without honorifics ... Dr., Judge, Senator, Mayor ..... or without post nominals ... MD, PhD, MBA.
        E.g., at the Metropolitan Museum of Art galleries and wings are named:
                The Iris B. and Gerald Canter Exhibition Hall
                The Robert Lehman Wing
Grace Rainy Rogers Auditorium
        Or at UCLA
                Ackerman Union
                Llewellyn M.K. Boelter Hall
                Almira Hershey Hall

        Based on the examples at leading institutions, the best style would be:
                Peter W. Delaney Head Start Center
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Name a Road after a Person
With a Courtesy Title (U.S. Elected Official)?

       I have a question about using “the Honorable”… I just saw a news item in our legislative service this AM and noticed that a former Oklahoma official (now deceased) will have her name on a highway sign as shown below:
      Shelton's authored legislative language that renames a section of Interstate 35 in honor of Hannah Atkins, a former Oklahoma Secretary of State. Under the new law, the portion of Interstate 35 in Oklahoma City running north from Northeast 23rd Street to the junction of Interstate 35 and Interstate 44 will now be designated as the "The Honorable Hannah Diggs Atkins, Secretary of State, Memorial Highway."
      Is this the right style? What do you advise?  I have placed a call to the legislator’s office.

            -- CM

Dear CM:
       "The Honorable" is used when addressing living people .... not with the name of a deceased person. Hence you don't see:
              The Honorable George Washington Bridge
The Honorable Abraham Lincoln Memorial
       It is simply:
              The George Washington Bridge
              The Abraham Lincoln Memorial

       So call them up and make sure they know it should be:
              Hanna Diggs Atkins Memorial Highway
              -- Robert Hickey

The Man's or Woman's Name First
When Naming a Building For a Couple?

       I am creating a rustic wooden sign for my daughter & her husband for their lake house.  I was planning on on putting Todd & Bethany's Lake House on the sign, but my friend insists that there is a rule that Bethany should be first.  Is there a rule on this?
       -- DC

       We are dedicating a building to my mother and father.  Father is deceased.  I know that you write that on letters the woman's name comes first.  Is that rule still applicable in this situation?
        Is this the correct wording?: Dedicated to Jane and John Doe

       -- Sue

Dear DC & Sue,
      There is a rule in forms of address ... that when you write a couple's name on l
etters, invitations, etc. ... and both parties use the same family name as their joint family name ... you keep "his" name together as a unit:
            Bethany and Todd Wilson
      Rather than:
            Todd and Bethany Wilson
      Other books suggest that the woman's name is always first ... due a "ladies first" rule.
      However I observe on buildings & galleries the name order is often done the other way around – so I cannot say there is a single correct form:
            The Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Building 
            The Robert and Renée Belfer Court for Early Greek Art

            Mary and Michael Jaharis Gallery
            Judy and Michael H. Steinhardt Gallery

 Usually when there are honors or donations involved I am certain there is deference to the personal preference of the person being honored or donating the money.
           -- Robert Hickey

How to List Members of a Board in the Minutes
If They Also Hold Other Official Offices
       I take minutes for a state finance board chaired by our Governor, who is also the board's president. Other elected officials on the board are the Lieutenant Governor and state's Treasurer. I've been instructed to henceforth identify each as  "The Honorable" when referring to them on the roster.
         Do I list the governor as the board president AND the governor? Do I say, "The Honorable Susana Martinez, Governor and President?

        -- Judith in New Mexico

Dear Judith:

     I suggest that in the minutes of your board's meetings the participants be listed only by their function on that board.
    If they are appointed to the board due to another position they hold, that's defined in your charter ... or was perhaps included in previous minutes which welcomed them as a new member.
    For example, the previous minutes would reflect:
        the new member
        and their qualifications / other positions / who appointed them / or whatever.  

    But during a board meetings they are a acting as a member of that board ... not as the holder of another position that qualified them to be on the board.
    *** If the state treasurer is on the board as a member, in the board's minutes he'd be listed as a member.
    *** Whereas .... If the state attorney general is not on the board, but participates in the meeting for some reason, he is a guest and is participating in the meeting as the State Attorney General ... so I would list him as the State Attorney general ... thus not a member of the board.
    But all this is more a matter of style than substance.  
    I just submit that the minutes of a particular meeting are not the record of how and why the appointed members got to be on the board.

