How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons

NOTE: See also – How to Write Names on Tombstones, Grave markers.

Write the Names of Deceased Persons?
How to Include a Deceased Person’s Name on a List?

Our organization is celebrating our 100th birthday. Unfortunately, Judge Smith, one of our committee members passed away. We would like to list him in the program.
—-—-—-—-– E.H.L.

Dear E.H.L.:

Consider listing names of deceased persons with the years of their life after their name:
—-—-John Smith (1935-2011)
—-—-—-or
—-—-John Smith (1935-2011), Founder

If you are aiming for a timeless form, the span of years accomplishes that.

If span of years isn’t what you want, an asterisk * (cross or Star of David) is put next to the name and ‘* Deceased’ is put at the bottom of the page as a footnote.

—-John Smith*
—-———-—-—-—-* Deceased

”Deceased’ is the correct word, though some might think it is too legal sounding.

Regarding use of ‘judge’ with his name, see ‘How to Write a Deceased Person’s Name on a Certificate’ further down on this page.

– Robert Hickey

When to Use ‘The Late’?

In writing the history of our organization should we present the deceased founder’s name as: The late John Smith
—-—-—-–- Darla Snyder

Ms. Snyder:

Use ‘the late’ before a name of someone who is deceased – often recently – when one wants to be respectful. For example, on a wedding program:

—-John Smith, the bride’s uncle, will give away the bride in place of her father the late Thomas Smith.

—-The groom is the son of Mrs. James K. Gifford and the late Stephen R. Gifford

Some style guides say a person can only be ‘the late’ if they have been dead less than a decade. So, in a timeless document ‘the late’ is not the right option. List the name of your founder as – (Full Name) – and note the span of years and other information after his name.
—-John Smith, founder
—-—-or
—-John Smith (1910-2002), founder

– Robert Hickey How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons

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

How to Include a Deceased Person’s Name with the Names of the Living?

A ‘Special Tribute Book‘, is being put together to commemorate our Rabbi’s 25th Anniversary. I have to decide how my contribution will be listed. Ideally, I want to include my deceased husband’s name, my name, and the names of our children. I am thinking of:
—-Mrs. Robert G. Green, (Pearl), and adult children Michael, Russell, Edward, and Rebecca.
—-—-– Pearl

Dear Pearl:

I’m not crazy about ‘her adult children.’ That they are adults doesn’t seem pertinent.

I’ve seen Mrs. Robert G. Green (Pearl) used here and there, but I think it’s awkward.

How about this:
—-Pearl B. Green with her children Michael, Russell, Edward, and Rebecca in memory of Robert G. Green

In identifying them as ‘her children’ everyone will know, or be able to figure out, you are also Mrs. Robert G. Green.  What do you think?
—-—-—-– Robert Hickey

Dear Robert,

I’m going to go with your suggestion:
—-Pearl B. Green with her children Michael, Russell, Edward, and Rebecca in memory of Robert G. Green

I read the wording to our son, Michael, and asked him if it sounded right to him? He said, ‘Mom, I think it is great!’  That’s all I needed to hear. He’s been a blessing to me, from the moment his Dad brought him into my life, fifty-seven years ago!
————–– Pearl How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons

How to Write a Deceased Person’s Name on a Certificate?

How do I write the name of our local general practitioner who has died – on a Certificate of Appreciation to be presented to his family? Do I write ‘The Late John Smith, M.D.’?  Thanks.
———–– Sue in Essex County

Dear Sue:

You don’t need note that he is dead. Just put his name on the certificate.

Names of the deceased are presented as just the name – no honorific before – no academic post nominals after. When they were alive they were Mr., Mrs., doctor, judge, ambassador, professor, senator, general, or captain.  Ranks and honorifics are only used with the names of the living.  The idea is – while alive the person had many versions of their name – but now those are in the past.  (1) As a pretense at historic homes they often refer to the famous former occupant as if they are still alive. At Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, the guides refer to Thomas Jefferson as Mr. Jefferson throughout the tour as if he is alive. It’s charming, It’s theatrical. But not the formal form.  (2) George Washington is now just George Washington. He is no longer general, he’s no longer a government official. A historian might write ‘General Washington issued an order …’  in text so the reader knows by what authority the action was taken. But reference to a person in a book is not a form of address. It is a reference in the third person so the reader can know who-is-who and what-is-what.

