How to Address a US Governor

How to Address a Governor of a State of the United States

NOTE: The Honorable is the most frequently used courtesy title for governors of U.S. states. However, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and South Carolina officially and traditionally address their governor as Your Excellency.

—-Envelope, official:
—-—-The Honorable—-*See note above.
—-—-(Full Name)
—-—-Governor of (state)

——–Or (a bit less formally – all on one line):
——–—-The Honorable (Full Name)
——–—-Governor of (state)

—-Letter salutation:
—-—-Dear Governor (Surname):

—-—-Governor (Surname)

— Robert Hickey How to Address a U.S. Governor

How to Address a Former Governor in Writing?

How would I address a former governor on a mailing envelope and in the salutation?
——————–– Sharon

Dear Sharon, How to Address a U.S. Governor

—-Envelope, official:
—-—-The Honorable
—-—-(Full Name)

—-—-Or (a bit less formally – all on one line):
—-—-—-The Honorable (Full Name)

—-Letter salutation:
—-—-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

How to Address a U.S. Governor

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

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

How to Address a Governor-elect?

How do I address a governor-elect?
———————–– G. P.

Dear G.P.:
In the USA the rule is – once elected in a general election, one is immediately addressed in writing on the letter’s address block, on an envelope, or in a complete introduction as:

—-—-The Honorable (Full Name)

Reason? One is entitled to be addressed as ‘the Honorable’ once 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.

Use of ‘Governor (Name)’ is reserved until he or she has taken their oath. If a governor-elect had been a private citizen he or she would continue to be addressed in a salutation or conversation as ‘Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name)’ until he or she is sworn into the new office.

You will hear in the media such officials referred to as “Governor-elect (Name)”. But that is a reporter referring to a citizen in a news story as ‘according to Arlington County Football Coach Jim Smith, this year’s team…’ It’s not the form one would use in writing in a letter.

Think of Governor-elect an adjective which describes his or her status and is used for an identification – not as a form of address.

– Robert Hickey How to Address a U.S. Governor

How Do I Address an Acting Governor?

How do you introduce a Lieutenant Governor when he or she is – at that moment – the Acting Governor?
Is he or she addressed in conversation or introduced as Acting Governor (Name)?
——————–– FG

Hi FG:
Identify the person as the acting governor, but the term is not used in oral address as in Acting Governor (Surname).

An acting governor is not formally addressed orally as Governor (Name) either: He or she is not actually The Governor.

Orally address an acting governor with the honorific to which her or she is entitled – based on the office he or she actually holds.  E.g. a lieutenant governor might be the one serving as the acting governor.  Mr./Ms. (Name) is the typical honorific used with addressing a lieutenant governor.

While he or she is not directly addressed in conversation as Acting Governor (Surname) one might refer to him or her as that in the third person, such as: … “Acting Governor (Name) will be arriving in 20 minutes.”

When formally introducing an acting governor say: May I present the Honorable (Full Name), Acting Governor of (Official Name of State).

– Robert Hickey How to Address a U.S. Governor

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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