How to Address a Secretary of a United States Executive Department



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HONOR & RESPECT

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

Admiral, Texas Navy   
Adventist Minister       
Alderman
        

Archbishop, Catholic        
Archbishop,
   Christian Orthodox        
Archdeacon, Episcopal        
Archimandrite        
Architect
Archpriest        
Ambassador, Goodwill
Ambassador to your country
   from a foreign country      
Ambassador of the U.S.
   by a U.S. Citizen       
American Indian Chief        
Assemblyman
   U.S., State / or           

   Assemblywoman            
Associate Justice,
   U.S. Supreme Court          
Associate Justice of a
   State Supreme Court
Astronaut      
Attorney
         
Attorney General           
Attorney General,
       Assistant   
Attorney, U.S.         
Australian Officials    

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

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

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

Chief of Police          
Chief of Staff     

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

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

Dentist             
Deputy Chief of Mission      
Deputy Marshal          
Designate,
Elect,
    Pro Tempore      
Diplomats      

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

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

Family     
Fiancee      
Firefighter    
First, Second,
   Third, etc.        
First Lady, Spouse
   of the President of
   the United States 
First Lady, Member
    of Her   
    White House Staff      
First Lady, Spouse
   of a Governor
   or Lt. Gov.    
First Lieutenant
   
Flag Protocol     
Former Officials    
Freeholder       

Gay Couple      
Geshe

General
    USA, USAF, USMC
Girl       

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

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

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

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

Judge, former     
Judge of US City or

        US Count     
Judge, US Federal            
Junior, Senior,
    I, II, III, etc.       

Justice, Associate

     Federal
     Supreme Court

Justice, Associate

     State
     Supreme Court

King     
Knight      

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

Lieutenant Governor    
     

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

Name Badges or Tags     
Nobility, British
       
Nobility, Other     
Nun, Catholic
  
Nun, Orthodox
Nurse           

Officer, Police     
Optometrist     

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

Queen

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

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

Same Sex Couple      
Salvation Army    
School Board Member
     
Second
Lieutenant        
Secretary,
   U.S. Department,
   Member of the Cabinet
Secretary
   of Defense, U.S.       
Secretary, Assistant       
Secretary General
   of the U.N.            
Senator, U.S., Federal       
Senator, U.S., State         
Senator, Canadian       
Senior, Junior,
     I, II, III, etc.         
Senior Judge 
      
Sergeant       
Sergeant at Arms
          
Seventh Day
     Adventist Minister       
Sheriff       
Sister, Catholic       
Solicitor General      
Speaker of the U.S.
   House of
   Representatives.           
Specialist       
Spouse of the
    President of the U.S.       
Spouse of the
    Vice President
    of the U.S.           
Spouse of an
    Elected Official            
State Attorney     
Surgeon General          

Texas Ranger        
Town Justice      
Town Manager       
The Honorable     
Tribal Officials     
Two Titles,
    Person With

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

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

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

Yacht Club Officer      


   

How to Address a Secretary of a
United States Executive Department:
A Member of the President's Cabinet

Envelope, official:
    The Honorable
        (Full name)
            Secretary of (department)
                (Address)

Letter salutation:
    Dear Mr./Madam Secretary:

All about The Honorable
Link to Q&A just on officials in the U.S. addressed as The Honorable


FYI, here is what's come in to the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.


How to Address a Former Secretary on a Letter?
       I am writing a message to former United States Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, who now works for Hill & Knowlton. How do I address him in my letter?

            -- Kathy J. Young

Dear Ms. Young:
       There is only one Secretary of Transportation ... so formers don't continue to be addressed as such.  
       But they do continue to be The Honorable.
       Most formally in conversational direct address, former secretaries of U.S. Federal departments go back to whatever they were before becoming a Secretary ... so he's no longer addressed as Mr. Secretary or Secretary Mineta.
      So address him on the envelope and in the letter's address block as:
            The Honorable Norman Mineta
            (Address)
      ... and in the salutation use:
            Dear Mr. Mineta:
      -- Robert Hickey

Is a Former Secretary of (Department)
Still "The Honorable"?

    Is a former Secretary of Labor still The Honorable?
         --- G. G. Johnson

Dear Ms. Johnson:
  
  Former secretaries of Federal Departments are still addressed as The Honorable. The rule is once an Honorable always and an Honorable.  They are no longer Mr./Madame Secretary or Secretary (Name) since their is another holder of this only-one-person-at-a-time office, but they are still
The Honorable.
      After leaving the office Secretaries formally go back to the highest honorific to which he or she wss 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.
           -- Robert Hickey

How to Orally Address a Former Secretary?
     First, if you were working with a former secretary, e.g., former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, would you still address her as Madame Secretary? I think now that she's out of office she would be just Dr. Rice -- the form of address she had before she took office and was on the faculty of Stanford University. Right?
     Second, if I am right, how do you delicately inform an executive who strongly feels she is still "Secretary (last name)"?
         --- Kelly Roberts McLean

Dear Ms. McLean:
  
  You are right. Condoleezza Rice is officially Dr. Rice in direct address and identified as the Secretary of State from 2005-2009
or something similar.
   
