How to Address Active-Duty Military?



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HONOR & RESPECT

Abbess,
    Christian Orthodox       
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      
Counselor (Diplomat)      
Countess     
County Officials       
Couples     
    U.S. Military
    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    
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 / Forms of Address
United States Armed Services

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog


Site updated by Robert Hickey on August 31, 2014

How to Abbreviate Ranks: Periods? No Periods?       
How to Address an Officer with an Honorary Rank?
             

How to Address an Officer Selected for Promotion?       
May I Use an Officer's Signature Block as His Address on a Letter?     

How to List an Officer on an Invitation?               

How to Address an Officer with an Academic Degree?     
How to Address an Officer Couple, both with a Academic Degrees?             
How to Address an Officer with an MD in a Salutation?   
How to Address an Officer with an MD on an Invitation?     
How to Write the Name of an Officer with an MD on a Program?             

How to Address Enlisted Personnel?          
How Former Enlisted Personnel Should Address Officers?          
How to Address a Medal of Honor Recipient?            

How to Address a Reservist?     

How to a address any (specific rank), look here     

How to write the names of military personnel on invitations,
or how to address invitations to military personnel, look here 

How to Address Retired Military Personnel?
Questions about how to address retired officers and enlisted personnel are among the most frequent questions I get. Check out either of the two pages for additional information:

Link to Q&A just on how to address retired military personnel     

Link to Q&A just on use of rank by retired military & veterans    

Link to Q&A just on Joint Forms of Address
       (Includes military personnel and their spouses)     

Looking for Joint Forms of Address? (Two Names in the Address)
Link to Q&A just on Joint Forms of Address

May I Use An Officer's Signature Block as a
Form of Address for that Officer on a Letter?

       I am working on reply letters for my boss to send to different individuals including several active Army personnel.  One of them is the current commanding officer at a nearby military installation.  His signature block on official letterhead is:
              (Name)
              (Rank), US Army

       At the top of the letter, it states, reply to attention of Office of the Commander.  So would the return letter be addressed as the following or some other format:
              (Name) (Rank), US Army
              Office of the Commander
              Department of the Army
             
(address)
       And for the salutation:
              Dear (Rank) (Last Name):
           
-- DH in Nevada

Dear DH:
1) No ... don't use their e-mail letter block to address a letter.
       Use the form of address for the particular rank I have on my guide to offices.   
       Find the rank ... and follow the format.
       In my book I cover invitations, place cards, name badges, introductions. what to call them in conversation, etc, if this sort of thing comes up often. But on this site I just provide the basics for business envelope, business letter's address block and salutation.
2) If you are in Nevada, and this Office on the Commander is nearby, I doubt he is the commander of the entire Department of the Army.

       He must be a commander of something much smaller .... like a base or installation .... so it's going to be something like:
              (Rank) (Full Name), USA
             Office of the Commander
              (Name of base, installation, etc.)

3) Your salutation looks fine.
              -- Robert Hickey

How Should Former Enlisted Personnel Address Current Officers?
 
       I am a retired enlisted Marine and currently hold a DoD contractors position; Is it proper address an active duty officer as Sir or Ma'am as if I was still enlisted?
 
        -- LeRoy Costello

Dear Mr. Costello:
        It's still appropriate to address active-duty personnel by Rank+Name ... first ... then switch over to Sir/ma'am.
        Addressing another person respectfully is not a sign subservience.
        But on the other hand, in the civilian world, outside the armed services, Sir and Ma'am may seem to be excessively formal: when a young person Sirs me ... I know he or she think I'm old!  So if using Sir/ma'am seems too deferential to you now, why not address them as Rank+Name at all the time and not use anything after the initial greeting?  You don't need to be saying Yes Sir, No Sir all the time.
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Address an Officer Selected for Promotion?
     We are in the middle of addressing envelopes for our wedding invitations and your website has been very helpful and has answered many of our questions. I do have one question that remains unanswered. How do I address an envelope to a Naval officer that has recently been promoted to Captain but is not yet wearing the rank of Captain?  In the past I've seen (sel) after the rank but I'm not sure if this is necessary for a social invitation.
      This is my guess:
            Captain (sel) John Doe and Mrs. Doe
           
Address
      Thank you for your time.
          -- Patrick in Charleston, South Carolina

Dear Patrick in Charleston:
    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding.
    You may have seen someone acknowledging an officer's pending promotion with  ... Rank (sel). 
There is a process in the armed services that one is selected for a promotion, but the actual promotion will be at a future date.
    Being selected for promotion is an exciting accomplishment, but 
Rank (sel) is definitely not a form suggested by Department of Defense guidelines, or a form you would see on official correspondence -- business or social.  E.g., Neither The White House use it, nor would his commanding officer.
    If he has not been promoted yet, it is most correct to address the invitation to his current rank
not his future rank.  
    I checked with some active duty Naval Officers, and they said they've seen it informally .... but all three said "but I wouldn't do it myself."   