        -- Robert Hickey

Abbreviate or Spell Out Ranks in Text?
       I'm a fiction writer, and I'm currently having a difference of opinion with my editor in regards to usage of abbreviations of military ranks. He says that rank abbreviation is alright in the course of narrative text, but should always be written out in dialogue.
       I assume he means, for example,
              "I want Sergeant James put in the guardhouse," said Lt. Bigelow.
       But isn't it also correct to write,
              "I want Sgt. James put in the guardhouse," said Lt. Bigelow.
              -- Ernest Greer

Dear Mr. Greer:
     In forms of address there is a rule that says when you orally introduce someone you say what the abbreviation represents ... and do not say the abbreviations.
     Thus one would say that "Our speaker today holds a doctorate in..."  and not say
"Our speaker today holds a P-H-D in..."
     So you always say the word, but write the abbreviation.
     Based on that, your editor's editorial style seems logical to me, and aligns with a forms of address rule I follow.

       -- Robert Hickey

How to Write a Couple's Name on a List?
          We are working on formalizing our donor wall at the museum at which I work.  I wish to list couples with first name, middle initial, last name and suffix (assuming they have all of these).  We typically list the man first, unless the woman has a different last name in which case she goes first.  I am struggling with how to address a couple with the same last name, but the man has a suffix.  Would it write John M. and Jane L. Smith, Jr.  or Jane L. and John M. Smith, Jr.  or something else?
       -- SB

Dear SB,
     Clearly the problem with those two options is that she is not Jane L. Smith, Jr.
     I note at the New York museums — where have looked to see what they do … they use three forms.   The first two are formal, the third one informal:
          Mr. and Mrs. John M. Smith, Jr.
          John M. Smith, Jr. and Jane L. Smith
     Jane and John Smith
     The middle one is explained as retaining the "Mr. and Mrs." order
     This last one is usually explained as 'keeping his name as a unit"
     So back to the New York museums. So I am looking at the wall, trying to figure out their rules, and right there in the middle of the list is something completely different! I assume when I see a wild card -- they used what the donor put on the pledge form. If I have to choose between making the editor/committee happy — and the donor … I would vote for the donor. It's the donor's name, it is their donation, and they should be happy.
     Another form you see when couples have different names … man & woman or single sex couple is:  Jane L. Apple and Susan M. Zappa.
       --  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 List an Honoree's Name When
He/She Is
The Honorable (Full Name)?
How do I write the name of an honoree who was our mayor. Is he Mr. (Full Name), Former Mayor (Full Name) or The Honorable (Full Name)?
        -- Ken

Dear Ken,
Former US elected officials continue to be officially listed as The Honorable for life. Since there's a new mayor he's not the mayor anymore and former mayor identifies him, but is not a form of address
      The Honorable
(a courtesy title) is used by others addressing the person. So, while it is never used by the host on his/her own invitation, it is used when listing a honoree
              The Honorable (Full Name)

     If you feel you need to note what his job was for some reason, you can include his office, or former office on the next line:
              The Honorable (
Full Name)
              Mayor of River City, 1990-2000

    -- Robert Hickey

 When to Change Someone's Name in a List?
      I recently reviewed a mailing list for a performing arts organization.  I found two entries that listed a wife and her recently deceased husband.  My habit has always been to correct these to simply Mrs. John Smith.
But I was informed by our data base manager that when we have a member who feels very strongly that the surviving spouse has the final say regarding such a deletion.
      Personally, I am not comfortable with calling up a member that I might not know very well with such a question.  And at the same time, I fear that if the mailing address lists both spouses, it will be interpreted as a sign of ignorance or lack of attention to detail. 
     Thank you for any advice that you can offer.

                  -- M.M.

