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

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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 to your country
   from a foreign country      
Ambassador of the U.S.
   by a U.S. Citizen       
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    

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     
    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  

Dalai Lama          
Dean, academic            
Dean, clergy            
Deceased Persons        
Degree, honorary      
Delegate, U.S., State

Deputy Chief of Mission      
Deputy Marshal          
    Pro Tempore      

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 Governor
   or Lt. Gov.    
First Lieutenant
Flag Protocol     
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 or

        US Count     
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, British
Nobility, Other     
Nun, Catholic
Nun, Orthodox

Officer, Police     

Pastor, Christian Clergy  
   Christian Orthodox  
   Ecumenical Patriarch
   of Constantinople  
People with Two Titles      
Petty Officer
Place Cards            
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. 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
   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        
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, Flags, 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 December 15, 2014

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.

Is a Former Secretary of (Department)
Still "The Honorable"?

    Is a former Secretary of Labor still The Honorable?
         --- G. G. Johnson

Dear Ms. Johnson:
  Former secretaries of Federal Departments are still addressed as The Honorable. The rule is once an Honorable always and an Honorable.  They are no longer Mr./Madame Secretary or Secretary (Name) since their is another holder of this only-one-person-at-a-time office, but they are still
The Honorable.
      After leaving the office Secretaries formally go back to the highest honorific to which he or she wss entitled before assuming office. That doesn't mean you don't hear it in the media, but it's not correct as a form of address.
           -- Robert Hickey

How to Orally Address a Former Secretary?
     First, if you were working with a former secretary, e.g., former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, would you still address her as Madame Secretary? I think now that she's out of office she would be just Dr. Rice -- the form of address she had before she took office and was on the faculty of Stanford University. Right?
     Second, if I am right, how do you delicately inform an executive who strongly feels she is still "Secretary (last name)"?
         --- Kelly Roberts McLean

Dear Ms. McLean:
  You are right. Condoleezza Rice is officially Dr. Rice in direct address and identified as the Secretary of State from 2005-2009
or something similar.
There are some positions which come with a rank, and former office holders continue to be addressed with an honorific of their former position: senators, judges, ambassadors, and military generals, for example. 
     But being a Secretary is a ROLE, not a RANK. T
here's only one secretary of (a department) at a time, and only the current office holder is granted the courtesies of the office. Being addressed as "Secretary" is a courtesy of the office.
     While a former official might find receiving the courtesies of the office to be flattering, it is not respectful to the current, singular office holder.

     As to how I would delicately inform an executive who strongly felt she is still "Secretary (Name)" ... I would inform her only if she asked me for my advice.
    I hear a lot of bad grammar too, but that doesn't make me think the rules of grammar have changed. When I hear bad grammar I simply think I am dealing with someone who doesn't know the rules, or doesn't care.
    A former Secretary wanting to be addressed as Secretary (Name) is definitely hanging on to his or her former glory, in hopes some of the prestige and power will hang on too! But, there's no upside for you to get into that argument.

           -- 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.
     -- JPB, 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.
    You definitely want to avoid forms such as:
         The Reverend and Dr. Dennis and Marilyn Winslow
         The Reverend Dennis and Mrs. Marilyn Winslow

                -- Robert Hickey

How to Write Military Rank & "Retired" On An Invitation
     How do I write the name of a parent on a wedding invitation if the officer is retired from the United States Marine Corps?  Should "Retired" and "Marine Corps" be indicated on the wedding invitation? Should I spell out Lieutenant Colonel or can I abbreviate it?
      -- Annie G.

Dear Annie G.:
    1) Neither branch of service [e.g. USMC], nor noting retired vs. active status are included on social correspondence. These are included on official correspondence where active-duty officers and retired officers were attending in an official capacity.
    2) There are abbreviations used by the Armed Services: DOD Abbreviations for Ranks and Ratings, These are service specific -- LTC for the Army, LtCol for the Marines, Lt Col for the Air Force. Capitalization, spaces, and lack of punctuation are as noted. These are always used at official armed forces events. Many military protocol officers use them as social events as well. Using them would be immediately understandable to service personnel, but might seem unusual to civilians.

    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address an (Official)-elect?
     How do I address a governor-elect in the U.S.A.?
       -- G. P.
     How do I address a newly-elected judge who hasn't taken the oath of office yet?
       -- H.W.

