Guide to Use of Names, Titles, & Forms of Address

* * *
BLOG: Robert Hickey
Answers Questions
From On-Line Users
* * *
VIDEO of Robert Hickey
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About the book:

    Christian Orthodox       
    Christian Orthodox        
Acting Official       
Adjutant General     

Admiral, Texas Navy   
Adventist Minister       

Archbishop, Catholic        
   Christian Orthodox        
Archdeacon, Episcopal        
Ambassador, Goodwill
Ambassador of one country
   to another country      
Ambassador of the U.S.
   to another country
   by a U.S. citizen       
Ambassador of the U.S.
   to the U.K.  
American Indian Chief        
   U.S., State / or           

Assistant Secretary
Associate Justice,
   U.S. Supreme Court          
Associate Justice of a
   State Supreme Court
Attorney General           
Attorney General,
Attorney, U.S.         
Australian Officials    
Awards, Name on an

Baron, Baroness           
British Officials,
   Royalty, Nobility     
Brother, Catholic
   Christian Orthodox          
Bishop, Catholic            
   Christian Orthodox         
Bishop, Episcopal        
Board Member     
Brigadier General       
Business Cards      

Canadian Officials    
   USA, USAF, USMC     
Certificate, Name on a 
    Federal Reserve      
Chaplain in the
    Armed Services        
Chaplain of Congress          

Chargé d’Affaires         
Chief Executive Officer 
Chief Judge          
Chief Justice,
      U.S. Supreme Court 
Chief Justice, of a State
      Supreme Court             

Chief of Police          
Chief of Staff     

Chief Operating
City Manager
Clergy & Religious
Club Official          
Colonel, Kentucky      
Colonel, USA, USAF,
    or USMC     
Commissioner, Court     
Commodore of a         
      Yacht Club         
Congressman, U.S.               
Congresswoman, U.S.   
Consul and or
   Consul General   
Corporate Executive         
Counselor (Diplomat)      
County Officials       
    U.S. Military
    U.S. Officials
    Private Citizens    
    Same Sex

Dalai Lama          
Dean, academic            
Dean, clergy            
Deceased Persons        
Degree, honorary      
Delegate, U.S., State

Deputy Chief of Mission
Deputy Marshal

Deputy Secretary      
    Pro Tempore      
Diploma, Name on a   

District Attorney
Doctor, Chiropractor     
Doctor of Dentistry
Doctor of Medicine              
Doctor, Military           
Doctor of
   Veterinary Medicine          
Doctor, Optometrist   
Doctor of Osteopathy            
Doctor, Other Disciplines     
Doctorate, honorary      

Elect, Designate
Pro Tempore      
Esquire, Esq.       

First Names, Use of
   Formal / Informal     
First, Second,
   Third , etc .        
First Lady, Spouse
   of the President of
   the United States 
First Lady, Member
    of Her   
    White House Staff      
First Lady, Spouse
   of a U.S. Governor
   or Lt. Gov.    
First Lady, Spouse
   of a U.S. Mayor    

First Lady
   of a Church      

First Lieuten
Former Officials    

Gay Couple      


Goodwill Ambassador      
Governor General         
Governor, Lieuten
Governor, Lt., Spouse   

Governor, Tribal Council          
Governor, U.S. State       
Governor, Former    
    Spouse of     
Governor's Staff,
    Member of
Governors, Board of 

High Commissioner    
Honorable, The
Honorary Ambassador       
Honorary degrees
Honorary doctorate
Honourable, The

Indian Chief         
Inspector General    
Interim Official   
   Writing &  
    Writing &

Judge, former     
Judge of US City

     County or State     
Judge, US Federal            
Junior, Senior,
    I, II, III, etc

Justice, Associate

     Supreme Court

Justice, Associate

     Supreme Court


Late, The
   (deceased persons)
Lesbian Couple    
Lieutenant Colonel,     
   USA, USAF, USMC      
Lieutenant General,
   USA, USAF, USMC      