Dear M.M.,
       I have not met a widow who would want her mail addressed as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, so it seems like an odd position for the data base manager to hold.
       I agree with you if one continues to address a widow as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith …. It does imply you are unaware of his death.
       But ultimately our name belongs to us and we should be consulted before someone else decides it is to be changed. So that call you are avoiding is one option.
Or since you are a performing arts organization and she may currently hold a dual membership, she will indicate how she wants her membership revised when she renews -- Right?
       People respond to death in so many ways. My father had two sisters, Anna and Mary, who never married and continued to live with their parents. When the last one died in her 90's I discovered that while their parents had been dead for more than 50 years …. the phone was still listed in their father's (my grandfather's) name. They never changed it!  So some people hold on!
            -- Robert Hickey

Dear Robert,
     Thank you so much for your thoughtful and logical response.  And for the poignant note about your maiden aunts.  I'm sure family reunions were very memorable.

                  -- M.M.

How to Acknowledge Officials in the Audience
When Giving a Speech? Generally or Individually?

Robert, how would you address a group of senators, governors, police officers, etc.?  Would it be generally like the plural of "sir" and "ma'am" -- "ladies and gentlemen," or "assembled guests" for instance? Or do I mention just the top ones?

-- Jim Sternberg

Dear Jim:
    If you have a wide variety of officials the challenge is to figure out a natural place to stop mentioning them by name so you don't spend your time picking out certain people in the audience ... and end up overlooking others.
    Here is the standard approach: The speaker will specifically acknowledge those on the podium then go on to acknowledge everyone else in a generally way.  
    E.g., The President at the State of the Union Message is on the podium with just the Speaker of the House of Representatives and The Vice President ... so he begins his speech with those officials in precedence order:
        Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, distinguished guests, and the American people .... etc.
    If no one is on the podium with you ... thank just the person who introduced you ... so if Thomas Smith is the master of ceremonies ...
        Mr. Smith, distinguished visitors, and ladies and gentlemen ...
    And when ending your speech, I got some excellent advice from Linda Reed, a PSOW Graduate in Eugene, Oregon.  Linda achieved her Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) from Toastmasters International a few years ago. She suggests "To end a speech the speaker would make their final point which could be a summarization of their strongest points or a call to action. Then the speaker can turn and extend a hand to shake hands with the person who will resume the control of the lectern or simply step back from the lectern, but not leave the lectern until the next speaker is there."

   -- Robert Hickey

How to Refer to Retired Armed Forces Personnel In Text?
       I saw on your website that you are welcome to questions in reference to addressing someone. I am looking for information on how to address a retired Command Sergeant Major William Smith in an article for a magazine. I want to quote him ... What is the right way to do this?
              -- CW3 Gillen

Dear CW3 Gillen,
    If you are writing about person in a magazine article, you are actually referring to him in the third person ... so it is not a direct form of address. This is really an editorial style question ... but I have some information on it.
    Anyone who is retired and wishes continue to use their rank socially is authorized to do so by DoD documents. In official situations they are directed to include that they are "Retired" or "Ret." ... in the formula [Rank] [Full Name], [Branch of Service], [Retired]
    Refer to him the first time as:
             Command Sergeant Major William Smith, USA, Retired
    Then you've established that he's retired
    Thereafter in article refer to him as:
             Command Sergeant Major Smith
             CSM Smith

              -- Robert Hickey

Are Ranks & Offices Capitalized?
      When you have already referred to Captain Smith in a work of fiction, for instance, and then refer to THIS PARTICULAR CAPTAIN SMITH again, and it is clear from the context (because, perhaps, he is the only CAPTAIN spoken of in the text) does one capitalize the C in captain? (that's when no Smith appears.)
       Captain Smith was a tough officer. When the Captain greeted us OR When the captain greeted us   

                   -- Jerome S. T.

Dear Jerome S. T.:
        This is really a copy editing question ... rather that a form of address question ... but I know the answer.
        Proper names are always capitalized ... so when you refer to a specific "Captain" by rank-only ... it is capitalized just like it is a name:
          When the Captain arrives we will have dinner.
           The President and Mrs. (Surname) will travel to the United Kingdom.
   Please ask the Ambassador if he wants milk in his tea.
When you refer to the rank, but not to a specific person,  it is not capitalized:
           The ranks of captain in the USN and captain in the USA are not equivalent.
           The office of president of the United States has a term of four years
            An accredited ambassador from the Federal Republic of Germany has not been assigned.