Dear G.P. & H.W.
    I have all the forms of address for -elect officials in my book should this sort of thing come up often. The rule is that in the USA, an official-elect is immediately:
             The Honorable (Full Name)
since he or she has been elected in a general election.
    But in the salutation use  ...
             Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname):

             ... or whatever honorific to which he or she is entitled to prior to the election.
    Use of governor, judge, or (whatever special honorific comes with the job) as an honorific is reserved until he or she takes officel.
    One would identify him or her as the governor-elect,
judge-elect, or (whatever?) ... but these not actually titles, offices, or positions.  These describe his or her status.
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Use Sir and Ma'am?
      I have been wondering about the use of the word “Sir”.  I call men Sir often and it results in negativity instead of my actual intention.  Would you be so kind as to elaborate on the proper use of the word Sir?
            -- S.L.

Dear S.L.
      Sir and Ma'am are formal. 
      In hierarchical organizations and environments these are signs of respect.  For example, in the armed services it's standard to address anyone of higher in rank by (Rank)+(Name) first, then as Sir/Ma'am thereafter.
      In formal households children might be taught to address their elders and Sir and Ma'am. Thus by many it is
appropriate to use them when addressing someone -- older.
      I take a spin class every Saturday — the instructor always calls me Sir … Because (I think it is his reasoning) he has noticed that I am by far the oldest person in class! I think it's funny, but I bet not everyone would.
      If someone is reacting negatively, they probably are very egalitarian and don't like that you are lowering yourself / putting them higher — or they think you are implying they are old.
      Try just Good Morning rather than Good Morning, Sir.
                   -- Robert Hickey

How to Write My Name as a Retiree?
      I retired this past spring and have occasional need to sign a professional related document that requests a title.  What is the proper use of titles on business cards, documents, etc. after retirement?  Is it acceptable to use my previous work title with a retirement designation following the title?
            -- S.C.

Dear S.C.
      Some professions confer a personal rank: e.g., judge, ambassador, doctor, or career military personnel.  Once you have it -- it's yours to keep and use when you retire.
      Other professions are more of a role -- one uses the designation while one is doing it -- but after one stops -- so does the designation. Roles don't offer any form of address you keep using as a descriptor.  Not that it's not still part of one's identity, but the designation is no longer of use to others … e.g., being a architect, graphic designer or teacher ...  so people stop using it.
      And of course, some professions require a current license, and if one doesn't maintain that -- one isn't able to pursue the professional practice.  RN, CPA, various types of broker, pharmacist come to mind.
     You don't say what title it is that you are seeking to use, but I am guessing it's not a rank and is more of a role.
     You can definitely list your former profession/job in a biography, or can you note it to explain the pertinence of your message -- which sounds like what you are asking.  E.g., writing a recommendation for a former student as their teacher. 
     But it might not accurately be a title you'd continue to attach to your name / use as part of your name.
     -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Former Lt. Governor of a State?
      How do I address an envelope and letter to a former lieutenant governor?
           -- E-L C, in California

     How should I address our former Lieutenant Governor, who is also a medical doctor, who is married.  I understand that he would be addressed as The Honorable (Full Name), but am in question as to whether or not the title of Dr. would be included?
     If addressed on a wedding invitation, should the outer would read?:
              The Honorable Stephen Wilson and Mrs. Wilson
     As for the inner, should it read?:
              Dr. and Mrs. Wilson
      Any assistance with this question would be greatly appreciated.
     -- Claudia Harrison, Hendersonville, TN

Dear E-L C, and Ms. Harrison:
While a lieutenant governor might me identified as Lieutenant Governor (Name) by others while in office …. even a current lieutenant governor is formally, directly addressed in an invitation's inside envelope, salutation or conversation as Mr./Ms. (Name).
     A former lieutenant governor is the Honorable (Full Name) but uses
whatever honorific to which he or she was entitled before assuming office.
What Claudia suggests is perfect for her physician/lieutenant governor.  As a former elected official he continues to be the Honorable (Full Name), and as a doctor his honorific goes back to what he was using before his service: Dr. (Name). 
     With the form including a spouse, put her name on a second line ... formally he gets his name on a line of his own, not combined with hers:
        The Honorable Stephen Wilson
            and Mrs. Wilson

    and then on the invitation's inside envelope:
        Dr. and Mrs. Wilson

  -- Robert Hickey

Is A Warrant Officer Addressed as "Mr."?
    What is the proper way to address a Chief Warrant Officer in the U.S.Army?  My understanding from several CW4s and 5s is that they are to be addressed as Mr./Ms.  Please advise.