Lieutenant Governor    

Major General,
Man, business
Man, social
Marquess / Marchioness
Married Women       
Marshal for a
   Judicial District, U.S. 
Mayor, U.S. City   
Mayor, Canadian City    
Mayor Pro Tempore
Mayor, Vice    
   Protestant Clergy       
   Christian Orthodox     
Most Reverend, The        
Mother Superior
Mr. (Social)      
Mr. (Business)      
Mrs., Ms. (Use, Social Forms)      
Mrs. vs. Ms.     
Mr. & Mrs. / Couples   

Name Badges or Tags     
Nobility, UK/British
Nobility, Other & Former     
Nun, Catholic
Nun, Orthodox

Officer, Police     

Pastor, Christian Clergy  
   Christian Orthodox  
   Ecumenical Patriarch
   of Constantinople  
People with Two Titles      
Petty Officer
Place Cards            
Plaque, Name on a    
Police Chief
Police Officer                     
Pope, Catholic
Pope, Coptic
Postmaster General         
Presbyter, Orthodox
President, corporate
President of
    College or
President of a
President of a
    US State Assembly 
President (current)
   of the U.S.A.          
President (former)
   of the U.S.A.     
President of the
    U.S.A., spouse of  
    of the U.S.   
Priest, Catholic          
    Christian Orthodox 
Priest, Episcopal        
Prime Minister
   & Academics         
Pro Tempore,
   Elect, Designate    


Ranger, Texas        
   U.S., Federal           
   U.S., State            
Reservist, Military      
Retired Military
   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    

   3. Q&A on
       How to Address
       Retired Military   
Reverend, The
Right Reverend, The         

Same Sex Couple      
Salvation Army    
School Board Member
   U.S. Department,
   Member of the Cabinet
   of Defense, U.S.       
Secretary, Assistant       
Secretary General
   of the U.N.            
Senator, U.S., Federal       
Senator, U.S., State         
Senator, Canadian       
Senior, Junior,
     I, II, III, etc.         
Senior Judge 
Sergeant at Arms
Seventh Day
     Adventist Minister       
Sister, Catholic       

Solicitor General      
Speaker of the U.S.
   House of
Spouse of the
    President of the U.S.       
Spouse of the
    Vice President
    of the U.S.           
Spouse of an
    Elected Official            
State Attorney     
Surgeon General          

Texas Ranger        
Titles & Forms of
    Address, Useless?        
Tombstones, Names on
Town Justice
Town Manager       
The Honorable     
Tribal Officials     
Two Titles,
    Person With

Under Secretary       
US Attorney
US Federal Officials
US State Officials     
US Municipal Officials

Venerable, The        
Veteran (not Retired)         
Very Reverend, The         
VFW Officer/Official    
Vice Mayor       
Vice President
    of the U.S.
Spouse of the
    Vice President
of the U.S.
Vice President-elect
    of the U.S.      
Viscount and/or

Warrant Officer       
White House Staff    
Woman, business        
Woman, social        

Yacht Club Officer      

Robert Hickey's Blog on
Names, Titles & Forms of Address
Invitations, Introductions, Precedence, etc.

Answers to Questions From On-Line Users (like you)

Robert Hickey is Deputy Director of
The Protocol School of
and has been conducting

protocol trainings since 1988.

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 23 March 2020

Welcome To My Website.
     I’ve been teaching at The Protocol School of Washington® for 30 years and spent more than a decade collecting what I've learned on names, titles and forms of address into my book that is the standard reference on the topic.
     Since the book was published in 2008, thousands of people and organizations have acquired and use it. Browse around this site, learn how to flawlessly interact with those who are high on the pecking order, and you too can become an ambassador of honor and respect.

      -- Robert Hickey

Something You Are Looking For?
   If you have a question on how to address a particular office/official more than 150 are listed below and to the right and on the On-Line Guide To Forms Of Address,
   You can also browse all the previously asked questions. They are saved by category, with a list of those categories at the bottom of this page. I've answered hundreds of questions, so your question may be covered there.

Here Are Six Recently Asked Questions
After they've been here, I move them to a page with related questions
A list of those topics appears at the bottom of this page.

How to Address An Office Holder
Who Has Additional Titles?

