Guide to Use of Names, Titles, & Forms of Address

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Answers Questions
From On-Line Users
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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 Lady
   of a Church      

First Lieuten
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, UK/British
Nobility, Other & Former     
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. Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    

   3. Q&A 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      

Robert Hickey's Blog on
Names, Titles & Forms of Address
Invitations, Introductions, Precedence, etc.

Answers to Questions From On-Line Users (like you)

Robert Hickey is Deputy Director of The Protocol School of Washington® and has been conducting protocol trainings since 1988.

Site updated by Robert Hickey on August 17, 2016

Welcome To My Website.
     I’ve been teaching at The Protocol School of Washington® for 25 years and spent a decade collecting what I've learned on names, titles and forms of address into my book that has become the standard reference on the topic.
     Since the book was published in 2008, thousands of people and organizations have acquired and use it. Browse around this site, learn how to flawlessly interact with those who are high on the pecking order, and you too can become an ambassador of honor and respect.

      -- Robert Hickey

Something You Are Looking For?
   If you have a question on how to address a particular office/official more than 150 are listed below and to the right and on the On-Line Guide To Forms Of Address,
   You can also browse all the previously asked questions. They are saved by category, with a list of those categories at the bottom of this page. I've answered hundreds of questions, so your question may be covered there.

Here Are The Six Most Recently Asked Questions
After they've been here, I move them to a page with related questions
A list of those topics appears at the bottom of this page.

How to Address Someone With Several Titles
Title, Rank, Doctorate?

       How would one address, either orally or by correspondence, a retired US Senator who is now a US Ambassador to a foreign country? 
       Which title goes first?  I believe Senator is the higher office, dictates the result. My wife believes it is the other way around.
       Or, if his last job was as an Ambassador, perhaps I address him that way?

            -- Thomas Manning

       How would one address a retired USN Admiral who is now an Under Secretary of the Interior and is therefore addressed as "the Honorable"?
            -- LPD

       How do you address a foreign ambassador (he is an Excellency) with a PhD?
            -- MJG

Dear Ms. Manning, LPD & MJG:
1) Courtesy title + Rank.  The U.S. style is to use just one form of address at a time. So when the communication is related to one of the roles, address the person in the manner pertinent to the topic to which the communication is related.
        E.g. Colin Powell is addressed in writing when the communication relates to his/her service as the Secretary of State as either:
                   The Honorable Colin Powell

             and in the salutation or conversation as:
                   Mr. Powell,

E.g. when the when the communication or conversation relates to his/her service as a US Army general address him in writing as:
                   General Colin Powell, USA, Retired

              and in the salutation or conversation as:
                   General Powell,

       Re: use of "Mr. Powell" above.: In the case of Colin Powell he has let it be known he prefers General Powell when it's not related directly to either.
       2) PhD:
In the USA, academic post-nominals are not used with a courtesy title (Excellency or Honorable) or with a military rank. So reference to holding a doctorate would appear in his or her biography.
       3) What if the communication is social and not related to any of the jobs?: As mentioned with General Powell at the end of Part #1, if you know their preference, use their preference. He or she likely held one of the offices for the bulk of their career and might prefer that one. If you are unsure, call their office and ask. No one is offended when asked "how do you like to be addressed?"  If you ask their staff they will know: it will not have been the first time they were asked!
       -- Robert Hickey

Robert Hickey on NPR-Chicago's Morning Shift.  WBEZ 91.5.  July 26, 2016.
Would Clinton Be Madame President?
The Dos And Don’ts Of Honorifics In Politics,

     Hillary Clinton is referred to as Mrs. Clinton, Madame Secretary, Former Secretary of State, Senator, Former Senator, and Former First Lady. Which is correct? Which is the most accurate? And if she wins the presidency, how should the American people refer to her and Bill?
      We get answers from a man who literally wrote the book on the subject. Robert Hickey is the Deputy Director of the Protocol School of Washington and author of Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, & Forms of Address.  Click here to listen.

