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United States Federal, State,
and Municipal Officials

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog

Robert Hickey updated this Blog on July 26, 2009

Is The President addressed as "President Obama"?        
What Would You Call the Husband of a President?              
How to Introduce the The Speaker of the House
      and The President-elect of the United States?         

How to Address the White House Chief of Staff?      
How to Address The Attorney General?          
How Do I Address My Congressman?     
How Do I Address the Director of the CIA?           

How Do I Address an Acting Governor?           
How Do I Address the
Wife of a Governor?     
        How Do I Address
a First Lady of a State?      
How Do I Address a State Legislator?           

How to Address a Letter to a Mayor?         
How to Address a Letter to a Mayor and City Council?         
How to Address a Letter to a City Council Member?         
How Do I Address an Acting County Administrator?                
How Do I Address Municipal Officials?                

How Do I Address a Judge?        
How to Write a Name Badge for a Justice and a Judge?        
How to Address a Friend of the Court?        

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

How Do I Address a Former (Non-Military) Official?
Link to Q&A just on Former Officials (e.g., government, non-military)

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

How to Address a Letter to The Mayor?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
    I need to write a letter to our Mayor. How do I address the envelope? When I met him I called him Mayor Neville, which is what everyone calls him.
         --- Renee Montgomery

Dear Ms. Montgomery:
     In conversation, either Mr. Mayor or Mayor (surname)
is good. Mr. Mayor is the more formal option since using just the title of an office is always the most formal.
    Address the envelope line-for-line like this:
        The Honorable (full name)
            Mayor of (city)

        Open the letter with the salutation:
            Dear Mr. Mayor:
      Or as I mentioned, a slightly less formal option would be:
            Dear Mayor (surname):
       Close the letter with:
            Renee Montogomery

                      -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address an Acting Governor?
    We don't have a Lieutenant Governor in New Jersey. When the Governor is away we have an Acting Governor.
    How do you go about introducing an Acting Governor? How about a former Acting Governor?
    Is the Acting Governor only the Acting Goveror when the elected Governor is out of state? Or is h or she introduced as an Acting Governor all the time?
                        -- FG, New Jersey
Hi FG in New Jersey:
    The role of Acting Governor is filled by the President of the New Jersey Senate.
    He or she is the Acting Governor when the elected Governor is out of state or incapacitated. New Jersey doesn't have the electe office "Lieutenant Governor" like many states do ... but beginning in 2010 that will change and there will be a Lieutenant Governor in New Jersey.
    When introducing the President of the Senate as the Acting Governor say: “May I present the Honorable (full name), Acting Governor of New Jersey.”
    Don’t directly address an Acting Governor as "Governor (name)". The rule is "address by rank, identify by office" -- so address as "Senator (name)" and identify as the Acting Governor.
    While he or she is not directly addressed as "Acting Governor (name)" one might refer to him or her as that in the third person. "Acting Governor (name) will be arriving in 20 minutes."
    A former Acting Governor is not addressed as such either ... because Acting Governor is a role ... not an office.  But you could note that the individual served as the acting governor at some point. "It is my pleasure to introduce The Honorable (full name), former President of the New Jersey Senate. Senator (last name) served as Acting Governor of New Jersey on numerous occasions during the (name of the elected Governor) administration.
                        -- Robert Hickey

Is The President Addressed as "President (name)"?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
I have been directing people to refer to the president as "President Obama."  Is that correct or am I confused? Any advice
    --- Anna McDonald, Stafford, Virginia

Dear Ms. McDonald:
    We hear President Obama on the news all the time ... but those are in the third person, not direct forms of address.  The tradition is that the President’s name is never used in his or her presence.
    Here is how the President of the United States is correctly addressed:
     Address the envelope:
    The President
    The White House
               1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
                    Washington, DC 20500
    For the letter's salutation: Dear Mr. President:
    In conversation, address The President as: Mr. President
                          -- Robert Hickey

What Will the Spouse of a Female President be Called?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
    What is female president's spouse called? The First Gentleman?
        -- Michelle "Mickey" Broom

Dear Ms. Broom:
    We don't know what a male spouse of a president of the United States will be called ... so we will just have to see what the media invents.
    "First Lady" is used to describe the wife of the president of the United States, but it's not a form of address or honorific. The First Lady is addressed as "Mrs. (surname)" so now that would be -- Mrs. Obama. The male spouse of a president of the United States would be addressed as Mr. (full name) in writing and Mr. (surname) in conversation. 
In my book I show these forms ... but avoided the issue of the "what to call him" and titled the section "Spouse of The President" and I show the masculine and feminine forms.

