How to Address Private Citizens

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Australian Officials    
Awards, Name on an

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Chief Justice, of a State
      Supreme Court             

Chief of Police          
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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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Deceased Persons        
Degree, honorary      
Delegate, U.S., State

Deputy Chief of Mission
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District Attorney
Doctor, Chiropractor     
Doctor of Dentistry
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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
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First, Second,
   Third , etc .        
First Lady, Spouse
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    of Her   
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   or Lt. Gov.    
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First Lady
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Gay Couple      


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High Commissioner    
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Honourable, The

Indian Chief         
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   Writing &  
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Judge, former     
Judge of US City

     County or State     
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Junior, Senior,
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Justice, Associate

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Justice, Associate

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Lesbian Couple    
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Married Women       
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Mayor, U.S. City   
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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
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People with Two Titles      
Petty Officer
Place Cards            
Plaque, Name on a    
Police Chief
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Pope, Catholic
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Presbyter, Orthodox
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    of the U.S.   
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    Christian Orthodox 
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Prime Minister
   & Academics         
Pro Tempore,
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Ranger, Texas        
   U.S., Federal           
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Retired Military
   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    

   3. Q&A on
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Reverend, The
Right Reverend, The         

Same Sex Couple      
Salvation Army    
School Board Member
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   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
Private Citizens

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 6 April 2020

Mrs. vs. Ms.      
Is Anyone a Miss Anymore?

How To Address a Widow?       

How To Address a Divorced Woman?        

How Should Jr., II, III, IV, and V Be Used After After A Man's Name?      
How to Address a Woman Whose Husband is a Jr., II, III, IV, or V?      

Whose Name if First? His or Hers?      

Whose Name is First? His? or Hers?
    In an salutation for a married couple using just first names .... whose name is first?  His? Or hers? Dear Anne and Steve or Dear Steve and Anne?

         -- Anne Robinson

    On a wedding program should I list my parents as:
        1) Michael and Linda Swaggerty   OR
        2) Linda and Michael Swaggerty
    We didn’t use Mr. and Mrs. for this, as we prefer all the guests know the parent's first names.
         -- Linda Swaggerty

    On shared stationery – how should we list our names? His name first? My name first?  We will be married soon and I have chosen to retain my maiden name.
    My fiancé honestly doesn't care whose name is first. I think it seems like I am secondary to him if his name comes first on everything (which I agree is rather ridiculous but I cannot seem to get past the feeling). What is the "proper" way to do it?

         -- Laura T

Dear Anne, Linda, and Laura:
      In my book I include the following: When writing two names (typically when addressing invitations, but the rules work for other situations, too), there are two ways.
      1) Social etiquette says, when the guests are a couple with different surnames, women are listed first, men are listed second:
            Ms. Laura Thompson and Mr. Henry Smith
            Laura Thompson and Henry Smith
            Laura and Henry

    It is this way in "social etiquette" because gender is a consideration in traditional social forms of address.
Social etiquette says, when the guests are a couple with the same surname, women are listed first, men are listed second. I've seen this described as 'ladies first' or 'keeping his name as a unit."  Either way the result is the same:
            Laura and Henry Smith
            Laura and Henry

      3) This contrasts with business and official etiquette (and the rules of protocol), in which gender is not a consideration.
       In the business and official arenas, if both halves of the couple are of equal precedence, they always are listed alphabetically by surname:
            Mr. Henry Adams and Ms. Laura Wagner
          Henry Adams and Laura Wagner
            Henry and Laura
    This rule is the one you follow for same sex couples:
            Mr. Frank Baker and Mr. Thomas Wilson
            Frank Baker and Thomas Wilson
            Frank and Thomas
            Ms. Amy Clifton and Ms. Maria Yeonas

            Amy Clifton and Maria Yeonas

            Amy and Maria

      -- Robert Hickey

Whose Name Is First If One of Them Is a Date?
      Whose name is first if I am inviting to a business event a couple, who use different surnames? She is the one we are really inviting, he's being invited as a courtesy to her.  Alphabetically he is first, but it seems funny to list him first since he is coming as the date?
              -- Mary Harrison

Dear Ms. Harrison:
    1) If a person is the guest to an official event (e.g., the woman is the reason the invitation is being extended) and her spouse is attending as her guest ... her name goes first:
             Ms. Mary Harrison
                  and Mr. Albert Baker

     His name would be listed first if he is the intended guest.
   2) When they are both invited, so neither is the 'invited guest' then the person with higher precedence is listed first regardless of gender.  E.g., if the woman holds a higher office, higher rank, or has a special honorific -- she outranks her husband who has a lower office, lower rank or has no special honorific -- a protocol officer sending out official invitations would always list the woman first in a married couple. E.g.:
        The Honorable Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert
        The Reverend Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert Baker
        Her Excellency Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert Baker
        General Mary Harrison
            and Major Albert Baker
        Major Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert Baker
        Dr. Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert Baker