       How would one address a retired US Senator who is now a US Ambassador to a foreign country?  In writing they are both "The Honorable (full name)". But in conversation, or salutation, he could be either an Ambassador or Senator, I guess.
       Is he Ambassador Senator (name) or
Senator Ambassador (name)? If so, which?
       Is being a senator more important than being a ambassador?
       Or, if his current is / most recent job was / an ambassador, perhaps I address him as an Ambassador (name)?

            -- Thomas Manning

       How would one address a retired Army General who is now a Secretary of a U.S. Department (member of the Cabinet)?  Is he The Honorable General (Full Name), USA, Retired?
            -- LPD

       How do you address a physician who is the ambassador of a foreign country?  Since he serves outside the USA, he His Excellency (full name) or the Honorable (full name)?  Is he His Excellency the Honorable Dr. Ambassador (full name)?
            -- MJG

Dear TM, LPD & MJG:
1) Only One Form of Address At A Time.  The U.S. style is to use just one form of address at a time. So when the communication is related to one of the roles, address the person in the manner pertinent to the topic to which the communication is related.
        E.g. Colin Powell is addressed in writing when the communication relates to his service as the Secretary of State as either:
                   The Honorable Colin Powell

             and in the salutation or conversation as:
                   Mr. Powell,

E.g. when the when the communication or conversation relates to his service as a US Army general address him in writing as:
                   General Colin Powell, USA, Retired

              and in the salutation or conversation as:
                   General Powell,

       What if the communication doesn't exactly apply to one or the other role? In the case of Colin Powell he has let it be known he prefers General Powell when it's not related directly to either.

       2) Doctors:
In the USA, academic post-nominals are not used with other titles. So it is not used with a courtesy title (Excellency or Honorable), with a title (Senator or Judge) or with a military rank. So if one is currently addressed with a courtesy title or rank, any reference to their having a doctorate -- academic, medical, legal, -- appears in his/her biography.
       3) What if the official is now retired, and the communication is social -or- not related to any of the jobs/offices in particular?: As mentioned with General Powell at the end of Part #1, if you know their preference, use their preference.
       He or she likely held one of the offices for the bulk of their career and might prefer that one. Or if one is by far the most prestigious, they might prefer that one.
      If you are unsure, call their office and ask. No one is offended when asked "how do you like to be addressed?"  If you ask their staff, they will know: it will not have been the first time they were asked!

       -- Robert Hickey

As a Retired Professor
Am I Still Professor (Name)?

Can you introduce yourself as a Professor when you are retired?  
          -- S.H.W.

Dear S.H.W.,
         In the U.S.: probably not.
         Elsewhere in the world: probably.
         In the U.S., use of Professor (Name) is most often an oral address — as a courtesy given by others to you — rather than used in writing or used when presenting your own name.
         A retired professor with a doctorate would continue to be
Dr. (Name), and identified in an introduction or bio as a retired professor of XYZ.  You would not introduce yourself as Professor (Name), but a former student might see you and greet you as Professor (Name).
         It's done a bit differently in Commonwealth countries and elsewhere around the world.  There names are more of a resume/curriculum vitae, including every honorific, courtesy title, honor, rank, and degree the person has been ever awarded. The names get very, very, very long, and they would include
Professor among all their courtesy tiles, ranks and honorifics.  In Germany academics typically wish to be addressed as Professor Dr. (Name).
        Elsewhere in the world, they definitely like to be addressed as
Professor if they ever taught a course anywhere. You will see it most often in monarchies, South America and the Middle East where marks of status (special forms of address) are part of the culture and everyone is trying to present themselves as elevated. They use many specialized honorifics, not limiting themselves to just Mr./Mrs./Ms., using for example Lawyer (Name), Engineer (Name), Architect (Name), Accountant (Name), etc.
      -- Robert Hickey

Mr./Ms. (Surname) vs. First-Name Basis
      I don't address people by their first names unless they’re family or friends.  How do I address a coworker who doesn't want me to address her as Ms/Mrs. (Family Name)?
      She hates being addressed as Ms/Mrs. (Family Name) and will not stand for it, she has threatened to go to HR if it happens again.
      If I speak to her, or reference her in conversation, I now use her first and last name, Pamela (Family Name).
      Can you give me another option?