                   -- Robert Hickey

What To Call Judges & Justices in a Court Report?
     As a court reporter, it is standard for us to indicate who is speaking by putting, e.g., “MR. JONES:” and then follow with his comments.  I have questions regarding how to indicate individuals when “Mr.” or “Ms.” is not sufficient.
     When a former chief justice of a state supreme court speaks, is it preferred to keep the title and put “CHIEF JUSTICE (last name):” or “CHIEF JUSTICE (full name):” or “THE HONORABLE (full name):” or “MR. JONES:” or something else?
     As to a person who is currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals, should that person be shown as “THE HONORABLE (full name):” or something else?  Can one serve without being a judge?
      Thanks very much for your help, as I do not want to indicate disrespect by not using the correct title.
       -- Sandi Lyonnaise

Dear Sandi,
    You write: As a court reporter, it is standard for us to indicate who is speaking by putting, e.g., “MR. JONES:” and then follow with his comments.  I have questions regarding how to indicate individuals when “Mr.” or “Ms.” is not sufficient.
    The issue here is what is a form of address? vs. what is the editorial style to use when referring to a person in the third person in text -- so the reader will be clear who you are discussing?
    Your question is a matter of editorial style rather than a form of address. In a court report, if a person has a special function, it makes sense to continue to use his or her "title" for clarity ... rather than just "Mr./Ms."
    A form of address is what you use when directly speaking or writing TO the person. The President of the United States is directly addressed as "Mr. President" and referred to by his staff as "The President"  His name is never used.)
    However, reporters refer to him as  "(Family Name)"   "(Full Name)"  "President (Surname)"  and even  "Mr. (Surname)"  None of those are forms of address ... but are clear in news report who the reporter is referring to.
    If you meet him ... call him "Mr. President" ... not "President (Surname)."

    You write: When a former chief justice of a state supreme court speaks, is it preferred to keep the title and put “CHIEF JUSTICE (last name):” or “CHIEF JUSTICE (full name):” or “THE HONORABLE (full name):” or “MR. JONES:” or something else?
    If they are speaking from an official position... then you could refer to them as a "Justice"
    If not ... "The Honorable" would be complete correct and more accurate, since he continues to be "The Honorable" forever.
    Since there is only one chief justice, a former chief justice is not formally addressed as "chief justice" since it would be disrespectful to the current office holder.  Especially in the present of a current "Chief Justice."

    You write: As to a person who is currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals, should that person be shown as “THE HONORABLE (full name):” or something else?  Can one serve without being a judge?
    A judge is "The Honorable (Full Name)" in writing ... and in a salutation or conversationally is "Judge (Surname).
    If he or she is on a court ... he or she is a judge or justice as far as I know.

Wow. that was a lot!
If this sort of thing comes up often, you need a copy of my book!

       -- Robert Hickey

How to List Active Duty, Retired and
Veteran's Names in a Single List?

      I am tasked with putting together a program at our school designed to honor veterans at our Veteran's Day assembly. I have the names, branches of service, and rank of each individual. I cannot find the appropriate way to put that information in text for our presentation. I want to do it correctly and know there must be some protocol we should follow. I do not want to offend anyone present who might know that protocol. As you would guess, I have all ranks and branches represented. 
     -- TR

Dear TR,
      Here's how it is done at official events:
            If they are currently serving on active duty:
                  Captain William Smith, USA
                  CPT William Smith, USA

            If they retired after twenty years service:
                  Captain William Smith, USA, Retired
                  Captain William Smith, USA, Ret.
                  CPT William Smith, USA, Retired
                  CPT William Smith, USA, Ret.

