How to Refer to The President?
How should the you refer to the current President (POTUS)? I hear Presidents refered to as Mr. (Surname) and this doesn’t sound respectful of him or the office.
———-– Ms. Brazile In Honolulu
First we need to define:
(1) A reference to The President in a news story. This is not a form of address, it is an editorial issue.
(2) Direct forms of address used when addressing the President orally or in writing. Here are those forms.
—–You’ll hear and see these forms in the media:
———-(The Office) The President
—–—–(Full Name) Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
—–—–President (Name) President Biden
—–—–(Surname Only) Biden
—–—–Mr. (Surname) Mr. Biden
FIRST: Referring to the POTUS in orally or in writing as The President is always correct. There is only one President at any given time.
SECOND: In the media, reporters use all the forms above. When they do so, they are not addressing the President. The are referring to him and wanting to be clear of whom they are speaking. Some editorial style books state first references be — (Special honorific or rank)+(Name) | President Biden — and subsequent references be — Mr. (Name) | Mr. Biden. This editorial style is not disrespectful. It’s just a convention to streamline the text.
THIRD: In direct oral address – actually speaking to the President – the President is addressed as: Mr. President
—-His given name or surname are not used in his presence. This pattern of not using the name is typical around the world when addressing the highest officials – chiefs of state, heads of government, speakers of houses, chief justices and a very few others. Listen to a White House news conference: Reporters addressing the POTUS as Mr. President are doing it correctly.
FOURTH: You will hear people address the POTUS as President (Name) | President Biden. This is not traditionally correct. Maybe the speaker doesn’t know the tradition … or has been listening to the evening news and thinks their references to President (Full Name) | President Biden is how you’d address the POTUS?
Whenever I hear a reporter do it wrong, I think I should send them an informative note. After having done it innumerable times, I don’t think it does any good.
— Robert Hickey