How to Address a
Retired or Former U.S. Ambassador

How to Address a Retired or Former US Ambassador?

Address any retired or former ambassador in writing – in the address block of a letter or envelope – in the standard style for U.S. officials addressed as the Honorable‘:

—-Envelope or address block on letter or email:
—-—-The Honorable (Full Name)
—-—-(Address)

—-Salutation:
—-—-Dear Ambassador (Surname):

—-Conversation:
—-—-Ambassador (Surname)

The difference between ambassadors will arise when you introduce them, describe them, give their title, or identify them in writing (like in a program).

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to identify a former Ambassador: a political appointee who served as an Ambassador?

Those appointed to serve as a U.S. ambassador after a career in another field (typically they serve just only for administration, more or less) are introduced as:
—-—-Ambassador of the United States of America to (Name of Country) from Year to Year

Or (though I think it best to avoid the first option since it includes the word ‘former’):
—-—-Former Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country)
—-
—-Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country) from year-year

____
Who can be identified as a ‘Career Ambassador, Retired’?

Certain retired diplomats are identified as a ‘Career Ambassador’. They have been accorded the ‘Personal Rank of Career Ambassador’ by the President. If you do a web search for ‘career-ambassador U.S. Department of State’ you find the list. There aren’t many. This small category of ambassadors is introduced or identified as:
—-Career Ambassador of the Foreign Service of the United States of America, Retired

____
Who can be identified as an ‘Ambassador, Retired’?

Career U.S. Foreign Service Officers who have served as a U.S. Ambassador at one or more U.S. embassies are introduced or identified as:
—-Ambassador of the United States of America, Retired

– Robert Hickey     How to Address a Retired or Former US Ambassador

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

For a U.S. Ambassador: Your Excellency? or The Honorable?

I see some ambassador’s names written as ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’ and others as ‘His Excellency (Full Name)’. Which is correct?  The ambassador who is coming is the Belgian Ambassador. How should I write his name?
—-—-—-—-~ The Diva of Diplomats

Dear Diva:

—-#1) An ambassador of the United States is addressed by U.S. citizens as:

——–Official envelope:
——–The Honorable (Full Name)
——–—-The Ambassador of the United States of America
——–—-(Address)

—–The Honorable (Full Name)’ – is how U.S. citizens formally address their own high government officials.

—-#2) A foreign ambassador is addressed as:

——–Official envelope:
——–—-His/Her Excellency (Full Name)
——–—-The Ambassador of (Official Name of Country)
——–—-(Address)

——–Which looks like:
——–His Excellency Dirk Wouters
——–—-The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium
——–—-(Address)

Formula #2 is standard around the world for addressing ambassadors. U.S. ambassadors (who are addressed as ‘the Honorable’ by U.S. citizens) are addressed as ‘His/Her/Your Excellency’ by citizens of other countries when they serve abroad.

If this sort of question comes up often, my book has more on the topic.

– Robert Hickey

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Address Current Ambassadors At-Post (In the Country where They Serve) vs. Back Home (In the U.S.A.)?

We are wondering about use of Your Excellency with Ambassadors (of one country and accredited to another country).

#1) Would you address the US Ambassador (accredited in U.K.)  as ‘Your Excellency’ or ‘the Honorable’ when he is in to U.K.?

#2) Would you address UK Ambassador (accredited in USA) with ‘Your Excellency’ when in the U.K.?
————– Tina

Dear Tina,

—-#1) Foreign ambassadors
—-—-In the U.S. we follow the international practice of addressing accredited current foreign ambassadors in writing as ‘His Excellency (Full Name),’  and orally as’  ‘Your Excellency’, ‘Ambassador‘, or ‘Ambassador Jones’ .

—-#2) U.S. ambassadors
—-—-U.S. citizens  address U.S. ambassadors in writing as ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’.  We address them in a salutation or oral conversation as ‘Mr. Ambassador’ or ‘Ambassador Smith’.

Your questions:

 “Would you address the US Ambassador (accredited in U.K.)  as ‘Your Excellency’ or ‘the Honorable’ when he is in to U.K.?”

A U.S. citizen should address a U.S. Ambassador in writing as ‘the Honorable Henry Smith‘ or address orally as ‘Mr. Ambassador’ or ‘Ambassador Smith’  Don’t use the British spelling of  ‘Honourable’ just because you are in the UK.  Write a name is the way one sees it at home … ‘the Honorable’

 “Would you address UK Ambassador (accredited in USA) with ‘Your Excellency’ when in the U.K.?

As a U.S. citizen address a UK ambassador as ‘His Excellency John Jones’,  ‘Your Excellency’ or ‘Ambassador Jones’.

– Robert Hickey

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How a Should Non-U.S. Citizen Address an Current American Ambassador?

I am writing an invitation letter to the ambassador of the United States to Japan. According to your book the ambassador should be addressed by U.S. citizens as ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’.  But I am a Japanese citizen.  I will be writing to him in care of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Should I address him as ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’ as the U.S. citizens do?  Or should I address him as ‘His Excellency (Full Name)’?

– T. Suzuki

ambassador

Dear T. Suzuki:

Addressing as ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’ would be honoring his U.S. tradition. It is how a U.S. citizen would address him – and how he would expect to be addressed in the USA. It is not wrong for you to use it.

Using ‘His/Her Excellency (Full Name)’ follows the international diplomatic custom.  This is how he would expect to be addressed outside the USA by foreign citizens.

Both are correct.  I suggest you use ‘Excellency’ since you are in Japan and are a Japanese citizen.

– Robert Hickey           How to Address a Retired or Former US Ambassador

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#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)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or 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, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”