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

* * *
BLOG: Robert Hickey
Answers Questions
From On-Line Users
* * *
VIDEO of Robert Hickey
* * *
About the book:

    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 25 November 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 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 a Retired Reservist?
    How do you write then name of a retired reservist?
         -- Dave S.

Dear Dave S.:
       When one retires the reference to "Reserve" disappears.
       The formula is:
              [Rank] [Full Name], [Abbreviation for Branch of Service], Retired. 
       Both Ret. and
Retired are suggested in DoD style guides.
       In the following samples I've used the service-specific abbreviations for rank.  It would also be correct to spell the ranks out fully:
             While Serving      GEN John Johnson, USAR
             When Retired      GEN John Johnson, USA, Retired
             While Serving       Gen Patrick Harris, USMCR
             When Retired       Gen Patrick Harris, USMC, Retired
       AIR FORCE
             While Serving      Gen Andrew Harris, USAFR
             When Retired      Gen Andrew Harris, USAF, Retired
             While Serving      ADM John Johnson, USNR
             When Retired      ADM John Johnson, USN, Retired

             While Serving      ADM John Johnson, USCGR
             When Retired      ADM John Johnson, USCG, Retired
                    -- Robert Hickey

How to Include A Former Command
When One Addresses Retired Personnel?

    Robert, what are the rules for properly showing the name, etc, of a retired Commander of the Reserve of the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps; e.g.,
        Commander John Doe, JAGC, USNR, Retired
        CDR John DOE, JAGC, USNR, Ret.


Dear Joe:
       One’s former command isn’t included in formal correspondence according to Navy style references. He's retired from the USN, not the JAGC. And, once retired the notation of being in the reserve" is dropped ... everyone is just retired USN. The recommended forms include:
        Commander John Doe, USN, Retired
        CDR John Doe, USN, Retired
        Commander John Doe, USN, Ret.
        CDR John Doe, USN, Ret.
    1) Use of the service-specific abbreviations of rank is standard by the services, but outside the services civilians typically don't understand them,
    2) DoD Style Manuals suggest Retired or Ret.  rather than
(Retired) or (Ret.)  You see the references to "retired" in parentheses used by some retirees, but protocol at the Pentagon says: no parentheses.
If you want to note that the retired officer was JAGC ... I would include it orally in an introduction, when providing additional information.

                    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address & Refer to an (Official)-elect?
     How do I address the vice-president elect?
       -- S.P.
     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?

       -- H.W.

Dear G.P., S.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, once elected one is immediately addressed on the envelope or in a full introduction as "the Honorable":
             The Honorable (Full Name)
Reason? One is entitled to be addressed as "the Honorable" one one has been elected in a general election.
    But in the salutation or in conversation use  ...
             Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname):

             ... or whatever honorific to which he or she is entitled to -- prior to the election. 
    So if a governor had been a 'senator' or the vice-president had been a "representative/congressman/congresswoman", then they would continue to be addressed in a salutation or conversation as "Senator (Name)" or "
Representative/Congressman/Congresswoman (Name)" until they are sworn into the new office.
    Use of Mr. Vice President, Governor (Name), Judge (Name), or (whatever special honorific comes with the new job)  is reserved until he or she has taken their oath.
    One would identify him or her as the vice-president-elect, governor-elect,
judge-elect, or (fill in the blank)-elect ... but these are not actually titles, offices, or positions.  These are adjectives which describe his or her status and are used as an identification -- but are not forms of address.
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Address & Refer to a President-elect?
          What is the proper way to address a President-elect in person? And how do you refer to him when just speaking about him?
          I.e. I saw and heard on TV people already referring to the President-elect as Mr. President or The President (talking to him directly and also talking about him).  I always thought this was incorrect until after the inauguration.
          I thought (Full Name), President-elect was correct when speaking about him ... not President (Surname).
         And just Mr. (Surname) when speaking to him directly, until after the election ... not "Mr. President".
         -- PT

Dear PT,
       You are right.
       There is a difference between direct address and -- referring to a person in a news story -- which is a reference in the third-person.