    REQUEST: If you have first-hand knowledge of what a a spouse of head-of-government in a
particular foreign country is called  ... let me know and I will post the replies.
            -- Robert Hickey

How to Introduce the The Speaker of the House
and The President-elect of the United States?

January 6, 2009
Dear Sir:
     A quick question for you… President-Elect Barack Obama will be meeting with the Speaker.  In making an introduction, I think it would be appropriate to introduce Obama to Pelosi, given that the Speaker’s current position takes precedence.  Would you agree?  Obama is not yet the President, but he is no longer Senator.  Would it be appropriate to say the following, “Madam Speaker, I would like to introduce to you Senator Obama, President-Elect of the United States.”
             --- KB on Capitol Hill

Dear KB:
Yes, the Speaker has higher precedence in the introduction, President-elect is not on precedence lists -- but "Senator" is ... and a Senator is lower than Speaker of the House.
    The wording you suggest sounds good.
    Or you could say "Madame Speaker may I present the President-elect"  She knows he's "Senator Obama" and "of the United States" Since you address her by her office, maybe it's a elegant to identify him by his?
           -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address the First Lady of a State
[ or How Do I Address The Wife of a Governor?]

Dear Mr. Hickey:
Thanks for your informative web site, which I visited via Google. I couldn't find an answer to my particular "double question" -- that of how to address a letter to Maria Shriver. I am not sure what the protocol is for a governor's wife, and, in this case, a governor's wife who, I believe, uses her maiden name. I'm stuck!
    --- G. Persis

Dear Ms. Persis:
    The spouse of governor receives no special form of address.
    The only courtesy he or she receives is in seating ... sitting with the governor.
    Maria Shriver presents herself as Maria Shriver: she established herself professionally with that name prior to marriage, and has not chosen as First Lady to be Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger. So normally I would address a letter to her as:
    Ms. Maria Shriver
            State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
    However, the state website (http://www.firstlady.ca.gov/contact/ ) says letters should be addressed to:
    First Lady Maria Shriver
    State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
     The site is using First Lady as an honorific like Mayor, Bishop, Captain or Dr.   "First Lady" isn't typically an honorific. Recent First Ladies in Washington have requested to be introduced as First Lady Laura Bush or First Lady Hilary Clinton ... but these are forms for an introduction .... not as a written form of direct address.
     But back to California .... in spite of the fact that
First Lady Maria Shriver is kind of unusual to me, you should address your letter to First Lady Maria Shriver as the website suggests, because that's how her office says to do so. You always follow the preference of the individual.
    Write the salutation: Dear Ms. Shriver.
    And close with: Sincerely,.
                          -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address People Who Work for the City but Were Not Elected?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
I will be addressing envelopes to municipal officials and would like to do that correctly. Please tell me how to address the administrator of utilities or engineer for the municipality.  Thanks much.

    --- Vicki Cassidy

Dear Ms. Cassidy:
    Anyone who is appointed or simply hired for their job -- which (I am assuming) includes an engineer or administrator -- is addressed as:
              Mr./Ms./Dr./whatever (full name)
          (Title of office held)
    Only elected officials and judges are addressed as "the Honorable"
          -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address the Director of the CIA?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
I am addressing a letter to the Director of the CIA. I know I would address it The Honorable (First name)+(Last name), but what is the salutation? Dear Director (Last name)? Dear Secretary (Last name)? Thank you.
    --- Theresa Schnipper

Dear Ms. Schnipper:
    Yes ... the Director of the CIA is The Honorable (full name).
    The salutation is Dear Mr. (Surname):
    He's not a "Secretary" ... and "Director" is not used as an honorific -- Commissioners do use Commissioner (surname) and a Chairman of a Board (like the Federal Reserve) is addressed as Mr./Madame Chairman:, but while you may hear the title used in the third person (e.g. someone saying The Director will be here in 20 minutes) "directors" don’t’ formally use “director” as an honorific.

