How to Address an Attorney General



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   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
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How to Address an Attorney General
Note: An Attorney General is not addressed as General (name).
See the note on this issue below .

The Attorney General of the United States

Envelope, official:
    The Honorable
        (Full name)
            Attorney General of the United States
                (Address)

Letter salutation:
    Dear Mr./Madam Attorney General:

The Attorney General of a State

Envelope, official:
    The Honorable
        (Full name)
            Attorney General of (Name of State)
                (Address)

Letter salutation:
    Dear Mr./Madam Attorney General:


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.


Is an Attorney General Addressed as "General"?
       General is a military rank and form of address of a person holding that rank.  Why do some journalists (print and broadcast) address the Attorney General (US and state) as “General?”  Isn’t this grammatically incorrect in that in the title Attorney General, the word general is an adjective modifying/limiting the noun attorney?

    -- R. F.


Dear R. F.:
    
My first reaction is that you are right -- I am not familiar with General being used as an honorific for an Attorney General.  The Attorney General of the United States is addressed most formally as Mr. Attorney General.
     I mentioned the question to a room full of trainees at The Protocol School of Washington's Protocol Officer Training and they thought the use was bizarre. But most of them were from the government and military where they have plenty of generals in uniform wearing stars.
     But I do see on the National Association of Attorneys General website they use General (Surname) in the bios of some of their member attorneys general.
    Still not quite believing it I spoke to Chris Young, Chief of Protocol, State of Georgia and an attorney. He says attorneys general and solicitors general are addressed and referred to as
General (Surname) in courtroom settings. He says in federal and state supreme and appellate court proceedings you will see references to attorney generals as General (Surname).
    A law librarian at the Library of Congress did some research on this at my request and confirms in oral arguments, court documents record the Attorney General and Solicitor General as "Gen. (full name), Esq."

   UPDATE: I've heard from a the offices of three state attorneys general, and to quote the Executive Assistant of the Attorney General of Montana: "Your e-mail asks a number of questions regarding the preferred form of address for the current Montana Attorney General.  “Dear Mr. Bullock” is the commonly-used and accepted form of address for the current attorney general, in any situation.  “General” is rarely used, and then by those who are not aware of our customary practice."
   UPDATE: Got an e-mail from BF who said "Spoke with an acquaintance who is a retired Judge Advocate General Corps brigadier general and now a law professor. He indicated the use of “general” started with US Attorney General Janet Reno, when some in the media hung the title on her as a result of her role in “the defeat of Branch Davidian forces at the 1993 Battle of Waco.” Over the years there have been increasing cases of misuse of the title by those who don’t realize that “general” in attorney general is not a title but an adjective used to modify/describe the noun attorney.   If true, I’m sure most AGs would want to distance themselves from the title “general." I took a look at the site you listed.  I suspect the bio was submitted by someone on Cuccinelli’s campaign staff as its style (and multiple use of “general”) doesn’t parallel  most of the other bios on the site."  Thank you BF.
   UPDATE:
Got an e-mail from WD noting that the plural of attorney general in the dictionary is not 
attorney generals but is attorneys general ... emphasizing that the office is that of an attorney, and general is an adjective describing the attorney with a broad range of duties for the state.  Thus there is no way they would be generals.  He also noted I'd been careless in those spellings in my posting (he was right) so I corrected the spellings. Thank you WD.
         -- Robert Hickey

Attorney General? Attorney Specific?
      Regarding your discussion of Attorney General and how to address him/her, as  recall, back in the old days, in England, the Attorney General handled general legal matters, as opposed to specific legal matters; so, we might have an Attorney General and an Attorney Specific; but you wouldn't address the Attorney Specific as Dear Specific Smith. Hence, I agree with you, the address should be Dear Attorney General Smith. NOT Dear General Smith. Thank you.
     -- TAC

Is a State Attorney General "the Honorable"?    
   I am writing a letter to the State Attorney General. I noticed on your website that you address the US Attorney General as the Honorable. Do you do the same for the State Attorney General?
        -- Vincent Hall

Dear Mr. Hall:   
   Yes ... High officials appointed by governors of the US states are also addressed as "the Honorable."
         -- 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 July 31, 2014

Back to directory of titles  /  See who is using Honor & Respect

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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