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       
Ambassador 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    

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    
    Same Sex

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 U.S. Governor
   or Lt. Gov.    
First Lady, Spouse
   of a U.S. Mayor    

First Lieuten
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        
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, 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 February 25, 2015

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.

What to Call the Ambassador to the United Kingdom?
Is it still correct to refer to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom as the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James?
       -- GW in CA

Dear GW,
       St. James's Palace is the official residence of the British monarch, and is the location where ambassadors present their credentials.  Referring to the Ambassador to the United Kingdom as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James is traditional, correct, and would be understood in London and at places where the crowd knew what it meant! 
       But there are often more than one correct way. If I were to identify the current U.S. ambassador to the UK  -- I would do it using the standard formula:
      The Ambassador of the (Full Name of Country) to the (Full Name of Country)
      The Ambassador of the United States of America to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

      Being a slave to consistency, using that formula I can write the name of every ambassador correctly, in a parallel form.
      -- Robert Hickey

How to Address an Same-Sex Couple?
      How to I address a letter to a gay couple?
       -- C.V.K.

      How do I address the envelope to two women who are married to each other?  One has taken on her partner's last name.
       -- T.C.

Dear C.V.K. & T.C.,
      1) When each member of a couple uses a different surnames, just list each name fully putting them in alphabetical order by family name:
           Mr. Thomas Appleton
           and Mr. Richard Zappa
         1234 Weston Street
  Springfield, MA 12345

            Ms. Linda Arlington
           and Ms. Jennifer Zorro
         5678 Taylor Street
  Springfield, MA 12345
           (This is the same formula to use when you any couple who used different surnames.)
2) If both partners in a same-sex couple use the same last name, list them in alphabetical order by given name. [Note: In French you will see plural honorifics such as Mmes. or Messrs., but plural honorifics aren't used in standard American or British English.]  So use the following:
           Ms. Adeline Henderson
           and Ms. Zelda Henderson
         5678 Taylor Street
  Springfield, MA 12345
            Mr. Adam Miller
           and Mr. William Miller
         1234 Weston Street
  Springfield, MA 12345

      One exception to the alphabetical order rule is if you are sending an invitation to one person and including the second person as a courtesy to the first -- then list the person you are inviting first.
      If they are inviting them both equally ... then list them in alphabetical order.
      In a salutation just list each person as you would address them, in the same order you addressed the envelope. So formally that would be:  Dear Mr. (Surname) and Mr. (Surname) or Dear Ms. (Surname) and Ms. (Surname).

        -- Robert Hickey

How to Address the First Lady of a City?
         How should I address the wife of the mayor? How should I address her in a letter and how should I address her when meeting her in person?
         -- SB in Brooklyn

Dear SB,
      Spouses of US officials get no special form of address -- they are private citizens -- they hold no elected office.
        So if the spouse is a woman, formally she is:
                Ms./Dr./etc. (Her Full Name) .... Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname)
                Mrs. (Husband's Full Name)
.... Mrs. (Surname)
        Being first lady is a role … not an office.  Certainly they get attention and a good seat at events, but those are as a courtesy to their spouse -- the office holder.
        While you will read her referred to First Lady (Her Name) in the media, that's really a reporter referring to the spouse in the 3rd person … it is not a form of address. 
        {Of note …. In the African-American community, often pastor's wives are addressed as First Lady (Her Name) by their congregation … but that's not the tradition among U.S. elected officials.}
        E.g., Michelle Obama is addressed in direct communication as Mrs. Obama. First Lady is not used as part of her name. It is used after her name -- in print/in the media -- to describe her role.
        So if the spouse is a man, formally he is simply:
                Mr. (His Full Name)
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Write a Couple's Name on a List?
          We are working on formalizing our donor wall at the museum at which I work.  I wish to list couples with first name, middle initial, last name and suffix (assuming they have all of these).  We typically list the man first, unless the woman has a different last name in which case she goes first.  I am struggling with how to address a couple with the same last name, but the man has a suffix.  Would it write John M. and Jane L. Smith, Jr.  or Jane L. and John M. Smith, Jr.  or something else?
       -- SB

Dear SB,
     Clearly the problem with those two options is that she is not Jane L. Smith, Jr.
     I note at the New York museums — where have looked to see what they do … they use three forms.   The first two are formal, the third one informal:
          Mr. and Mrs. John M. Smith, Jr.
          John M. Smith, Jr. and Jane L. Smith
     Jane and John Smith
     The middle one is explained as retaining the "Mr. and Mrs." order
     This last one is usually explained as 'keeping his name as a unit"
     So back to the New York museums. So I am looking at the wall, trying to figure out their rules, and right there in the middle of the list is something completely different! I assume when I see a wild card -- they used what the donor put on the pledge form. If I have to choose between making the editor/committee happy — and the donor … I would vote for the donor. It's the donor's name, it is their donation, and they should be happy.
     Another form you see when couples have different names … man & woman or single sex couple is:  Jane L. Apple and Susan M. Zappa.
       --  Robert Hickey