       -- Robert Hickey

How to Write A Naval Chaplain's Name in a Program?
     Barry C. Black, Rear Admiral (RET), Chaplain of U.S. Senate will be the speaker at a local event.  How do I properly write the names of other local active and retired naval officials on invitations to attend the event?

   
           -- ICW

Dear ICW:
    I have a chapter in my book just on forms of address for the US Armed Services. There are two forms of address in Department of Defense Style Manuals suggested for writing the name of armed service personnel ... a social form ... and an official form.
    Chaplains are formally addressed by their rank: So it is most formally (Rank)(Name) not Chaplain (Name)
    There are two types of rear admirals ... rear admiral, upper half and rear admiral, lower half. When you abbreviate the rank using service-specific abbreviations, the abbreviations are different. Since you don't mention if he is upper or lower, you can avoid the issue by just spelling out the rank. If you find out his an
upper or lower, let me know and I will get you the right abbreviation.
    I am going to assume you will use official forms. Assuming you are mailing invitations in envelopes, then ...
    Active Duty -- official form:
   
     (Rank) (Full name), (Abbreviation for branch of service)
  
   
   Rear Admiral James Wilson, USN
    Retired -- official form:
   
     (Rank) (Full name), (Abbreviation for branch of service), Retired
  
   
   Rear Admiral Barry Black, USN, Retired
  
          or
 
       (Rank) (Full name), (Abbreviation for branch of service), Ret.
  
       Rear Admiral Barry Black, USN, Ret.
  
            -- Robert Hickey

Do I Use Periods with Abbreviated Military Ranks?
      We are a non-profit that has a lot of retired military officers on our board, as well as donors to our organization.
      Should I use  a period (.) in my abbreviations for the ranks or not? I’ve seen it done both ways, and I just want to make sure I have it correct. Thank you so much.
              -- CAM, Director of Development,  McLean VA

Dear CAM:
    The service-specific abbreviations used by the armed services for ranks and ratings are always written without periods and are upper and lower case specific:
        USAF Captain       Capt
        USN  Captain        CAPT
        USA Captain         CPT

    FYI, your question is answered in my book on pages 91-98. I include all those abbreviations.

 
              -- Robert Hickey

      Thanks for your response! My predecessor didn’t know anything about the military so, in many instances, she left off rank, branch of service, etc., or used a mish-mash of one or the other. I’ve been spending a good chunk of my time in the past few months just cleaning up the database.
              -- CAM, Director of Development,  McLean VA

How to Address a Military Physician On an Invitation?
    My fiance has a friend who is a medical doctor who is also on active duty with a rank of Captain in the Air Force, where he practices medicine.  How should we address the wedding invitation? 
          -- Carol B.

Dear Carol B.:
    All active-duty armed service personnel are addressed as:
   
            (Rank) + (Name)
    For a written address, there are different forms for "official" and "social" correspondence: I cover that in detail in my chapter on Forms of Address for US Armed Services in my book.  Here's the answer:

    On social correspondence post-nominal abbreviations are not used ... thus there no USAF and MSC with his name.
    A wedding invitation's mailing envelope uses the social form:

   
            Captain William Blake
  
                Address
    If you are using inside envelopes, the form is to use you would call him, and most formally that would be:
  
              Captain Blake
    He might identify himself as Dr. as he enters an exam room where the patient sits in a backless paper gown ... But in the military, the etiquette is to address all personnel by rank ... one's rank is the most important information: how one serves is important, but is of secondary importance.

          -- Robert Hickey

How to List a Military Physician On a Program?
        I
recently attended a funeral for a retired Rear Admiral who was also a Navy doctor. Was it proper to refer to him in on the cover of the program as:

Honoring
RADM (name), M.D.