      If they are a veteran [they voluntarily left the service before serving 20 years and earning a retirement, resigning and being discharged] they are not addresses 'by rank' -- that is they addressed using their rank as part of their name. So it has to go after their name when included. Here are some options:
                  William Smith (Captain, USA)

                  William Smith: Captain, U.S. Army
      List veterans as a separate group. I'd list them by category in this order:

      Within each category -- first in order by rank. If you have more than one with the same rank, then in order by the date of rank. 
      Sometimes veterans say that they should be able to use their former ranks just like retirees …but the Department of Defense in it's regulations is clear that only fully retired personnel are addressed by rank.
            -- Robert Hickey

How to Write a Name You Think Is Not Stylistically Correct?
      I do not think that this is correct, as a matter of fact I know it is not correct but I need the documentation to support my position. Here's the name:
               Dr. (Ret) Lieutenant Colonel William Edwards
      I need a response very quickly as the programs are being printed on Monday for an event next week. This is going to make us look like idiots.
               -- JM

Dear JM,
       #1 It's not a traditional form of address in the USA.  In the US we use a simplified form in which military ranks are not used with another honorific ... or post-nominal .... so he can be:
        Lieutenant Colonel William Edwards
        Dr. William Edwards
   but never Dr. Lieutenant William Edwards and never Lieutenant Dr. William Edwards.   
    U.S. Department of Defense guidelines suggest for retired officers that Retired or Ret. be used after the name ... Not (Ret) .....and their branch of service be listed ... so it would be:
        Lieutenant Colonel William Edwards, USA, Ret.
        Lieutenant Colonel William Edwards, USA, Retired
       #2 If he's a medical doctor who served in the medical corps of, say, the United States Army, there's a branch of service form just for that which is. ....
        Lieutenant Colonel William Edwards, Medical Corp USA, Ret.
       #3 If he is foreign citizen ... around the world they do use compound forms. E.g., with the British their name is their resume.  So you do see:
        His Excellency The Right Reverend Captain Dr. Sir William Edwards, GCMB, CBE, MP
    See my postings on retired officers at:
        ... Or even more specifically at:
    And if you are listing him socially ... not officially ... see
       #4 All that said ... if he says his name is "Dr. (Ret) Lieutenant Colonel Wiliam Edwards" I would not change it.  Ultimately his name belongs to him and he can create his name to be whatever he wants it to be. Traditional or not traditional, humble or pretentious, his name is whatever he says it is.
               -- Robert Hickey

How to List the Name of the Former Holder
of Many Offices in a Program?

We have a person who is a former Governor, former U.S. Representative, and a former cabinet secretary coming to speak at our campus soon.  He now is the president/CEO of his own firm, and is speaking at our campus in that capacity. 
     As we are preparing the printed program, is it most proper to him as:

          The Honorable John Doe

          Former Governor of (State)

          President/CEO of (Company Name)

-- Confused in Oklahoma

Dear CIO:
     How you list his former positions can be done in many ways and will depend on how he is being invited:
          as a former United States Representative  or
          as a former Governor
          as a former Secretary
as a current corporate executive  or
          all  or 
only one?
     #1: If only one is pertinent ... list only his experience pertinent to the event and mention the others in his bio or introduction.
Consider not mentioning any of the former offices with his name 
front and center. Then mention his current endeavor and former offices orally in his introduction ... OR ... in text in a biography in the program. After all it is the person who is speaking, not a resume.
  If former jobs are listed ... often it's best to avoid using the word former ... since it sounds so past-tense ... and to present his offices as follows:
          Member, United States House of Representatives 1982-1990
          Governor of Oklahoma, 1990-1998
          United States Secretary of Defense, 1998-2006
          President and CEO, Company Name, 2006 to present

   -- Robert Hickey

How to Sign an Official's Name
(Your Boss's Name)
on a Sympathy Card?

       I am sending a sympathy card from our College's President Mary Smith and her husband John Smith.  How should the card be signed? I send this sort of sympathy card to our students who may not know her name.  Any thoughts on that?