        Once elected, a president-elect is in direct address (name on an envelope, or in a full introduction):
                The Honorable (Full Name)
                The Honorable (Full Name), the president-elect

        But until he/she is sworn in … he is directly addressed in conversation in the style to which he was entitled before being elected. Typically that would be:
                Mr./Ms./etc. (Surname)
        Only a current president is ever addressed as Mr./Madam President
        So if you heard that -- the person on the air is not very knowledgeable of what the rules are and is possibly misleading his/her viewers.

        Reporters should correctly refer to a president-elect as:
                Mr./Ms./etc. (Surname), the president-elect
                The president-elect, (Full Name)
                President-elect (Full name)
        None of these is a form of direct address.
        These are used by a reporter when referring to someone in the 3rd person to be clear to a listener who they are talking about.
        All this is in my book should this sort of thing come up often.
          -- Robert Hickey

Punctuation on Tombstones
          I am having a double cemetery headstone made for my parents. The surname will be in large letters in the center. Below and to the left will be my father’s first and middle name and on the right, my mother’s first and maiden surname. My father was a "Jr." 
          My question regards punctuation. Is a comma placed after the middle name, before Jr.?
                   John James, Jr.
               John James Jr.
         -- Jan

Dear Jan,
          I vote for no punctuation.
          Traditionally punctuation is not used on tombstones: no periods with middle initials; no commas after names or periods with sequence post-nominals like Jr or III.
          Stone carvers use elegant spacing to define the names:
                 John James Jr
         -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Former/Retired
Foreign Ambassador?

       What is the proper title and salutation I should use to address Thorvald Stoltenberg who was once an ambassador of Norway. He has had several positions including Ambassador to the UN.

              -- F. P.

Dear F. P.:
       1) He is no longer an
Excellency. Only currently accredited ambassadors are addressed as Excellency.
       2) Former ambassadors are addressed as Ambassador (Surname) for life. At an official event with both current and former ambassadors in the room, it would be important to let the officials who were the current officials and who were the former officials.
       3) But don't have to include former positions, e.g.  Former Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to .... after his name in correspondence.
       On the mailing envelope use:
              Ambassador (Full Name)
              (Street Address)
(City, State, Postal Code)
       And in a social salutation use:
              Dear Ambassador (Surname),
                -- Robert Hickey

Mr. Hickey
On this issue, the advice given does not conform with standards and practice elsewhere. For example: not only “ambassador”, but once entitled to the title “Excellency”, its holder may retain the right to that courtesy throughout his or her lifetime, in accordance with widespread international custom, diplomatic norms, and social usage. See: Protocol – The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official, and Social Usage (page 21), by Mary Jane McCaffree and Pauline Innes, published by Hepburn Books, Dallas, Texas, in 1977, 1985, 1989, 1997 [ISBN 0-941402-04-5].

Dear O'Donnell,
        I see it the text you mention. It's on page 36 of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Protocol, which is the one I have.  I normally say the book is the 'Bible' but in this case the authors mis-state the tradition. Only a currently accredited ambassador is officially addressed as Your Excellency.
       At the Congress of Vienna, 1814-15, the courtesy title
Your Excellency. was invented to designate the current representative of one head-of-state to another head-of-state.  Until that time … having more than one person from Country X with the rank of "Ambassador" caused confusion in Country Y.  The heads-of-state involved in the Congress were all addressed with a courtesy title – Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, etc. – so granting a courtesy title to Country X's current representative set the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary apart from all similarly ranked ambassadors in Country Y.
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Address A Commonwealth Prime Minister?
       How to I address an invitation to the Prime Minister of Canada and his wife?

       -- Sarah

Dear Sarah:
    It is always appropriate to use the form of address used 'at home' if you know it.
    If his wife uses the same last name it would be:
        The Right Honorable (Full Name), MP
            and Mrs. (Surname)

    If his wife uses a different surname or has a special honorific of her own (Dr., a military rank, etc.)  write her name fully:
        Honorific + Given Name + Family Name.
    The inside envelope would be
        Prime Minister and Ms/Mrs./etc. (Surname)
    I have a full chapters in my book on British, Australian, and Canadian forms of address should this sort of question come up often.

                 -- 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)."

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 25 November 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®