         -- Assistant Service Desk Manager, The Pentagon

    This is an interesting question.
    DOD documents for U.S. Navy, Army & Coast Guard do suggest Mr. in oral address:
             Mr./Ms. (Name)
    Written address is by rank:
             Chief Warrant Officer (Name)

    But I must admit I find forms of address for Warrant Officers a bit confusing. Army protocol officers have explained to me that in oral address -- use of "Mr./Ms. (Name)" is correct, but it is an internal practice within the Department of Defense. Those of us outside the DoD should address Warrant Officers by (rank)+(name).
      There is a similar practice with the address of junior Naval officers who are orally addressed as "Mr./Ms." aboard ship -- another internal practice -- in this case just for fellow Naval personnel aboard ship.

          -- Robert Hickey

May a Flag that Has Draped a Coffin
Be Used Again on a Flagpole?

       A question arose which many of us “believe” we know the answer however we unable to confirm. May an American flag, that has been draped over a casket for a burial, ever be flown again? Is it considered retired and should be kept as a memorial to our military family member?

       -- Bill

Dear Bill:
        I don't think there is a definite answer for this.
        I was at the PDI-POA Educational Forum late last week when I got your note and asked several people who I would call flag experts and did not get simple Yes / No answers ....
        One said the the flag should be kept as a keepsake, boxed with the person's ribbons and medals, and not flown again.
        Another suggested it should be kept, but flown on Memorial Day in honor of the individual and all who have fallen.
        Another said it could be presented to an institution or Boy Scout troop so it could be flown again.
        Or if the flag was no longer clean, in good repair or current, Scouts get a merit badge for disposing of a flag correctly.
       Another noted that many veterans organizations will accept such flags for use during their veteran recognition events.
       Among those I asked were a former chief of Protocol for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, and the flag expert from Canadian Heritage who makes Canadian flag policy.
        What did your group say?
        -- Robert Hickey

        There was a complete mixture of opinions from totally retiring the flag and perhaps burning to gifting to family of the deceased, to offering it to a local service organization for use in a veterans recognition events. Thank you for your assistance.
       -- Bill

How Do I Use "Esquire"
with the name of an Attorney?

    I am not sure if I should show my name followed by Esq., J.D. or Esq., Dr. or Dr., Esq. or just Esq. or J.D.  Any help would be appreciated.

         -- Kenneth Millard

   I am an attorney and I do not use Esq. following my surname.  Although I am a practicing attorney (with many professional accolades from my peers), it strikes me that to insert the Esq. would project an aura of self-importance I do not feel.
         -- Robert Simpson

Dear Mr. Millard:
     In the much of the public's mind used after a name to identify a lawyer in exactly the same way M.D. after a name identifies a doctor. But in fact they are not equivalent.
    The most traditional form of address for others to use when
writing to a practicing attorney (e.g., on a letter) in his or her role as counsel in litigation is:
Kenneth Millard, Esq.
Use of Esq. is important among the ethics rules of the legal profession which require communications from an attorney (on one side) be with the opposing side's attorney rather than directly with the opposing side. By addressing the other side's attorney as Esq., the person initiating the communication is being clear that he or she is following correct procedure.
     However, traditionally
Esq. is not used reflexively ... that is, one does not call oneself an Esq.  Thus on a business card or letterhead names of the principals, partners, associates, are be presented without post nominals:
          Kenneth Millard
          Attorney at Law
     J.D. is most often used in academic contexts. If you are the author of a article that's published in an academic journal or teach at a university and are listed in the catalog, then using your specific academic degree is pertinent and traditional:
          Kenneth Millard, J.D.
     And finally:
Esq. and J.D. are not used in combination.
          I'd say that it is very, very, very rare for a person holding a J.D. to want to be addressed as Dr. (name).
          Dr. is not used before or after an attorney's name in any circumstance.
                   -- Robert Hickey

Site updated by Robert Hickey on December 15, 2014

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         
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        

Business Cards       
Flags and Anthem Protocol             
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             

     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 © 2014 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.

All information on is copyright © 2014 by Robert Hickey.
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®