Bill Clinton: What to Call Him
If He Becomes the "First Husband"

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/

When Bill Clinton first won the presidency, the form of address used for him and the first lady, Hillary, was as follows:
     The President and Mrs. Clinton

This form of address fits into the traditional formula in writing: The President and Mrs. (Surname) and in conversation:
     Mr./Madam President and Mr./Mrs. (Surname).

If Hillary Clinton wins the current presidential election, Bill Clinton will be a first: the first First Husband, Spouse, Partner, or Significant Other.

So, how will the White House staff address Bill Clinton? How will his name appear with the President's on invitations?  How will his place card read at a state dinner? How should the media address him or refer to him?  Perhaps First Gentleman Bill Clinton, awkward as that might seem? According to Robert Hickey, author of The Protocol School of Washington's Honor and Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles and Forms of Address, the formula for the husband of President of the United States (POTUS) has been around for a long time. It just hasn't been used thus far:

In writing: The President and Mr. (Full Name)

As a former elected official, Bill Clinton does have a special title. He is "the Honorable." Using this courtesy title fits right in without a hitch.

In writing: The President and the Honorable (Full Name)

However, which version of Bill Clinton's full name would be correct?  That is a matter of how formal a reporter or social secretary chooses to be for any given occasion. Bill Clinton, William J. Clinton, or William Jefferson Clinton might be frequent choices.

Still, two questions linger:

1. How should he be addressed in direct conversation or as a salutation?
     a.  Mr. Clinton
     b.  President Clinton

2. How should reporters refer to him in order to not mislead or confuse their audience on who is the current president and who is not?
     a.  Mr. Clinton
     b.  President Clinton
     c.  Former President Clinton

According to Hickey, the right option for both questions would be  a. Mr. Clinton.

"While it is common practice in the media and elsewhere to address and identify former presidents as 'President (Name),' this is a mistake," said Hickey. "Serving as President of the United States does not grant one the personal rank of 'President' for life. The office of President is a one-person-at-a-time role that a specific individual holds and then hands off to the next person."

"Courtesies, honors, and special forms of address are symbols of the power of the office. They belong to the office and to the citizens, not former office holders."

Hickey goes on to say the media and the public should be wary of identifying or addressing previous holders of the presidency and other unique offices by referring to them as "former (title)." This qualifier diminishes the singular prestige of both the office and its current occupant and is potentially misleading/confusing to their audience.

"There is an accepted term of respect used for previous presidents and other elected U.S. officials to recognize their service. This title is one of high distinction that they keep for life: she or he is addressed as "the Honorable (Full Name)."

How to Address a Retired Admiral?
     How would I address a retired admiral? Here's what I have in mind for the envelope and for the salutation. What do you think?
    Rear Admiral William Smith

        Dear Rear Admiral Smith:
                    -- C. MacP., Toronto, Canada

Dear C. MacP:
    The formula for naval officers (and many other kinds of armed services personnel too) is to write:
              (Full rank)+(Full name)
     on the envelope and address block on the letter (the written form) .... and
              (Basic rank)+(Surname)
     as the salutation in conversation. (the oral address).
     There are several types of admirals – admiral, vice admiral, rear admiral: those are "full ranks". The basic rank for all is  "admiral".
    1) If this is purely social communication, you are done. The branch of service and "Retired" status are not included on social correspondence. 
    2) If this is an official/business/professional letter, then you should include the branch of service USN
and Retired after his name. |
(Full rank)+(Full name), (Abbreviation for Branch of Service), Retired
     That makes it clear that you realize he's retired and you are not writing to him thinking he's still on active duty and acting with the full force of the United States Navy behind his actions.

    So here's how should look on the the official envelope / address block on an official letter:

        Rear Admiral William Smith, USN, Retired
    And in the salutation:
            Dear Admiral Smith:
    If this sort of thing comes up often, my book has this information and much, much more.
           -- Robert Hickey

Retired: Spelled Out or Abbreviated?
    We have been struggling with setting up consistent prefixes and suffixes in our database for our military grads. For retired service folks should we spell our “retired” or use the “Ret.” abbreviation?  Is there a comma after the branch of service or is it “USN Ret.”