How to Address a Director?
           My boss will be giving the speech and introducing John Smith, Director of the XYZ Museum who will be in the audience. Should my boss call him Director Smith?
       -- EK

Dear EK,
     Being a director is a role one inhabits not a rank one attains and holds.
     Thus it does not formally become part of one's name.
     Directors are addressed as Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Full Name) and identified after their name as Director of ....   In conversation or a salutation are addressed as Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname)
     Sometimes when it is desirable to identify the person for clarity, like "The Director will be here in 20 minutes"  or  "We should seat Director (Surname) at the main table at this event " Director is orally used with the name.  But it wouldn't be done in direct address or in writing.
       --  Robert Hickey

When Can I Start Using My Degree with My Name?
May I Use Post-Nominal Initials Before Graduation?

    I recently completed the requirements for an MBA.  Graduation is in December - but when can I present my name as (Name), MBA on my resume or when I speak at conferences?  Do I start using the post-nominals now that the program is done -or- do I have to wait until I have the diploma in hand?
      -- Proud About-to-be Grad

     I’m a doctoral candidate and was told that while I can't use Ph.D. yet, the form of the post-nominal abbreviation a doctoral candidate can use is:
                  (Full Name), Ph.D. (c) 
     Please confirm.
      -- Soon to be Dr.

Dear About-to-be Graduates:
    There's no police unit out there hunting down premature post-nominal users, but your degree becomes official when your degree is noted on your transcript. An official transcript is the document required as 'proof of a degree.'  This will be completed before graduation, but you will not know the exact date unless you check.
    So until then, you are not entitled to the honors and courtesies that come with it. Forms of address -- in writing and in oral conversation -- are honors and courtesies.
    You can definitely state on your biography/resume/curriculum vitae you will be receiving your Master of Business Administration
from (name of university) in (month), (year)
or are a candidate for
Doctorate in (fill-in the blank) from (name of university).

                    -- Robert Hickey

Is a Former President
Addressed as President (name)?

     I have been directing people to refer to former presidents
as President (last name). Is that correct?
             --- Anna McDonald, Stafford, Virginia

Dear Ms. McDonald:

    This issue is complicated since we hear former Presidents referred to as President Clinton and President Bush on the media all the time; Here's what is the correct formula as it appears in my book (assuming they didn't have an honorific other than Mr./Ms. to go back to ... as General Dwight D. Eisenhower did.): 
    Former President of the United States
    Envelope, official:
       The Honorable
       (Full name)
    Letter salutation: Dear Mr./Ms. (surname):
    Conversation: Mr./Ms. (surname)

    Here's the WHY behind the correct form. This
is the traditional approach for any office of which there is only one office-holder at a time. So, with officials such as mayors, governors or presidents ... only the current office holder is addressed as Mr. Mayor, Governor, or Mr. President ... formers are not addressed that way.
    That's not to say some reporter might not call a former mayor Mayor Smith
or a former president President (Surname). But doing so is incorrect and confusing to the public. The former office holder is no longer due the precedence and courtesies we extend to the current office holder. He or she speaks with the authority of a private citizen. We honor former office holder's service, but the 'form of address' -- which acknowledges the responsibilities and duties of office -- belongs only to current office holder.
    With offices of which are many
office-holders at a time ... senators, admirals, judges, etc. addressing 'formers' with their former honorific not disrespectful to a singular current office holder.  
     To explain the correct form I would say
"using the title of a former position is flattering to the former official and he or she may not correct you, but is not respectful to the current office holder.  There's only one "(name of the office)" at a time."
                          -- Robert Hickey

     Yes, but everyone uses President (last name).
               --- Anna McDonald, Stafford, Virginia

     Do they? Are presidents of organizations and companies addressed as President (surname)? Do these former office holders keep the rank President forever?
      President is it not typically used as an honorific and formers go back to what they were before. President is a role, not a rank.  You do hear it in the media where they have a need to identify politicians, but you won't see formers so addressed in official situations where noting who is currently in power -- and who is not -- is important.
                          -- Robert Hickey


How Should Clergy Sign Their Own Name?
       How should a pastor go about signing his or her name?  I'm wondering whether I should be signing my name as "Rev. (Full Name)," "(Full Name), Pastor," or " Pastor (Full Name)."
     -- DPM