There are some positions which come with a rank, and former office holders continue to be addressed with an honorific of their former position: senators, judges, ambassadors, and military generals, for example. 
     But being a Secretary is a ROLE, not a RANK. T
here's only one Secretary of (a department) at a time, and only the current office holder is granted the courtesies of the office. Being addressed as Secretary is a courtesy of the office.
     While a former official might find receiving the courtesies of the office to bw flattering, it is not respectful the current, singular office holder.

     As to how I would delicately inform an executive who strongly felt she is still "Secretary (Name)" ... I would inform her only if she asked me for my advice.
    I hear a lot of bad grammar too, but that doesn't make me think the rules have grammar have changed. When I hear bad grammar I simply think I am just dealing with someone who doesn't know the rules, or doesn't care.
    A former Secretary wanting to be addressed as Secretary (Name) is definitely hanging on to his or her former glory, in hopes some of the prestige and power will hang on too! But, there's no upside for you to get into that argument.

           -- Robert Hickey

How to Introduce a Former Secretary?
    Would you please tell me the appropriate way to introduce Ms. Elaine Chao, former Labor Secretary and Distinguished Fellow of the Heritage Foundation to our CEO and members of his staff?
    Thank you for your kind consideration,

         -- Connie

Dear Connie:
     Interesting question. Coincidentally Elaine Chao came up in conversation this week, and so here are some ideas:
     THE FORM OF ADDRESS
 
         Former cabinet secretaries usually go back to Mr./Ms./Dr. etc, or whatever their honorific was before they took office. Colin Powell went back to General Powell, Henry Kissinger when back to Dr. Kissinger.
 
         So most formally, she would not be "Madame Secretary" or "Secretary Chao" and she'd be Ms. Chao.
 
         But I recently heard someone say they met Elaine Chao and one of her staff informed him that she preferred Secretary Chao. Some protocol professionals whose opinion I value say addressing former secretaries as Secretary (Name) is a practice, usually done to follow the wishes of the former office holder who prefers to be addressed with the rank of their former office.  Most formally it's not correct, and probably would not be done in the presence of the current secretary.
 
         Anyway, her preference is second-hand information, so I think you should ask "How do you preferred to be addressed: Secretary Chao? or Ms. Chao?"
  
        I find no one objects to being asked how they preferred to be addressed. it is respectful and ultimately our name belongs to us and we can dictate to others what we should be called.
     THE INTRODUCTION
          You write "the appropriate way to introduce Ms. Elaine Chao ... to our CEO and members..."
    
     You should introduce your CEO and members TO the former secretary since she is the guest. Some good forms for the introduction would be:
   
            Ms./Secretary Chao may I introduce to you Thomas Saunders. Mr. Saunders is the Chairman of the Heritage Foundation
        
       Ms./Secretary Chao may I introduce Thomas Saunders ...
    
           Ms./Secretary Chao may I present Thomas Saunders ...

                   -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a State Secretary of a Department?
      I am addressing an invitation to Ben Brancel, the Secretary of the Wisconsin State Dept. of Agriculture, trade and Consumer Protection. If we were inviting Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, I would address the letter Dear Hon. Vilsack. But I am uncertain how to address a state-level official such as Mr. Brancel? Thank you,
           -- Pat Duryea
              Manager, Communications and Membership
              TBA Export Council.

Dear Pat Duryea:
      Actually, Dear Hon. Vilsack is not correct.
      "Hon." is not as an honorific like "Mr." "Dr." "Senator" "Commissioner" or "General"
      "The Honorable" is a courtesy title, an it always precedes a full name.
      In conversation or in a salutation you change over to what ever honorific they are entitled to ....  "Governor"  "Ambassador"  "Senator"  "Judge"  etc.
      A Secretary of a US Department, member of The President of the United States' cabinet, is addressed on the outside envelope as:
  
             The Honorable Tom Volsack
               (Complete Address)
      I would use "Tom" rather than "Thomas" since that's what his office uses on his website / so it must be his preference.
      In the salutation the traditional, most formal form would be
               Dear Mr. Secretary:
      Or also traditional, but slightly less formal is:
               Dear Secretary Volsack:
      State secretaries follow the same pattern:
               The Honorable Ben Brancel
               (Complete Address)
      And in the salutation use:
               Dear Secretary Brancel:
      When I was researching my book I polled a number of state secretaries ... and they unanimously preferred "Secretary (Surname)" rather than "Mr./Madame Secretary".  One state secretary expressed it this way: there is only one US Secretary of our discipline in the Cabinet in Washington ... but there are 50 of us at the state level ... so the singular title makes less sense.
 
         -- Robert Hickey


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

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

USE OF SPECIFIC OFFICIAL TITLES        
Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

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

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

SPECIFIC SITUATIONS
Business Cards       
Couples        
Etiquette
            
Flags and Anthem Protocol             
Introductions
            
Invitations: Writing & Addressing
        
Invitations: Just Armed Service Personnel        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
         
Thank You Notes             


Site updated by Robert Hickey on October 8, 2014

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For forms of address for invitations, place cards, name badges, introductions, conversation, and all other formal uses, see Honor & Respect: the Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address.

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