How to Address a Former Governor in Writing?
How would I address a former governor on a mailing envelope and in the salutation?
Dear Sharon, How to Address a U.S. Governor
—-—-Or (a bit less formally – all on one line):
—-—-—-The Honorable (Full Name)
—-—-Dear Mr./Ms./etc.* (Surname):
—-—-* Use the honorific to which the former office holder was entitled to – prior to taking office.
Former governors continue to be addressed in writing as the Honorable’ (Full Name). The rule is ‘once an honorable, always an honorable’ (more or less). [For more on the use of the Honorable follow the link in the list at right.]
But in spite of what you hear in the media, only a current governor is formally addressed in conversation or in a salutation as Governor (Name). In conversation or in a salutation, former governors go back to whatever form of address they used they were before they were the governor.
Here’s the rule: Offices of which many people hold the same office at the same time … senators, judges, doctors, Navy captains … continue to be addressed using the honorific used while they were in office. There was never a time a senator, judge, doctor or captain was the only one holding that job.
But offices which are held by a single person at a time … the president, the vice president, the governor of (state), the mayor of (city) … any office you can put a the in front of … formally goes back to the form of address to which they were entitled before they assumed office. At any one time there is only one person holding that job.
Forms of address – like elevated precedence, the corner office and the good parking place – are courtesies of the office and are granted to the current office holder. They are not courtesies that once attained – become the property of former office holders.
You will hear in the media such officials informally referred to as Governor (Name). It’s not the form one would use in writing on a letter.
They are not the governor anymore.
– Robert Hickey
Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"
How to Address a Former Governor in Conversation?
I read a story recently which said that the organizers of a former governor’s book tour have asked the public to address her as Governor (Surname) at her book signings. Is that proper?
——————–– Michael Perry
Dear Mr. Perry:
It’s not correct. Officially she is addressed as Ms./Ms./Mrs./Dr./etc. (Surname) … or whatever honorific to which he/she was entitled to before being governor.
Here is the tradition behind this: Jobs of which there is only one office holder at a time … Governor of a state Mayor of city, President, Vice President of the US, Speaker of the House of Representatives …. do not continue to be directly addressed in writing or conversation by their former ‘office’ because it is not respectful to the current office holder and confusing to those in the (organization/state/whatever) as to who is currently in charge.
Jobs of which many hold the same office/rank at the same time DO continue to be addressed by their former honorific … Senator, Judge, Captain, Admiral, General, Professor …. after leaving their position.
Having worked with many ‘formers’ I find they know their correct honorific. But the handlers may not know what’s correct -or- encourage the reference to their boss’s former position to curry favors – which I suspect is the case here.
– Robert Hickey How to Address a U.S. Governor