    -- Development Office, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Dear Fund Raiser:
For official correspondence DOD guides use the comma ... and either "Ret." or "Retired" is acceptable.
             Brigadier General Arthur Portnoy, USA, Retired
             Brigadier General
Arthur Portnoy, USA, Ret.
    You may want to consider for your database using the service-specific abbreviations for the ranks:
Arthur Portnoy, USA, Retired
Arthur Portnoy, USA, Ret.
    [DoD documents show the form as: (rank) (full name) (USN, USMC, or other branch) (Ret.) but that is not meant to include Ret. in parentheses.]
    DOD people like the service-specific abbreviations because they can tell that a BG is in the Army, and a BGen is a Marine.  All those
service-specific abbreviations ... USA, USN, USMC, USAF and CG .... are in my book.
   Note that the branch of service and retired status may not be necessary for what you are doing: On social correspondence (personal letters, invitations or cards) their status ... active duty, retired ... or branch of service ... is not pertinent ... and is not suggested in DOD guides.
    When "retired" IS PERTINENT is in military environments where "active duty" personnel are present.
    Say a retired officer is working at a defense contractor. It would be potentially confusing to present themselves as a "General" when in fact they are not longer a commanding officer and may be dealing with an active duty "General".   That's the logic, and in that case "Retired' is always noted.

                           -- Robert Hickey

Retired: In Parentheses or Not?
Dear Mr. Hickey,
      Regarding your advice to write one’s name when retired.
                MSgt Trevor Ross USAF (Ret.) 
      With the parentheses as shown above is the correct way to signify for retirees -- not as you advised.
                   -- T.R.

Dear TR:
       Thanks for your note, but I disagree. Either of these forms is correct:
            MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, Retired
            MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, Ret.
      Here’s why: the DoD stylebook suggests:
           (Rank) (Name), (Branch of Service), (Retired)
           (Rank) (Name), (Branch of Service), (Ret.)
      Every protocol officer I’ve polled (and that is a large number including the offices of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of the Army) all say the DoD stylebook is not suggesting to include parentheses around
Ret. anymore than it is suggesting to put parentheses around the (Rank) or (Name).
       So while I agree you do see people using the parentheses around Ret.… I follow the lead of those at the protocol officers at the top of the Pentagon .... and they all say "no parentheses."
               -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired US Ambassador?
    How do I address a retired American Ambassador?
           -- Carol Bentley

    How do I address someone who once served as an American Ambassador?
           -- Keith Inge

Dear Ms. Bentley & Mr. Inge:
    Such a
retired ambassador is addressed by US citizens on the envelope, and in the address block of the letter, in the standard style used for high US officials:
            The Honorable (Full Name)

     In the salutation or conversation he/she would be addressed as:
            Dear Ambassador (Surname),

     For how one would identify this person when retired in a printed program or introduction, see "Who can be identified as a 'Career Ambassador" at the end of this entry.

Those appointed to serve as a U.S. ambassador after a career in another field and return to non-diplomatic service continue to be addressed as The Honorable (Full Name) on an envelope or a letter's address block.  In conversation or a salutation they revert to whatever honorific to which they were entitled before serving as an ambassador: Mr./Ms./Dr./etc.
       However, as a practice it is typical to address this category of former officials as Ambassador (name) in recognition of their former role as a personal representative of the President of the United States.
     So if he/she was a political appointee who served once as ambassador, traditionally you would use the honorific which the individual used for the bulk of their career -- Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. -- but it is common practice to addressing the person post-ambassador service, but as :
            The Honorable (Full Name)
        and in the salutation:

            Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname),

        or in the salutation as noted above:

            Dear Ambassador (Surname),
     Do not identify this type of former official as a "Retired Ambassador"  Identify as:
            U.S. Ambassador to (Name of Country) Year to Year
            e.g.,  U.S. Ambassador to Canada, 1990-2000

     Below is more on the subject from the U.S. State Department if you are interested who continues to formally be an 'Ambassador' for life.
           -- Robert Hickey