      Was that correct?
              -- Vic M. in Pew #44
 
Dear Vic M.:
    
Correct by U.S. Department of Defense guidelines would have been:
         
   RADM (full name), Medical Corps, USN
     1) Abbreviating "Rear Admiral" to the military abbreviation RADM is standard at military events.
     2) In the official form of address, branch of service follows the name, in this case -- Medical Corps, USN.
     3) There's a rule no academic degree is used with a military rank -- so M.D.
-- or any other academic post-nominal abbreviation never follows a name preceded by a rank. ... so never use Captain (full name), MBA,  General (full name), JD or Major General (full name), PhD.
     4) Finally, in the armed services everyone is addressed and identified by rank. How they serve is important (in this case as a doctor) but by their rank is how their name is written.
           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address an Officer with an Honorary Rank?
    It is not unusual for the various state national guards to give honorary promotions to worthy officers upon retirement. These promotions are not federally recognized and do not entitle the recipient to increased pay in retirement. How should one address an
officer who received an honorary promotion upon retirement?
    -- BG Charles K. Hendershott

Dear General Hendershott:
    If the promotion is honorary, not federally recognized, and does not entitle one to benefits ... it must be something granted informally and internally.  Protocol officers I spoke to (two at the Pentagon and two at bases) suggest use of such a honorary rank be limited to verbal use within the granting organization.
      -- Robert Hickey

How to Address Enlisted Personnel on an Invitation?
    I am engaged to a member of the Marine Corps and have several military invitations that I'm trying to address. I seem to have all the Marine's under control with their ranks; however, I have a couple of members of the Navy and am unsure how to address their outer envelope. I know that enlisted Navy personnel have rates (such as PO2) instead of an actual rank, but do not know how you use this on the invitation. Thank you in advance for your help!
        -- Katie (and Todd)

Dear Katie (and Todd),
    I cover the Navy on pages 215-224.  The USN has both officers and enlisted personnel. All are addressed the same way on social correspondence: {Rank/Rating} + {Name}. The most formal way to address an envelope is to do so without abbreviations, spelling out every word. So, for example:
           Petty Officer Second Class (name)
              Address
    is more formal than:
           PO2 (name)
               Address
   
But when a name gets very long and space becomes an issue ... using the abbreviation HM2 is absolutely acceptable.
    USN (the post-nominal abbreviation for the branch of service) is not included after a name on social correspondence. It is used on official correspondence.
    You don't say which ranks/ratings your guests have so I can't be much more specific ... but Cranes Blue Book of Stationery has lots of information on addressing wedding invitations and place cards for your reception.  I updated the book with Pamela Eyring (Director of The Protocol School of Washington) in 2008.

            -- Robert Hickey

How to Use an Academic Degree with a Rank?
    I am wondering the proper way to format a military rank and academic degree on a resume.  In question is a gentleman, "John Smith," who is a currently a Captain in the USMC who holds a masters degree in HR business administration... and MBA.
           -- GB in Career Counseling

Dear GB:
    No sort of post-nominal abbreviation ... professional, academic, religious .. is ever used with a rank.
    He is most formally Captain John Smith, USMC.
    Note in a bio (or he would include it on his resume) that he holds a Masters in Business Administration from (Name of) University in a section on education.
               -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Military Couple with PhDs?
     How would I properly address a husband and wife who are both officers with PhDs?
           Col John and Col Jane Doe, PhD, USAF
     And what would be a proper salutation for them?
           Dear Colonels Doe,
                   -- Confused Near The Base

Dear CNTB:
    Lots of points to make here!
    1) When a person has a special title ... in these instances Colonel ... he/she gets his/her (Rank) + (Full name) as a complete unit, not mixed up with another person's name . So, combining them as Col John and Col Mary is not correct.
    2) Ranks are never used with academic post-nominal abbreviations. Never.
    3) Col in those CAPS & lower case, and no punctuation IS the correct USAF abbreviation style. But it's O.K. for civilians to spell it out fully – Colonel – or to use Col. with the period.
    4) Department of Defense guidelines say branch of service – in this case USAF – is only used with the name on official correspondence, not social correspondence.  So if you are writing them officially regarding their military duties, include USAF. If this is a social letter, leave it off.
    5
) So most formally for a social letter they would be:
        Col John Doe
       
    and Col Jane Doe
               (Address)

    6) The salutation could be: Dear Colonels Doe,
    Lots of points to cover!
             -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Medal of Honor Recipient?
    How do you address a Medal of Honor recipient in writing?
     -- Cindy

Dear Cindy,
    Those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor don't receive a special form of address.
    That they are a recipient of the Medal of Honor would be mentioned after their name, e.g., in an introduction, as would any special honor or decoration.

    They do receive other courtesies, but nothing in the way their name is written. 
                     -- 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 August 31, 2014


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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

Copyright © 2013 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.