            -- I Prefer More Formal

Dear IPMF,
      If you want to get along with her, you should address her with the form of her name she prefers.  If you are not completely sure -- ask her.
      One of the basics of addressing others is that your name belongs to you. Others - if they want to have ongoing interaction with you - have to respect your preference. 
      Not following another person's preference demonstrates that you don't value their preference.
      There are so many ways this comes up. It definitely comes up the reverse of what you describe: people who do not want to be addressed by their first name (perhaps by someone younger? someone in a service position? ) are upset when they are addressed by their first name.
      In the military (a structured hierarchical culture) being formal connects to showing respect -- and showing respect is the path to good communication.
     In the the general US culture (an egalitarian culture) formality is seen as a roadblock to good communication. That we are quick to first-names demonstrations this. 
      That you don't value her is perhaps not your intent. But while we judge ourselves by our intent -- we judge others by their actions. So you ignoring her preference demonstrates to her you don't respect her. 
            -- Robert Hickey

How to a Candidate for Elected Office?
      What is the correct way to address the candidate in a letter? The candidate is a former mayor of a city.
       Shall I write "Candidate (Name)?  Or is it correct to use “Mr./Ms.”
            -- Martin Dexter

Dear Mr. Dexter:

        When elected
to public office in the US in a general election one becomes "the Honorable". 
        The rule is ... once an "Honorable" always an "Honorable".
        So a former mayor is still The Honorable when you are addressing him or her with their full name ... as you would on an envelope.
                 The Honorable (Full Name)

        Former mayors are not officially addressed as Mr./Madam Mayor or Mayor (Name) once out of office. Friends and family may do so unofficially, but there is only one Mayor at a time, so it is not correct
and is disrespectful to the current office holder to call all the former mayors with what is a singular title.
        This would be especially true for a former official now a candidate for another office. He or she is running for office as private citizen, not as an official duty of a high office.
        So address as Mr./Mrs./Dr./etc. (Name) in the salutation (use whatever he or she was entitled to prior to being elected to office).

        Sometimes, orally, a moderator at a debate or a newscaster might refer to a candidate as Candidate David Jones but that's a reference in the third-person, not a form of address. It's a bit like reading in the paper that "Central High School French Teacher Tom Wilson said....."  It is a descriptive phrase to make it clear to the reader who the speaker/writer is talking/writing about -- but it is not a form of address
. So
Candidate would not be used on an envelope or in a written salutation.

               -- Robert Hickey

#2 of 3: What is the Correct Order of Post-Nominal Abbreviations?
    I have recently earned my PhD.  I have a professional engineering registration designated as PE. I am also a fellow of an engineering organization F-SWE.
     What is the correct order for these different types of identifiers?  Also, what are the circumstances to use any or all of them?  If you are not the appropriate source for this information, can you suggest where or how I might find the answers.  I have asked all three institutions and none of them have a clue, but all would like for their initials to be most prominent of the set!
             --- PE, PhD, F-SWE

Dear PE, PhD, F-SWE:
    I cover this on page 100 in my book. The standard order for post-nominals is:
        1) Religious orders
        2) Theological degrees
       3) Academic degrees
        4) Honorary degrees, honors, decorations
       5) Professional licenses, certifications & affiliations
    Lastly ... If you have multiple post-nominals in one category, list most important/highest first and then in descending precedence order. It you think two are equal, put them in alphabetical order.
    So taking those points into consideration ... PhD, PE, F-SWE .... seems the best to me.
The guidelines on use of post-nominals are:
    * Only used with a full name
    * PhD is used in (in the USA) most often in academic and research environments. You see it used less often outside those areas.
    * Affiliations are used when appropriate and pertinent, like in official correspondence, on your business card, or in an professional publication.
    * None are used socially.
                               -- Robert Hickey

#1 of 3: What is The Order of Post-Nominals?
      I am doing a presentation on waht the many post nominals in the medical and nursing fields are and what they stand for. There are many and for our nursing convention I am conducting a focus session on which post nominals to use and the correct order to present post nominals. Would you happen to have that information?
    -- Monica, RN, BSN

      I have been an RN for 15 years, and work in the healthcare industry as a home health regional preceptor.  I completed my BS in Health Sciences, and a Master’s in Healthcare Administration degree. I also hold several certifications.
      I have read that the educational degrees should be listed first, then licenses. permanent, followed by any certifications. Following this, I would list my name and post nominals as Tina Atkins, MHA, BS, RN, COS-C, HCS-D.  I have observed many of my colleagues with multiple post nominals still putting their RN designation first, followed by the educational achievements.  In that case, mine would be listed as Tina Atkins, RN, MHA, BS, COS-C, HCS-D.
       Are either of those correct, or should it be listed in another format?