            -- Suzanne Grey

Dear Ms. Grey:
If the recipient might not know the President's name, is not a strictly personal card .... so consider having it be MORE from The President & the College ... not including her husband's name on it. Figuring out a way to include her name & office and his name will be cumbersome.
       If looks to be personally signed by your boss, how about something like:
              Mary Smith and the faculty of (Name of) College
       If it looks typed ... thus looks more official and less personal:
              Dr. Mary Smith and the faculty of (Name of) College
       The Dr. is on the latter option because one does not give oneself an honorific in a signature, so she would not actually sign herself as Dr. Mary Smith.
       I also considered:
              Mary Smith and your friends at (Name of) College
       ... but I think she can most appropriately send condolences from the Office of the President and the faculty rather than the student body ... but you would know better than I on that point.
       -- Robert Hickey

How to List an Elected Official?
     I am preparing an agenda for a meeting and am wondering how to correctly list an elected official that will be attending and making presentations. I am unclear if I am following those formal letter guidelines when listing individuals in the agenda  For example: do I write ...
        Mayor John Doe (first line)
        City, State (next line)

        The Honorable John Doe (first line)
        Mayor of City
(second line) ... do I need the state as well?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

          -- Tamara Zanders, Willoughby, Ohio

Dear Ms. Zanders:
    Without seeing the full list I would suggest you use the official form of their names:
        The Honorable (Full Name)
        Mayor of (Name of City)

        The Honorable Harold Hill
        Mayor of River City

    This form is the traditional form of direct address ... and the elected official will certainly like
The Honorable being included.
    Include the state if it would be confusing not include it ... E.g., if you had the mayors of Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia at the same event. But if it's not confusing, then it's not necessary.  Again that will be the most clear when you have the entire list in front of you.
    State names are often omitted on invitations for this reason, e.g., it will specify the City of Albany and not mention the state of New York.

            -- Robert Hickey

How to List More Than One Elected Official?    
   How does one list the governor and the mayor in a program for an event at which they will be speaking. I found the forms of address in you book, but just not sure if that's what I should use on a program?
           -- Susan in Honolulu

Dear Susan:
    Use this formula:
         1) In the program list their names in the order they will speak
         2) List them using the official form of their name
         3) Identify their office after their name.

Welcome Remarks
The Honorable (Full Name), Governor of the State of Hawaii
The Honorable (Full Name), Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu

         -- Robert Hickey
     I don't think it's necessary to list their offices. Everyone will know who they are. O.K?
           -- Susan in Honolulu

Dear Susan:
   You are right, sometimes offices are not included because those present may know who they are. But programs also serve as keepsakes and as a record of the event. Often to include / not to include offices, date, year, and location are made with posterity in mind.

How to Include Academic Degrees in a List
When Everyone Else is Listed as Mr./Ms.

       Most members of my organization are submitting their profiles for the members list have a basic honorific of Mr. or Ms.  However, for those who have a Ph.D. and is a Dr., which is the best way to list them?
                A.  Dr. Jane Doe
                B.  Jane Doe, Ph.D.
        I lean toward B because it is better because to show the kind of doctorate the person has, versus just using Dr. Jane Doe… Otherwise, the person could be an M.D.?
        -- SS in San Francisco

Dear SS:
        1) If you want a list which is stylistically consistent, use Dr. (Name).
        2) Sometimes creating a perfectly consistent list makes the editor happy, but the people listed are not so happy. They want their names written exactly how they submit their names.
        3) If I were doing the list, I would include their name as they submitted it, with the logic that everyone is entitled to have their name presented as they prefer it to be presented. So if they submit their name as Dr. or with a PhD ... it is also reasonable to include it exactly like they submit it.
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Write the Names of Current &
Former Officials to Differentiate Them?

       We have an upcoming event next week at which both of our current U. S. Senators will be attending as will one of our former U. S. Senators – a long-serving senator who retired last year.  What is the proper way to differentiate between the current and retired senators in the program?

              -- North Dakota Chairman

Dear Dear Mr. Chairman:
       The forms of address for current and retired senators is the same ... so in the program you should differentiate between them with a modifying statement after their name:

              The Honorable Full Name
              Senator for North Dakota

              The Honorable Full Name
Senator for North Dakota, 1990-2006

       Precedence of your state's two current senators is the one elected first is first.  Precedence of a former senator with a current senator is that the former is with, but after a current.  Among formers, the earliest elected (earliest serving) is first.
       Former senators .... retired or defeated ... continue to use the same forms of address. Exception is a senator who was removed from office: he or she would no longer be addressed as The Honorable.
       I cover all this in my book if this sort of thing comes up often..
                -- 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 6 April 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.