Dear DPM,
        When you say signing your name …. well, actually we just sign our names as … our name.
        I never sign Mr. Robert Hickey …. I just sign Robert Hickey.
        Physicians just sign their prescriptions (if you can read their signature) as Name.  Name, MD appears in writing on the form, so they don't need to include MD in their signature.
       Even Queen Elizabeth II of the UK just signs her name Elizabeth II.
       So, it would be odd to give yourself an "honorific" when you sign your own name.
       Formally in writing your name is written (e.g., on the letter for you to sign above, in the weekly bulletin, or a sign outside your church} as:
              The Reverend (Full Name)  or
              The Reverend (Full Name), Pastor
       In up to you to let others know how you like to be addressed in conversation or a salutation -- Rev. (Name), Pastor (Name) etc..  So if you prefer pastor, a salutation would be:
             Dear Pastor (Surname).
       -- Robert Hickey

Does a US Citizen Bow to a Foreign Head of State?
Does the President Bow to a Foreign King or Queen?

         How deeply does a US citizen bow or curtsy when meeting a king or queen? Then as a follow-up, does the President of the United States bow or curtsy when meeting a king or queen on an official visit to their country?
      -- Jennifer Ripley, Winchester, Tennessee

Dear Ms. Ripley,
    I'd say there are two schools of thought on this and which camp you fall into probably depends of whether you think bowing is symbolic of being subject, or simply shows respect in a way that is understoon within the host's culture: when in Rome one does as the Romans do.
    1) In ceremonial situations I would follow the advice of Chris Young, President of the Protocol Diplomacy International / Protocol officers Association (he's also Chief of Protocol of the State of Georgia, and Director of International Affairs) when he says “Look no further than the U.S. Constitution, which states in Article I, Section 9, that ‘No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States.’ Those weren’t just words that prohibited Congress from naming someone a prince or princess, duke or duchess, lord or lady.  Those words were clear signals that in the U.S. all persons are on equal footing: that no nobility would exist here and thus no one had to bow to anyone. Certainly people here have titles such as president, chief executive officer, mayor, chancellor, and the like, but none of those titles was encoded on someone’s DNA.  Titles were to be ascending, earned through one’s own sweat equity and remarkable character, rather than descending, simply a generational bequeath to one’s progeny.”
    So a US citizen -- when meeting a royal chief of state in the United States or in the monarch’s country -- should simply offer a nod of their head (the sort of acknowledgement one might grant to anyone when you meet them as a sign of respect) and shake the hand of the monarch if it was offered. This contrasts with whatever might be an appropriate sign of fealty from a subject of the
royal chief of state -- such as an actual bow or curtsy
    Regarding the President. again I would quote of
Chris Young, when he says both are “equals on the world stage.  Both are heads of state …. the only order of precedence that exists between the two is usually an alphabetical one rather than one of rank.”
    Since they are peers neither would actually bow to the other. So no, the President of the United States would perhaps offer nod of the head as a sign of respect and shake hands.
    2) Other people say that in unofficial situations following the etiquette of another culture -- when in their domain -- is respectful. So a bow does not indicate one is a subject: it just means one is a respectful guest.
          -- Robert Hickey

Why Do We Need Fancy Titles
& Special Forms of Address?

In an age when it is the ideas that are important, why are office holders so dogged in demanding reverence? Why do office holders require others to use titles to address them?  We are all equals. Doesn't insisting on being addressed in a fancy way indicate an inferiority complex rather than confidence?
     -- BB

Dear BB,         

          Since the Stone Age, man has addressed those with specific roles by title.  This lets everyone know who is who in the hierarchy. And, there is always hierarchy in a room when there is a group of people.

           Much of what you find so irritating is a person's craving to hold onto status and privilege. We all find this to be unbearable when we observe it in others.

            When we notice this behavior, it's wise to remember that in democracies, the power of public office does not belong to the occupants -- but to the citizens: a current office holder wields the power of the people. Thus, respecting the office — and the current office holder — respects the people. Whenever you show respect to someone you show respect to yourself.

            When I was a teenager my Dad gave some advice to me that still resonates today, I was frustrated with some completely unreasonable dictum handed down by my Mother. He calmly said "Robert, you don't say those words in that tone of voice to your Mother. You may disagree with what your Mother says, but you owe her your respect because she is your Mother."

            Our presidents, prime ministers, premiers, mayors, police officers, even our bosses, fall into this category deserving some deference simply due to their office.

            So, while we may personally disagree with a judge, we behave appropriately in his or her courtroom thus respecting the rule of law. That's why they call misbehaving in court "contempt of court' not "contempt of the judge."

            Sometimes we do encounter an official who is demanding special treatment. Just remember that this current-office-holder unlike our "Dad" or "Mom" is just temporarily in the role. His or her successor may be more down to earth and to our liking!

        -- Robert Hickey


Site updated by Robert Hickey on February 25, 2015

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 © 2015 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.

All information on is copyright © 2015 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®