     I cover all this and more in the chapters in my book on Joint Forms of Address and Precedence.
   -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Divorcee?
    You state Mrs. Jane Doe is the traditional form for a divorced woman.
    A divorcee (how rarely we use that now!) is most formally Mrs. [Maiden Surname] [Married Surname]:
    Upon her divorce from the governor, Mary Todhunter Clark Rockefeller became Mrs. Clark Rockefeller unless and until she remarried.
               -- TMM

Dear TMM:
    How we create names is the domain of etiquette ... and by definition etiquette is specific to a group, varies from group to group, and changes over time. Flags and precedence at the White House are fixed by protocol: names are a bit of a free-for-all where everyone invents as they think is appropriate.
    When I see the form you suggest, my reaction is that is logical and must have been / must be the tradition within a group. But, I have not encountered anyone using the Mrs. (Maiden Surname) (Married Surname) form. Then again, I am not hanging out with the Rockefellers. 
   In my book, while most if covers officials form, I have a chapter on Social Forms of Address, and I include all the traditional and contemporary forms.
   Currently the Mrs. (Given Name) (Married Surname) is the
most frequently suggested form from today's etiquette diva's [Amy Vanderbilt, Emily Post, Cranes, Letitia Baldrige, etc.] for a divorced woman.  Not that that makes it the law ... but it tells me that among that influential group ... they all think it's clear.
          -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address A Widow?
How do you address an envelope to a widow? My mother says to put Mrs. John Doe. I think that it should be Mrs. Jane Doe, since her husband is no longer alive, why use his name? Is either way correct?
       - Blanche Clark

I am getting married and finalizing my invitations.  My aunt’s husband recently passed away. How do I address my aunt's invitation now?
       - Laura Fairchild

Dear Ms. Clark and Ms. Fairchild:
(1) Mrs. John Doe is the traditional form for a widow. Just because her husband has died, a widow continues to Mrs. (Husband's Name) ... if she chooses to.
    For example my mother continued to use Mrs. Thomas Hickey after my father died. She had Margaret Hickey on her checks, but never Mrs. Margaret Hickey.  She disliked Ms. but I think (in her case) it was a generational thing.
    (2) Mrs. Jane Doe is the traditional form if address for a divorced woman. Since she would no longer be "Mrs. John Doe" the divorced woman inserted her given name so everyone would be clear that she was not married anymore.
    But many married women prefer
Mrs. (Their Given Name)+(Family Name) because they want "Mrs." (maybe they have children?) and want their given name used. Either they don't know about the 'traditional form for a divorcee' or don't care! What they prefer is what they prefer and that's the end of the discussion. 
    (3) Ms. Jane Doe is the contemporary form which does not suggest a marital status. I note that more and more younger women use this form professionally and anytime they think their marital status is not pertinent to the communication/conversation.
(4) Simply Jane Doe is an informal form that is perfectly correct too.
    (5) However, the real answer is you need to find the preference of the person to whom you are addressing. She may prefer different forms of her name in different situations. For a wedding invitation from a bride who knew her husband she might prefer Mrs. John Doe but from someone she knows professionally, who did not know her husband, she might prefer Ms. Jane Doe.
      -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address A Widow,
If Her Husband Was a (fill in the blank)?

       Is there a particular way to address mail to the widow of a deceased pastor?  I look forward to your response.
              - Lois and Dave

Dear Lois and Dave:
       Wives, or husbands, of pastors, rabbis, doctors, professors, elected officials, military personnel, diplomats ... or any kind of official ... do not receive any form of address based on their spouse's rank, office or position.
       Widows continue to be addressed as they preferred to be addressed when their husband was living. So, for example, most traditionally ... and formally ... the widow of a pastor was and continues to be: Mrs. (Husband's full name).
       I include all the traditional social forms of address on pages 155-158. Most of my book is on officials, but many wedding and event planners use my book, so having all the social forms in there too is convenient.
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Widow,
Who Never Used Her Husband's Family Name?

      How do you address a new widow who kept her maiden name?
      For example: If her name is Jane Smith and her husband’s name was John Taylor?
           -- Sausalito, CA

Dear Sausalito:
    If she kept her maiden name ... then she never used Mrs. John Taylor
    That's the form the etiquette books would say was the traditional form for a married woman. But of course many women keep their maiden names, and in much of the world it's the norm for women to keep their name. I've taught classes in the Middle East, and while some American may think the Arabic women are oppressed there ... Arab women think it's barbaric that a woman would give up her birth name when she marries!
    So you should address her as a widow by the name she has always used:
            Ms. Jane Smith
    Not using her spouse's name made her no less married -- than his not using her name made him any less married.

           -- Robert Hickey

When Should Jr., II, III, IV, and V etc.
Be Used After A Man's Name?