  -- Tina

Dear Monica & Tina,
    When I started my book I thought I would include a list
of every post-nominal abbreviation in the world and what each one meant. I soon realized there are so many post nominals in so many fields any list would always be incomplete. Plus, I found that if you put any mysterious post-nominal abbreviation into any search engine ... the answer was instantly there.
    Thus I decided to focus on how they are used ... not what could be used.
    On page 100 of my book I cover how to correctly sequence all types of post nominals (academic degrees, decorations, honorary degrees, professional associations & affiliations, religious orders, theological degrees, etc., etc., etc.).  In your case here's the pertinent sequence that I often see with nurses:
            First Academic Degrees
            Then Professional Licenses -- RN is a professional license.
            Then Professional Certifications
            Then Professional Associations & Affiliations
      If you have more than one in a category, place them (1) high to low, and if they are of equal precedence then use (2) alphabetical order.
      Among nursing literature on credentials, this is what I've seen is: Academic degrees (Highest one only): Licensure: State designations or requirements: National certifications; awards and honors; and finally other recognitions.
      And finally, there is a frequently cited 'rule' you should not include more than three post nominals after your name. That's a good guideline.  But, often people ultimately decide on what to include depending on what is directly pertinent to the service they are offering.

               -- Robert Hickey

Wives of Political Leaders Have Long
Been Called 'First Ladies.'
California's Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Has Other Plans | Katy Steinmetz | January 11, 2019

Robert Hickey, an expert on honorifics and titles who works at The Protocol School of Washington, says he is not aware of anyone using the title “first partner” before Newsom. He also suggests that its connotations of empowerment can only go so far. A title like “first spouse” would also be gender-neutral. The word “partner,” however, has the added flair of suggesting an equal split in power. Yet, he writes in an email, “From a protocol point of view, it is only the official who has precedence.” No matter how grand the title sounds, in other words, the spouse’s power is necessarily secondary as it derives solely from marriage to the person who got elected.

See full Story in PDF

Robert Hickey on NPR-Chicago's Morning Shift.  WBEZ 91.5.  July 26, 2016.
Would Clinton Be Madame President?
The Dos And Don’ts Of Honorifics In Politics,

     Hillary Clinton is referred to as Mrs. Clinton, Madame Secretary, Former Secretary of State, Senator, Former Senator, and Former First Lady. Which is correct? Which is the most accurate? And if she wins the presidency, how should the American people refer to her and Bill?
      We get answers from a man who literally wrote the book on the subject. Robert Hickey is the Deputy Director of the Protocol School of Washington and author of Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, & Forms of Address.  Click here to listen.

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 23 March 2020

And finally, from a rather challenging internet surfer:

What Authority Do You Have?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
What authority do you have for your answers
         --- Mary Louise Timmons

Dear Ms. Timmons:
    I'm not sure "what authority I have" but I've been teaching at The Protocol School of Washington® since 1988.
    After researching with the hierarchies of the officials, and answering questions on forms of address for so long, I guess I've gotten good at it!  What I've learned I've put in my book -- which I am pleased to say is used at lots of serious places: See 

          -- Robert Hickey

Cartoon by Michael Diffee.
From The New Yorker, Volume LXXXV, Number 28, September 14, 2009.
Copyright c. 2009 Conde Nast Publications. All rights reserved.

Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      


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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

Available in   Hardcover   /  Kindle   /  Apple Book

Copyright © 2020 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.

All information on is copyright © 2020 by Robert Hickey. All rights reserved.
The Protocol School of Washington® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Honor & Respect is dedicated to Dorothea Johnson, Founder of The Protocol School of Washington®