How to Address an Acting Official

99% of acting officials are not addressed with the same forms of address of an elected and inaugurated or an appointed and installed official.

(See the 1% exception in the first post: Which Acting Officials …)

Address an acting official with the forms of address to which he or she is entitled and identify as the acting (name of office):
—-Mr. L. Christopher Young, Acting Mayor, Fitzgerald, Georgia


Which Acting Officials are The Honorable?

Some very high officials (E.g., appointed by the President of the United States) are addressed as ‘the Honorable’ even though they were not elected. How low does that go?
— Anup

Dear Anup,

Unconfirmed cabinet-level officials … acting secretary, secretary ad-interim, and secretary designates (and corresponding attorneys general, too) … are addressed as ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’.  I base this on Mary Jane McCaffree & Pauline Innis’s book Protocol.   For office holders below cabinet level I know of no source that says any are “the Honorable (Full Name)’ too.

So, acting officials in the President’s cabinet – Yes

Acting officials below cabinet level are not be ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’ until appointment and confirmation are complete.

—-Until then he or she is simply:
——–Mr./Ms./etc. (Full Name) + Acting (Name of Office Held)

If an appointee had been elected to office in a general election or in some way was entitled to be addressed as ‘the Honorable’ already … he or she would not have to wait.

— Robert Hickey


How to Address an Acting Official If the Actual Official is Addressed as ‘the Honorable’?

Would it be appropriate to address an acting mayor of a U.S. city as ‘the Honorable’? Do you call him ‘Mayor (Name)’ in conversation’?
—-—-—-—-—-—-— Cheryl

Dear Cheryl,

‘The Honorable’ is reserved for U.S. officials elected in a general election -or- those very high officials appointed by the President of the United States (POTUS) and individually approved by the U.S. Senate.

Likely he/she is serving as acting mayor through a succession plan or a temporary appointment. If so he/she would not be ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’.    I say that with one exception: he or she might be ‘the Honorable’ due to some prior elected service. But we won’t get into that here.

An ‘acting’ mayor of a city, governor of a state, or president of a college isn’t really the office holder — he or she is only  ‘acting’.  Thus, do not address in conversation as if he or she were an ‘elected and inaugurated official’.

In a salutation or conversation use ‘Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name)’ and identify as the acting official. In some circumstances he or she might be orally addressed or referred to as ‘Acting (Office) (Name)’‘Acting Mayor (Name)’ … informally – when clarification is desired depending on who else is present. But in formal correspondence use:

—-—-Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Full Name)
—-—-Acting (Office)

—-—-Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname)

— Robert Hickey


—-See these Posts on Types of Officials:
Candidate for Office
—-—-The Honorable, Use of
—-—-The Late, Use of
—-—-Pro Tempore

Not Finding Your Question Answered?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  After checking the list and reading the posts, if you don’t see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – always changing the names and specifics.

— Robert Hickey

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