Dear Mr. Hickey:
My son is Walter C. Wentz IV.  His father and grandfather are deceased.  What is the proper designation for him now?  What is the proper sequence post-nominal designation for the son he is expecting next month?

         --- Audrey Parker

Dear Ms. Parker:
    The "Go By" name one uses is up to the person: So Mom, you won't be deciding anything here, you can only advise!
    Continued use of sequence post nominals is often a matter of clarity.
    1) Some men drop the sequence post-nominals ... Jr., II, or III ... when they sign their names when their father dies and they think it unlikely there will be social or professional confusion. Their legal names remains the same unless they have it legally changed.
    2) Some men keep the sequence post-nominals in the "Go-By Names" if their father was well-known ... or if they work in the same law firm ... or same company ... and they think the friends/clients/customers will find the designation useful and interesting.
    3) One might keep
the sequence post-nominals because his mother is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz III and his wife is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz IV and socially that differentiation matters to the family. However since you are using "Audrey Parker" (rather than Mrs. (name)) it won't be confusing.
    One situation is seen with Microsoft's Bill Gates, who is really William H. Gates, Jr., but never used the "Jr."  Now his father, born William H. Gates uses William H. Gates, Sr.  He added the Sr. to clarify that he is not his much more famous son.  He probably did not officially change is name in court ... it's just a informal and unofficial change.
    So, if your son names his son Walter C. Wentz V, he's probably going to keep using Walter C. Wentz IV. If he names his son Zachery ... and there is no need to define father/son, so keeping his IV
becomes less necessary.
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Wife Whose
Husband Is a
Jr., II, III, IV or V ?

      I am looking for an answer to a question that you brushed against but didn’t quite answer;
      One might keep the sequence post nominals because his mother is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz III and his wife is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz IV and socially that differentiation matters to the family.
      What if she prefers Mrs. Blanche DuBoise Wentz? Would she receive the III at the end or would she not?

             -- Donna Terry

Dear Ms. Terry:
     The sequence post nominals are used to clarify who is who. If the names are unique, then they aren't necessary.
     So, a woman who uses her given name would not use his sequence post nominal:
              Mrs. (Woman's Name)
               Mrs. Blanche DuBoise Wentz
    A woman using Mrs. and his full name would use it:
            Mrs. (Husband's Name)
            Mrs. Walter C. Wentz III
     -- Robert Hickey

Is Anyone a "Miss" Anymore?
     When should I use "Ms." and "Mrs." today?
     Is anyone a "Miss" anymore?
                     - AKWP, Storm Lake, Iowa

Dear AKWP in Iowa:
    Ms. is an honorific for a woman that does not specify marital status. It is now almost always used in the United States the business arena regardless of what the woman chooses to call herself in her private life. Mrs. is sometimes used in business environments, but only when it is known to be the preference of the bearer.
    Miss in the United States is less frequently used among professional women. It is certainly used in address for young girls, say, under 12 years of age. Once girls reach, say 13, most people today are addressing envelopes to young women as Ms. (name).
    In professional environments outside the United States
Ms. is not so ubiquitous: Mrs. (woman’s name) and Miss (name) are common, especially in Commonwealth countries. In many countries Mrs. (woman’s name) is used by working women without any implication of their marital status.
                     -- Robert Hickey

Dear Robert,
   Having read a post I couldn't help but send you an email to let you know that you do indeed know several women who prefer Miss over Ms!  I am one but also you may remember Bunny Murdock who was Deputy Chief of Protocol at the end of the Reagan administration.  Though there are certainly many more, I thought you might appreciate being aware of at least two from your acquaintance.  Also, for what it is worth mine is the voice that encouraged Ambassador Mary Mel French to include
Miss when she was addressing the issue in her book. Like you, she was not aware of that still being a preference for some.
                     - L.L., Washington, DC

Dear L.L.:
    You are absolutely right. Since I've been speaking on the topic I had two women come up to say they also prefer
Miss: One was a young attorney here in New York and the other was a fairly young (younger than I am at least) school principal in Ohio.
    Of course, there were certainly others prefer who Miss who didn't bother to come up and tell me. I don't observe it to be the preference of a huge percentage of the adult professional population, but I am careful to include
Miss now since a basic courtesy when addressing someone is to follow their preference.
                     -- Robert Hickey

Dear Robert,
   I suspect there may be some regional differences as well as I suspect Miss might be common -- even among teenagers -- down South.  As long as beauty pageants continue to anoint Miss Virginia, Southern families refer to certain relatives as Miss Julie, and children call their unmarried teachers Miss Smith, it is very likely that some little girls will grow up to wear the title quite comfortably.
                     - L.L., Washington, DC

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.

All information on is copyright © 2020 by Robert Hickey. All rights reserved.
The Protocol School of Washington® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Honor & Respect is dedicated to Dorothea Johnson, Founder of The Protocol School of Washington®