How to Address a Military Couple

How to Address Military Personnel and Spouse?

—-On social correspondance the formula is:

——–(Rank) (Full Name)
——–and Mrs. (Shared Surname Name)
——–(Address)

——–(Rank) (Full Name)
——–and Ms./Dr. (Full Name)
——–(Address)

——–(Rank) (Name)
——–and Mr. (Full Name)
——–(Address)

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

—-#1) The member of the armed services is listed first: people with ranks are listed before people without ranks. Use of and between their names (before the spouse’s name) implies they are married.

—-#2) On social correspondence branch of service – USA, USMC, USN, USAF, or USCG – is not included.  On an official letter to the service member you would include branch of service.

—-#3) If the officer is retired – retired status – “Retired or Ret.” is not included with the name on social correspondence.

—-#4) Formally, don’t break up a (rank)+(name).  People with ranks get their name as a unit and on a line by itself.  Put the spouse’s name on the next line.  (Rank) and Mrs. (Full Name)  is a less formal style and is frowned upon in the Armed Services. I’ve seen it on envelopes addressed by civilians, but it is not the best form.

—-#5If you are interested in more on the use of Mrs. and Ms. for wives –  see the post Mrs. vs. Ms.

— Robert Hickey

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

How to Address a Retired Military & Spouse?

First off, there are two ways to address armed services personnel in writing:
—-#1) the official way  How to Address Military Couple
—-#2) the social way

—-Official envelope:
—-—-(Full Rank) (Full Name), (Initials for the Branch of Service), Retired
—-—-—-and Mrs. (Surname)
—-————(Address)

—–—–—-Which looks like:
—–—–—–—–Captain Robert W. Thompson, USN, Retired
————————-and Mrs. (Surname)
—–—–—–—–—–—–(Address)

This official form would be used for an event when he’s being invited as a retired officer, maybe to attend in uniform?  Participate as a representative of the military in some capacity? Anyway, if your event is social & the officer is being invited as a person and not as an official … keep reading.

—-Social envelope:
—-—-(Ful Rank) (Full Name)
——–—-and Mrs. (Surname Only)
—————-(Address)

——–—-Which looks like:
——–—-—-Captain Robert W. Thompson
—————-—-and Mrs. Thompson
——–—-————(Address)

#1) Spelling out the rank is always the most formal. In the armed services, there are service-specific abbreviations for the ranks. If you know them, use them. If you don’t know them just spell out the ranks.

#2) “Branch of Service” and ‘Retired” are not used on social correspondence.

#3) The most formal way to write an official person’s name is to not break up the rank and the name … hence his name is on one line and Mrs. Thompson is on the next line — not mixed up his name and rank.  The form “Captain and Mrs. Robert W. Thompson” is informal. It’s not terrible, but it is not what the military services suggest in their correspondence style guides..

— Robert Hickey How to Address Military Couple

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

Military Personnel With the Same Rank?

—-#1) Outside envelope: When someone has a special title/rank .. formally you write out their full name and don’t mix it with the other name: So each gets their (Rank) + (Full Name).

—-#2) Branch of Service: Branch of service is not included on social correspondence.

—-#3) Name order: Whose name goes first? His? Her name?  This is an issue of protocol, and it’s neither alphabetical nor ladies first. Military officers of the same rank are always ordered by seniority. One member of the couple has an earlier date of rank … which gives that person higher precedence / greater seniority.  I guarantee you they have discussed this and the couple knows which of them has higher precedence/seniority by date of rank!  Contact them and find out so you can do it correctly.

—-Each is getting listed fully … thus it does not matter if they have the same or different last names.

—-—-Captain John Smith
—-—-and Captain Mary Smith (if he has seniority)
—-—-(Address)

—-—-Captain Mary Smith
—-—-and Captain John Smith(if she has seniority)
—-—-(Address)

—-#4) Inside envelope:
—-—-Captains Smith(same surname)
—-—-Captain Smith and Captain Wilson(different surnames, senior person first)
—-—-Mary and William(informal/casual)

— Robert Hickey How to Address Military Couple

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

How to Address an ‘Honorable’ and Military Spouse?

I am addressing invitations and one couple invited is a retired judge and her brigadier general (Army) husband, also retired. Your book says that once honorable, always an honorable. Is a judgeship considered a “rank”? Who is higher?
~ Virginia @ Public Works

Dear V@PW:
Yes, being “the Honorable” is a personal rank which stays with the person. As a retired judge she is still the honorable.

—-On the envelope it would be:
—-—-The Honorable Nancy Doe
—-—-and Brigadier General William Doe
—-—-(Address)

—-#1) Both retired judges and retired generals are address as Judge and General in retirement

—-#2) There are service-specific abbreviations for military ranks, but above I’ve show it fully written out. Writing every word fully is the most formal.

—-#3) The General’s branch of service, USA (United States Army), and Retired are not used on social correspondence.

—-#4) Elected officials and judges of federal, state, and municipals courts have higher precedence than armed service officers, so if you are inviting the judge, or both equally, the judge’s name is listed first. The officer could be first if the officer were the intended invitee. Invitees are listed before their guests.

—-#5) On the inside envelope write their names as you would address them in conversation:
—-———–Judge Doe and General Doe

— Robert Hickey

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

Whose Name First? Military Person or a Doctor?

How do I address an envelope to a Navy captain (Joshua Jones) and a dentist (Brooke Jones) who are married?  How about:
—-—-USN Captain Joshua & Dr. Brooke Jones?
—-—-—-—-— D. Bainbridge

Dear D. Bainbridge:
People with titles and ranks get their names as a unit … not combined with another person’s name.  One has a rank. The other is a ‘Dr.”  Uniformed military personnel have precedence over civilians: –– so the USN Captain is listed first.

Communications to couples are social.  The social form of the doctors name is Dr. (Full Name) not (Full name) ( initials for the degree]).   Post nominals for his branch of service – USN – are not used on social correspondence.  Traditional rules say an and between the names means they are married.

—-So the form is:
—-—-Captain Joshua Jones
—-—-and Dr. Brooke Jones
—-—-(Address)

— Robert Hickey

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"