How to Address a Man or Woman: Traditional Social Etiquette

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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           

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          
    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, 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 Lieuten
Flag Protocol
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, British
Nobility, Other     
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. 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
   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 a Man or Woman: Social Forms
     Men have it easy: Mr. works for nearly everyone who isn't a Dr., General, Mayor, etc..
     Use of Ms., Mrs., or Miss is at the preference of the bearer (the individual).

     In the United States Ms. is the accepted/default form for women in business, but an individual may be concurrently using both Ms. and Mrs.: Ms. professionally and Mrs. socially.
     Frequently those who use the traditional form for a married woman, Mrs. (Husband's first name + Surname), are offended to be addressed as Mrs. (Woman's first name + Surname)
the traditional form for a divorced woman.
     Others say that Mrs. (Woman's first name + Surname) is more useful because it acknowledges their marital status and provides their first name.

     In every case the only advice can be: Check for the preference of the bearer.

      If you are looking for business forms of address here is a link to those forms.  

Envelope for a Man:
    Mr. (full name)

Envelope for a Woman:
    Woman, undefined marital status
        Ms. (full name)
    Woman, married or widow, traditional
        Mrs. (husband's full name)
    Woman, divorced, traditional
        Mrs. (woman's first name) (surname)
    Woman, unmarried, traditional
        Miss (full name)

Letter salutation:
Mr./Ms./Mrs./Miss (surname):

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 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:
    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.
    Mrs. Jane Doe is the traditional form for a divorced woman. Since she could no longer be "Mrs. John Doe" she inserted her given name so everyone would be clear that she was not married anymore. Today, you encounter married women using this form for a variety of reasons.
    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.
Simply Jane Doe is an informal form that is perfectly correct too.
   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 to Decide Which Honorific to Use: Mrs. or Ms.?
     I am a school board representative who received a hand-written note from the school librarian asking me to read to a class. The envelope was addressed to M Robin Buchanan, not Mrs. or Ms.
     Is using M to address a woman a proper salutation? I understood M is to be used to address men.
     I thought perhaps the librarian did not know if I was a male or female, although that information would be easy to find.
      Should I be concerned by her lack of consideration to the person she is writing to or worry that she is using improper salutations?   Or do I something new to learn?    Thank you for your clarification.
     Best regards,

     -- Mrs. Robin Buchanan

Dear Ms. Buchanan:
1) The issue here is 'how to address you formally?'  I suspect they wrote M Robin Buchanan ... just because didn't which honorific you preferred ... or didn't know your gender ... and were avoiding the issue. I advise if one is writing someone and are unsure of how he or she prefers to be addressed -- call and ask. I find no one minds being asked how to be addressed respectfully.
     2) As to the question of 'How do I present my name to others?'  .... today I observe that married women use various honorifics depending on the situation.
          Ms. Robin Buchanan ...  where their marital status is not an issue but you want to specify an honorific. Doing so implies you are not automatically on a first-name basis and prefer be formally addressed in conversation as Ms. Buchanan.  Many women use this form at work.
          Mrs. (husband's first name) Buchanan .... in very formal situations or when you are involved as a spouse/part of a couple. This definitely implies that others will call you
Mrs. Surname.  Widows continue to use this form when formally addressed as part of a couple.
          Mrs. Robin Buchanan .... is often the choice of women in the context of being a
mom -- dealing with school teachers (as you do), pediatricians, etc.  This form provides the first name for those with whom they would be on a first-name basis. For me ... as an outsider .... this form has the potential to cause some confusion since it is not clear whether they want others to address them by first name or as Mrs. Surname. Part of presenting your name is giving guidance to the other person as what you want to be called in subsequent conversation.
          Robin Buchanan .... is casual. You also use this form when signing your own name: One never gives oneself an honorific.
     So to me -- you are all of those names at different times. You choose the one that's right for the circumstance.
     For formal etiquette geeks like me
Mrs. Robin Buchanan is the traditional form for a divorced woman who was formerly married to someone named "Buchanan" .... but had kept using the "Buchanan" perhaps because that's the family name of her kids, or for some other reason.  BUT ... one of the basics of forms of address is that your name belongs to you .... and EVERYONE is entitled to be addressed as they prefer!
-- Robert Hickey

Dear Mr. Hickey
     Thank you for your prompt and thorough answer to my question. As a school director, I hope that our teachers follow proper etiquette in every way, especially when dealing with the public.  I will relay your response to the librarian and show that we all can learn something new every day. I certainly have! I will refer to your site for all protocol questions.
     I followed the link to review your book and will suggest to our librarian we get a copy. I enjoyed the section on how to address a PhD and how to address a MD. I work with few PhDs but an increasing number of EdDs (Doctorate of Education). I previously worked in health care and therefore worked with many physicians. From my limited experience, the PhDs and EdDs all are more defensive about being called “doctor” than an MD. I agree with your medical friend’s response to the “doctor” question.
     Thank you again for your time.   It was a pleasure.

     -- Mrs. Robin Buchanan

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.
      2) 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 Smith and Ms. Laura Thompson
          Henry Smith and Laura Thompson
            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

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

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 a Book       
Business Cards
Flags and Anthem Protocol             
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 November 20, 2015

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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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Photo: Marc Goodman.

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