Who can be identified as a "Career Ambassador"?
       Technically, the only individuals who can be identified as a Career Ambassador are those who have been accorded the “Personal Rank of Career Ambassador” by the President.  That is a very small group of individuals ( ).
        It is common to call individuals who have served as ambassador that title as a courtesy, but be careful in using that title in a formal way if the person is not currently serving as an Ambassador.  You do not want to mislead anyone that the person remains a personal representative of the President.
       For instance, to introduce the person in a formal setting as Ambassador John Smith would not be appropriate if they are not in a position to which they have been appointed Ambassador.  What would be appropriate if John Smith is not currently serving as an Ambassador is to introduce him as  The Honorable John Smith, former Ambassador to (name of country).  Use the same caution when writing in a memo or name tag, etc…..  In other non-public settings, it is probably acceptable to orally call someone Ambassador Smith — when you see them in the hallway or in small groups where other individuals know the actual status of the person.
        The following guidance was developed as Secretary Colin Powell was departing in 2005 to allow career officers to use the title in their retirement as a courtesy but with stipulations.  Below are exceptions from the 3 FAH and also included in the Departure guidelines cable furnished for departing COMs:

An ambassadorial title is only authorized for the post and position to which appointed and may not be used upon resignation from that position.  In accordance with 3 FAH-1 H-2439 the title, "ambassador" may be used upon retirement if either of the following apply:

A.     A career member of the Senior Foreign Service who has attained under the Foreign Service Act of 1980 the personal rank of career ambassador, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, may use the following title, as appropriate, upon retirement:
       -  Career Ambassador of the Foreign Service of the United States of America, Retired

B.      An individual who has served as an Ambassador, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, may use the title of ambassador, as appropriate, upon retirement:
       -   U.S. Ambassador, Retired
   or if one was an Ambassador-at-Large:
       -   Ambassador-at-Large of the United States, Retired

How to List a Couple's Name When He is a Jr. or Sr.?
       When writing a couple's name would you write Charles Henry, Sr. and Daisy Ellis Rivers. Or would it be Charles Henry and Daisy Ellis Rivers, Sr.

            -- Betsy Mizner @

      I am preparing programs for my wedding. We are listing our grandparents who have passed. My grandfather was a junior.  However, my grandmother, his wife, is also deceased.  Where do we put the junior as to not confuse him with the other men with those names?
      Example:  Jane and Thomas Smith, Jr. (?) or Thomas and Jane Smith, Jr.
            -- Kristen Smith

Dear Ms. Mizner & Ms. Smith:
       When one combines names ... as in ... Jane and Thomas Smith or
Charles Henry and Daisy Rivers ... these are casual, informal forms.
       The casual forms are sort of a free style ... there are no rules.  But with casual forms, the names can't be done as elegantly and consistently as they can when using formal forms. That's what the formal forms were developed to do ... to be consistent and elegant.
       #1 The traditional form for a married couple is:
              Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Smith Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rivers, Sr.
       #2 When you want to include both given names ... both her name and his ... write each name fully and do not combine them:
              Thomas Smith, Jr. and Jane Smith
Charles Henry Rivers, Sr. and Daisy Ellis Rivers
In such a listing, the and between their names indicates they are married/are a couple because individuals who are not married/are a couple are listed separately / not listed together.
              -- Robert Hickey

Site updated by Robert Hickey on August 17, 2016

And finally, from a rather challenging internet surfer:

What Authority Do You Have?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
What authority do you have for your answers
         --- Mary Louise Timmons

Dear Ms. Timmons:
    I'm not sure "what authority I have" but I've been teaching at The Protocol School of Washington® since 1988.
    After researching with the hierarchies of the officials, and answering questions on forms of address for so long, I guess I've gotten good at it!  What I've learned I've put in my book -- which I am pleased to say is used at lots of serious places: See 

          -- Robert Hickey

Cartoon by Michael Diffee.
From The New Yorker, Volume LXXXV, Number 28, September 14, 2009.
Copyright c. 2009 Conde Nast Publications. All rights reserved.

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 His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

     Back to Main Page of the Robert Hickey's BLOG 

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 © 2016 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.

All information on is copyright © 2016 by Robert Hickey. All rights reserved.
The Protocol School of Washington® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Honor & Respect is dedicated to Dorothea Johnson, Founder of The Protocol School of Washington®