          -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address My Congressman?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
I am a student writing a letter to my representative to the US House. I was wondering how I should address him Dear Congressman Murphy, or Dear Christopher Murphy, or something else. Need the answer soon. Thank you.
    --- Rick Caffi

Dear Mr. Caffi:
    Address the letter to your Representative as The Honorable (full name).
    The salutation is Dear Mr. (Surname):
    Congressman is not formally used as an honorific.

          -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address a Judge?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
I have been asked to write a letter to a judge. Having been out of school a while, my skill is very rusty. Specifically, I need to know the salutation, how to address him in the body of the letter, and an appropriate closing with respect to his status.
    --- Roger Faust

Dear Mr. Faust:
    Address the envelope to the Judge as The Honorable (Full name).
    In the letter's address block use The Honorable (Full name).
    The salutation is Dear Judge (Surname):
    An appropriate closing would be Sincerely,
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Address the White House Chief of Staff?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
    I am sending a formal invitation to several government officials. How would I address an envelope to The White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel?
        -- Melanie Schaeffer, Moline, Illinois

Dear Ms. Schaeffer:
    The White House Chief of Staff is addressed as "The Honorable." So Rahm Emanual is addressed as:
    The Honorable Rahm Emanual
    Chief of Staff
    The White House
    As it happens, Rahm Emanual is already an “Honorable” since he was he was elected to the House of Representatives, but he doesn’t get “Honorable” twice!
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Write a Name Badge for a Justice and a Judge?
Mr. Hickey,
       When preparing name badges how do you distinguish between Supreme Court Justices and County Judges; is using Honorable for both correct?
-- Marianne Wood

Dear Ms. Wood,
    On a name badge, write what one should call the person wearing the badge.
    A name badge for a justice of a Supreme Court of a state would be Justice (name).
    A county judge would be Judge (name).
    For where I’ve note (name) above, use either (full name) or (surname) to match the style of all the other name badges you are writing.
-- Robert Hickey

How to Address the Attorney General?
Dear Mr. Hickey,
      I have a very serious legal matter which requires contacting the US Attorney General Eric Holder. Can you tell me the correct salutation to use in an E-mail?
            -- Paula Roth

Dear Ms.Roth,
     I have some basics on the Attorney General page on this site already. See that page.  
     Regarding electronic communications -- When addressing a high official in an E-mail you should use the same correct forms of address you would use in a letter. Address him as Mr. Attorney General in every instance ... until he says "Please call me Eric."

            -- Robert Hickey

How To Address an Acting County Administrator?
     What is the proper form of address in a letter to an Acting County Administrator? It is an appointed (un-elected) position. Also, should the salutation be Dear Madame Administrator, Dear Madame Acting Administrator, Dear Ms. Administrator or what?
     -- Beverly Shaw, Russell City, California

Dear Ms. Shaw:
    I cover this on page 200 in my book, but here is the quick answer. This appointed official is most formally addressed:
        Ms. (Name)
    and identified by her position:
        Acting County Administrator
    Acting officials don't get to use the honorifics of an office ... they are just identified as "the acting."  E.g., an acting governor is not addressed as Governor (Name).
    I would not use Madame Administrator in any context.
    I don't think I've ever encountered a County/City Administrator,  County/City Manager, or County/City Board Member who used their office as their honorific.  Sometimes a Chairman of a Board or Council is addressed as Chairman (name) in the context of their duties ... but it's more situational -- for clarity -- than official.
    And yes ... Commissioners do tend to be addressed as Mr./Madame Commissioner and Commissioner (name).
    So, back to your official. On an envelope and address block write:
        Ms. (Full Name)
            Acting County Administrator

