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

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BLOG: Robert Hickey
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           

Assistant Secretary
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

Deputy Secretary      
    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 26 February 2018

Welcome To My Website.
     I’ve been teaching at The Protocol School of Washington® for 27 years and spent a decade collecting what I've learned on names, titles and forms of address into my book that is 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 Six 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 An Office Holder
Who Has Additional Titles?

       How would one address a retired US Senator who is now a US Ambassador to a foreign country?  In writing they are both "The Honorable (full name)". But in conversation, or salutation, he could be either an Ambassador or Senator, I guess.
       Is he Ambassador Senator (name) or
Senator Ambassador (name)? If so, which?
       Is being a senator more important than being a ambassador?
       Or, if his current is / most recent job was / an ambassador, perhaps I address him as an Ambassador (name)?

            -- Thomas Manning

       How would one address a retired Army General who is now a Secretary of a U.S. Department (member of the Cabinet)?  Is he The Honorable General (Full Name), USA, Retired?
            -- LPD

       How do you address a physician who is the ambassador of a foreign country?  Since he serves outside the USA, he His Excellency (full name) or the Honorable (full name)?  Is he "His Excellency the Honorable Dr. Ambassador (full name)"
            -- MJG

Dear Ms. Manning, LPD & MJG:
1) Only One Form of Address At A Time.  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.
       This is the same situation with General James Mattis, USA, Retired. As Secretary of Defense he is addressed in writing as the Honorable James Mattis. and orally as Mr. Secretary -- or if the room is full of Cabinet secretaries, less formally he'd be addressed as Secretary Mattis.
       2) Doctors:
In the USA, academic post-nominals are not used with other titles. So it is not used with a courtesy title (Excellency or Honorable), with a title (Senator or Judge) or with a military rank. So if one is currently addressed with a courtesy title or rank, any reference to their having a doctorate -- academic, medical, legal, -- appears in his/her biography.
       3) What if the official is now retired, and the communication is social -or- not related to any of the jobs/offices in particular?: 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. Or if one is by far the most prestigious, they 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

How To Address a Pastor and His Wife?
     How do I address a note to a pastor and his wife when both hold PhD's and she is a college professor?
     -- Lucy Hendershott, Great Falls, Virginia

    How do I address a pastor and his wife when she's doesn't have a special title?  She uses Mrs. or maybe Ms.
     -- John Price Buchanan, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Dear LH and JPB:
    I include forms for every different type of formal joint address in my book. On social correspondence (as opposed to official correspondence mailed to their office)  you don't use academic or any other kind of post-nominal initials. So no PhD.
    Put each name a line of its own ... so each gets their full name just right
            The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Dr. Marilyn Winslow

        The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Mrs. Winslow

    Clergy goes first. A person with an advance degree is lower than a member of clergy.
    Traditionally when a wife has a special honorific ... like "Dr." or a military rank she gets her full name.
when a wife uses "Mrs." and the same family name -- the wife's given name does not appear.
     If you want the full name of the pastor's wife to appear, then you have to get inventive. Today many women are perfect fine with "Ms." all the time. Thus a more contemporary form would be:

           The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Ms. Marilyn Winslow

    You definitely want to avoid:
         The Reverend and Mrs. Dennis and Marilyn Winslow
      And finally regarding:

            The Reverend Dennis and Mrs. Marilyn Winslow
     The form Mrs. (Her Given Name + Surname) is disliked by some women who follow the rule that it is the form for a divorced woman who could not be Mrs. (His
Given Name + Surname) anymore so subsequently uses Mrs. (Her Given Name + Surname).
                -- Robert Hickey

How to Address A Town or City Manager?
       What is the form of address for a town manager?

       -- Alicia R.

Dear J.J.D.:
        Town or city managers are typically hired by an elected city council, and are not themselves elected to their position.
       As a hired professional, a town/city manager doesn't have a special form of address. Just use Mr./Ms. (name) and identify them by their office.

      For example:

                  Mr./Ms. (Full Name)
               Town Manager
       -- Robert Hickey

How to Use My Honorary Doctorate with My Name?
       I hold a few degrees and am about to receive an honorary doctorate. How do I indicate the doctorate with my name. I currently have BBA, B.Th, and an MRE. The honorary doctorate will be in Theology.