Back to your certificate. Use wording like this:

—-—-In Appreciation of
——–John Smith

——–For Exemplary Service to the Citizens of Essex County


—-The certificate can be signed & dated at the bottom:
—-—-Robert Thompson, Mayor
—-—-The Twenty Third Day of June, Two Thousand Twenty

Since the service was specific to the practice of medicine then including ‘M.D.’ after the name can be argued.  I would vote you include no academic post nominal. That he was a physician you can work into the statement about ‘the why’ behind the certificate.

If the certificate is dated as I suggested above … historians will figure out that this certificate was presented posthumously.

– Robert Hickey How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons

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

Are Mr./Mrs. Used With the Name of the Deceased Person?

My mother taught me that when a man is deceased, one should not refer to him as ‘Mr.’ Do you know of such a rule?
—————-– Sue Holton

Dear Ms. Holton:

When a person is deceased, their name is presented without honorifics, ranks, courtesy titles or post-nominal abbreviations for degrees, licenses, honors or memberships.

——–#1) ‘Mr./Miss/Mrs./Ms.’ are honorifics and are used by others in direct address to a person. The honorifics are attached to the name as a courtesy to the person … and to define them in some way … as a man, woman …. or define marital status. They are used in conversation, on an envelope, on letter’s address block or salutation, or on a place card. They are not used with the names of the deceased.

——–#2) Courtesy titles …. the honorable, the reverend, his/her excellency … are not used with the names of the deceased either.

——–#3) And the same with ranks …. ambassador, military-style ranks, judge, doctor, etc. These are part of the name when the person is living, but they are not a part of their name when they are deceased.

– Robert Hickey

How to Write the Name of a Deceased Person Who Had Many Titles?

How do you write the name of a deceased person who had many titles? What if the person was a mayor and had a doctorate?
—-—-—-– J.K.H.

Dear J.K.H.: How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons

Deceased people are listed simply by their name – (Full Name) – typically the form of their name they had when they died – without an honorific, courtesy title, rank or post-nominal abbreviation for degrees, licenses, honors or membership.

None of these are part of a deceased person’s name:

—-Honorifics such as: Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., mayor, commissioner

—-Courtesy titles such as: excellency, honorable, reverend

—-Ranks such as: ambassador, doctor, judge, or military ranks

—-Post-nominal abbreviations such as: M.D. or Ph.D.; R.N. or C.P.A.

If they held a variety of jobs, those details would be enumerated in a biography.

– Robert Hickey

How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons

How to Refer to a Deceased Employer on a Resume?

How do I refer to my deceased employer, a U.S. Senator, on my resume?
—-—-—-– Beth Acorn

Dear Ms. Acorn,

It is not necessary to mention that your former employer is deceased. It only matters that your employer was alive when you worked for him/her and that you are alive today.

– Robert Hickey How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons

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

How Do I List a Deceased Host on an Invitation?

A baby shower was to be hosted by two individuals. Regretfully, one of the hosts passed away. The family wants the deceased to still be listed as a host on the invitation. How would that be worded?
—–Posthumously Caroline Willis
—-or
—-The Late Caroline Willis
—-—-—-–- Helen Carley

Dear Ms. Carley:

It is an obligation of a guest to find their host and thank them for the invitation. Invitations are issued by the living who will, with any luck, attend the event an serve as host.

Issue the invitation with only then name of the remaining host.

Have this remaining host start the event with a welcome toast and loving remembrance … such as:

‘I cannot welcome you today without saying as we gather to celebrate of the joyous start of a new life – we also celebrate another life well lived – that of Caroline Willis. Caroline and I were to jointly host this event and nothing would have brought her more joy than to see this wonderful gathering of friends and family ….’ etc.

– Robert Hickey How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons

—-See these Posts on Types of Officials:
——–Acting
—-—-
Candidate for Office
—-—-Deceased
—-—-Designate
—-—-Elect
——–Former
—-—-The Honorable, Use of
—-—-Interim
—-—-The Late, Use of
—-—-Pro Tempore
—-—-Retiree

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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