    And in the salutation write:
        Dear Ms. (surname)

                     -- Robert Hickey

How to Do You Address a Friend of the Court?
    How do you address the Friend of the Court?
                  -- Tom

Dear Tom:
    A Friend of the Court is a role, not an official office like an elected or appointed judge, sheriff, or member of a city council  ... all of which get special forms of address.
    Address using the formula for a private citizen: (Appropriate honorific) + (Their name) and simply then identify by (office) when identification is appropriate.
Friend of the Court wouldn't be used before the name as an honorific.
    For example:
        In conversation: Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr./Pastor/etc. (name)
        In an introduction: Judge Wilson, may I present Mr./Ms./Dr./Pastor/etc. (name), who is a Friend of the Court ...

             -- Robert Hickey

How to Address the Mayor and City Council?
    What is the proper salutation when addressing a Mayor and multiple city council members in the same letter?
    Do I write?
        Honorable John Smith and Athens City Council Members
      Mayor John Smith and Athens City Council Members.
Then as a salutation:
       Dear Mayor Smith and Athens City Council Members?
     I have to have the letter for signature in the morning, and it's my first day on the job.

                  -- Thank you, Tonyalee in Athens

Dear Tonyalee:
     It would be best to address a letter to actual officials rather than addressing
one by name and the others by their office.  I'd prefer you address it to the Mayor (by name) and find out the names of the members of the City Council so you could use them.
    BUT trying to answer what you've asked with the info you provide .... Here's a nice option

ENVELOPE and ADDRESS BLOCK on the letter
        The Honorable John Smith, Mayor of Athens
        and Members of the Athens City Council
        Athens City Hall
        301 College Avenue
        Athens, State, ZIP
          Note: For symmetry, Athens mentioned in both name/titles

        Dear Mayor Smith and Members of the City Council:
            Note: For symmetry, Athens mentioned in neither
                    -- Robert Hickey

Hi Robert,
      Well, I finally got the word to send out those letters with the Mayoral and City Council Members salutation. The best part of the story, is that my boss came to me to ask if I was sure I had the proper salutations? And of course, I gave her a very broad smile, and as I printed out your answer, I explained how wonderful you were to reply to my email. Of course she was delighted with me....and you! She took the printout and I assume went to her boss with the backup proof. The letters were sent on Thursday.
     Thank you!

How to Address State Legislators?
    Are State Senators and State Congressman addressed as "Honorables"?
      -- PJ in Lincoln Nebraska

Dear PJ:
     Yes ... anyone elected to a state legislature is addressed as "The Honorable (full name)."

                    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a City Council Member?
       I am sending a letter to each City Councilmen individually not as a group. How do I address Sue Smith, who is a member of the City Council??
        -- Kitty Anderson, Jacksonville, Florida

Dear Ms. Anderson:
     Anyone in the US who is elected to public office is addressed as the Honorable.
    Members of the a city council are usually most formally addressed as Mr./Ms./etc.  ... but are frequently addressed as Councilman (name), or in Jacksonville they use Council Member (name).
    So a letter would be:
        The Honorable Sue Smith
            Member, Jacksonville City Council
                117 West Duval St., Suite 425

                    Jacksonville, FL 32202

    Salutation would be:
         Dear Council Member Smith:

                    -- Robert Hickey

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
Below are other topics covered in my blog.  If you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply and if I think It would be of interest to others, I will post the question and the answer with all the names and personal specifics removed.
                    -- Robert Hickey

Private Citizens        
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials           
Joint Forms of Address    (How do you write two names?)   

Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        
United States Federal, State, and Municipal Officials             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former U.S. Government Officials            
United States Armed Services             
       Retired U.S. Armed Service Officers
United States Diplomats and International Representatives            
United States Tribal Officials             
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
International Officials and Nobility        

Thank You Notes             

Robert Hickey updated this Blog on July 26, 2009

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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 © 2009 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Marc Goodman.

All information on www.formsofaddress.info is copyright © 2009 by Robert Hickey.
The Protocol School of Washington® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.