Use of The Honorable

U.S. Officials Addressed as The Honorable

In the United States the Honorable is a courtesy title used with the names of current and retired high-ranking federal and state officials and judges, and with some local officials. It is not used with the names of the deceased. As a general rule, anyone elected to public office in a general election is entitled to be addressed as the Honorable for life. This same pattern of “elected in a general election” is also typical at the state level. At a city/municipal/county/etc. level a mayor and sheriff are always the Honorable, but whether or not other local officials (e.g. members of elected city councils and boards) are the Honorable is by local tradition. 

Some appointed officials are also addressed as the Honorable. At the Federal level those appointed by the President of the United States and individually confirmed by the United States Senate are addressed as the Honorable. At the state level the pattern is the same.

The Honorable is always used before a full name. As a courtesy title the Honorable describes an individual: This person is honorable. As such it never precedes the just the name of an office.

Honorable (Full Name) or Hon. (Full Name) are informal forms and used in some jurisdictions.
—-#1) The Honorable is acceptable in environments where Honorable is favored.
—-#2) But Honorable is not acceptable in environments where the Honorable is favored.

Formula: The Honorable (Full Name), (Office Held)
—-Correct: The Honorable Ahmed Henderson, Mayor of Springfield
—-Incorrect: The Honorable (Office Held)

It is the person who is the Honorable, not the office.
—-Incorrect: The Honorable Mayor
—-Incorrect: The Honorable Mayor of Springfield

—-Not formally correct: Honorable Ahmed Henderson
—-Not formally correct: Hon. Ahmed Henderson

_____
Correct Use of the Honorable

Here’s an example of the Honorable being used correctly.  The formula and what it looks like are:

——-The Honorable (Full Name) + (Office)
——-The Honorable Bill DeBlasio, Mayor

And that’s exactly what they tree-pruning truck’s sign presents. Congrats to The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation!

How to Use The Honorable?

I believe Honorable should be included as a title/rank on invitations, letters and envelopes. But is it proper or acceptable at any time to refer to a judge as:
——-Honorable John Q. Smith
——-Honorable Judge John Q. Smith
——-Hon. John Q. Smith
ç——————–– S.B. a the US Bankruptcy Court

My secretary recently drafted a letter of recommendation for a former employee from me and included the title the Honorable with my name, which others use when introducing or addressing me – an elected Tax Collector. I have never called myself the Honorable and it seems improper at the end of a letter. Am I correct that the title Honorable should be used by persons addressing me but not by me when signing my own name?
ç——————–— SR, Tex Collector

I am a doctor and just recently – an elected Federal official. Am I correctly listed in a program as The Honorable Dr. (Full Name)?
ç——————–— JMC in Virginia

Dear SB & SR, and JMC :
The correct form is:
——-The Honorable (Full Name)

It is not correct to refer to to anyone as simply Honorable or Hon. If you need to use a shortened versions because you are short on space or ink/toner for your printer use The Hon.

One never uses the The Honorable when saying or writing one’s own name. So – never as the host on an invitation, never when signing one’s name, and never when introducing yourself.

If the guest of honor is the Honorable, and their name is being included on the invitation, the host can list their guest as the Honorable (Full Name) since the name is a reference to another person, not that person writing their own name.

Any guest addressed as the Honorable, should be the Honorable (Full Name) on their invitation’s outside envelope.

The Honorable, is not combined with other honorifics, ranks or titles in the USA. So none of these is correct when addressing US officials:
——-The Honorable Dr. (Name)
——-The Honorable Senator (Name)
——-The Honorable Judge (Name)
——-The Honorable Mayor (Name)
——-The Honorable General (Name)

This is the same pattern as for His/Her Excellency‘ which is not used reflexively either.

— Robert Hickey

See also use of the Honourable, British Spelling.

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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