            -- Marc Coffee

      I have just been granted an honorary doctorate. Am I correctly addressed as "Dr. (Name)" now?
            -- Sandor Green

Dear Mr. Coffee & Mr. Green:
       An honorary degree is a great honor, but it is an honor, not the same thing as an earned degree.
-degree recipients may be addressed as Dr. (Name) orally during the ceremony or in correspondence from by the granting university.
recipients are not addressed orally or in writing as Dr. (Name) by other universities – and not correctly addressed as Dr. (Name) in their professional/personal life. They continue to be addressed orally and in writing with the form of address to which they entitled prior to receiving the honor. E.g., Mr./Ms./Mrs.
       They may use the pertinent post-nominal abbreviation for the honorary degree with their name if they use the words honoris causa with the post nominal for the degree -- to note that the degree is honorary, not earned.
       On one's resume/CV, honorary doctorates are listed with honors or awards, not as education with your earned academic degrees. In a complete introduction it would be stated that "Marc Coffey received an honorary Doctorate in Theology from (Name of Granting Institution)"
       The best source on this topic is Academic Ceremonies: a handbook of traditions and protocol by April Harris. Google it. You'll find it. It's the bible on the use of academic degrees.

       -- Robert Hickey

How to Write a Name on a
Diploma, Award, Plaque or Certificate?

       How would I engrave a name on a plaque for someone who was a governor? Governor Joe Smith?
               -- Norma @ Midway

      We are honoring a retired ambassador.  How should we would write his name on the certificate? Do we use Ambassador Joe Smith (Retired)?
               -- Tim, Vienna, VA

       A  judge will be the speaker at our graduation ceremony and we will present him with an award.  I was wondering whether to put J.D. after his name on the award? Should I write it as Joe A. Smith?  Judge Joe A. SmithThe Honorable Joe A. Smith, JDOr is it Joe A. Smith, JD?
              -- Roger M. in Arkansas

Dear Norma, Tim & Roger,
     The way to write a person's name on an award, plaque or certificate is just to list their full name:
                (Full Name)
     If they are a "Jr." or a "III" that's part of their name, so you include it.
     Include nothing before their name: no rank, no honorific, no courtesy title.
     Include nothing after their name: no academic or any other kind of post-nominals abbreviation for an honor or professional membership.
     Inscribing a plaque, award or certificate with
just their name emphasizes that the award is for the individual without reference to any office or position they might hold or have held. The honor is to them without regard to how their name might be written at a particular time in their life.

      -- Robert Hickey

How to Write the Name of an Assistant, Deputy, or Under Secretary of a U.S. Federal Department?
        Tomorrow, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy is visiting.  He’s obviously The Honorable (Name).
         How do I address him in conversation?:
  Mr.  Secretary
         Or:  Secretary (Name)
         Or:  Assistant Secretary (Name)
         Or:  Mr. (Name)
        -- Susan in Aerospace 

        How do I address a Deputy Secretary in conversation?:
                  Mr./Madam Secretary
or  Mr./Ms./Dr. (Name)
        -- Josh 

Dear Susan & Josh:

         I show the complete forms of address for assistant-, deputy- and under- secretary (and all the variations) in the chapter on US officials in my book if this sort of question comes up often.
        Assistant, deputy or under secretaries are never Mr./Madam Secretary or Secretary (Name). Those forms of address are reserved for THE SECRETARY -- their boss, THE Secretary.
These forms are correct for an
assistant-, deputy-, undersecretary, etc.:
                  The Honorable (Full Name)
                  The Honorable (Full Name), (Name of Office)
       This is the correct form for a salutation or in conversation:
Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name) 
(whichever honorific to which they are entitled)

         Sometimes there may be some reason to emphasize his or her job title because everyone else has something before their name, or you need to emphasize his or her role in some interaction.
          For example, you could orally say "
Deputy Secretary (Name). will be here in five minutes." or
"The Secretary of (department) cannot attend, but you will be greeted by Deputy Secretary (Name)."  
         But normally their job title not is used as an honorific, in a salutation, or in conversation.  And they definitely are not promoted to being a "secretary".

                 -- 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.
Site updated by Robert Hickey on 26 February 2018

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      

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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 © 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®