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

* * *
BLOG: Robert Hickey
Answers Questions
From On-Line Users
* * *
VIDEO of Robert Hickey
* * *
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, 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 29 October 2018

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 The Surgeon General?
     I believe that you should revise your advice on the correct title and correspondence for the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service.
      The Surgeon General is a commissioned officer in the United States Public Health Service.  The title "Honorable" is not used in addressing uniformed service personnel. The correct form for an official envelope and salutation would be:

          Surgeon General (Full name)
                 United States Public Heatlh Service
       -- William Collins,

Dear Mr. Collins:
    Thanks your note. 
     You DO hear news commentators say "Surgeon General (name) announced today...." but that's not a form of address. This is reporter identifying a person in the third person so the person listening can know who said what. People hear what is in the media and think the same form is used in direct address.  Same situation for an inspector
general, solicitor general, or postmaster general -- none are formally used as honorifics before a name in direct written address.
       The second one you mention ...  VADM (Full Name) ... is one of the two forms of address suggested by office of the Surgeon General at the USPHS. The other one the office suggests is the Honorable (full name), also listed on my page on the Surgeon General. Both are good.
     In conversation use the forms I have listed for the salutation. The conversational form and the form used in a salutation are always the same.
       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Commissioner?
        Need to know the following regarding the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries for my state: Is he The Honorable or just Commissioner?
        -- Sherry @ Bellsouth

        How do you address Commissioners?  Are they Mr./Ms. (full name), Commissoner?
      -- CP

Dear Sherry & CP:
        First question to ask is the commissioner elected or appointed? Many commissioners are appointed and not addressed as the Honorable.
       Officials elected in national and state-wide elections are addressed as
the Honorable. (And at the federal level there are some very high commissioners who are appointed and approved by the Senate, who are 'the Honorable" too.)  
       At a town, city, or county level whether elected commissioners are or are not varies by local tradition. So if you are unsure, call his or her office to find out the local tradition.

      (1) If he or she is addressed as the Honorable, the envelope and address block on the letter would be:
                The Honorable (Full Name)
                      (Name of Commission)

        Since he's THE Commissioner, in the salutation use the conversational form of address:
                Dear Commissioner (Surname)


If he or she is not addressed as
the Honorable, and you are sure he or she is addressed orally and in writing as 'commissioner' .....the envelope and address block on the letter would be:
                Commissioner (Full Name)
                   (Name of Commission)

        Since he's THE Commissioner, in the salutation use the conversational form of address:
                Dear Commissioner (Surname)

       (3) "Commissioner" is used as an honorific orally more frequently than it is in writing. And sometimes those on commission are technically "the chair of the commission" and "members of a commission" – and are not formally addressed as "commissioner."  So this would also be formally correct:
                Mr./Ms./Dr./Etc. (Full Name)
                      (Name of Commission)

                Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name)

        -- Robert Hickey

How to Write the Host Line
on a Corporate/Organization's Invitation?

I have a question regarding invitations, specifically corporate invitations.  Why is it incorrect for an invitation to be issued by a corporation or an organization?  Our company has always issued invitations with a host line reading, “XYZ Corporation invites you to ”,
     I now have read that the host must be a person. I plan to say we need to have an executive to issue the invitation instead but why?
       --MW in Savannah

Dear MW,
      Such rules always have a practical origin
      One of the obligations of a guest to to reply to the host and tell him or her that the guest is coming, Then the guest must find the host at the event and thank them for an invitation. And finally the guest find their host again to thank them as they depart.
     It can be an office, a name, or an office + name.
     Either of these provide the guest with what he or she needs to know to be a good guest.

The President of XYZ Corporation

Mark L. Henderson
President of XYZ Corporation

       -- Robert Hickey

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 Ms. Manning, 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/her 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/her 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,

       Re: use of "Mr. Powell" above.: In the case of Colin Powell he has let it be known he prefers General Powell when it's not related directly to either.
       This is the same situation with General James Mattis, USMC, Retired. As Secretary of Defense he is addressed in writing as the Honorable James Mattis. and orally as Mr. Secretary -- or if the room is full of Cabinet secretaries, less formally he'd be addressed as Secretary Mattis.
       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

How to Write an Official's Name on a Place Card?
       Can you tell me how to write a mayor's name on a formal place card?
Do I refer to him as:
              The Honorable Mayor Darr
       or is it:
              Mayor Mark A. Darr
       -- Nicole in Little Rock

       I am hosting a dinner for a U.S. Senator. How should her place card be written? Is it  Senator Dianne Feinstein? – or – Diane Feinstein, U.S. Senator ?
       -- Debbie in Corporate Affairs

      Can you help me with the proper form to use on a place card for the following person?:  H.E. Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Qatar.
       --  William at the Statehouse 

Dear Nicole, Debbie & William:
       I provide complete details on how to write place cards in my book if this sort of question comes up often.

       A formal place card simply identifies a person's seat. The name is written on one side of the card: the side facing the guest.  You write his or her's name as he or she is addressed in conversation:
                     Mr. Hickey
                     Mayor Darr
                     Senator Feinstein
                     Sheikh Mohammed
       At formal events there's likely a centerpiece/floral arrangement so other guests can't see one another's cards anyway. So there is no functional purpose to putting a name on both sides.
      At official events, when the guest holds a high office, it is traditional to write just title of the office the official holds. 
                     The President
                     The Chief Justice
                     The Mayor of (City)
                     The Minister of Foreign Affairs
       At less-formal events larger double-sided tent cards or placards (text on both sides, so others at the table can see who is who and network) can have whatever information the host decides is useful:
              The Honorable Mark A. Darr
              The Honorable Mark A. Darr
              Mayor of (Name of City)

              The Honorable Mark A. Darr
              Mayor of (Name of City), State, Country

              H.E. Sheikh Khalid bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani

              H.E. Sheikh Khalid bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani
              Minister of Foreign Affairs
              H.E. Sheikh Khalid bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani
              Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar
So don't ask "what do I put on the card?" 
           Ask -- What is the function of the card?
           What information will best support that function?
           Does it only need to show the guest which their seat?
           To provide 'call-by name' for others to see and use?
          ... Or does it need to provide identification for networking?

                          -- Robert Hickey

Retired: Spelled Out or Abbreviated?
    We have been struggling with setting up consistent prefixes and suffixes in our database for our military grads. For retired service folks should we spell our “retired” or use the “Ret.” abbreviation?  Is there a comma after the branch of service or is it “USN Ret.”

    -- Development Office, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Dear Fund Raiser:
For official correspondence DOD guides use the comma ... and either "Ret." or "Retired" is acceptable.
             Brigadier General Arthur Portnow, USA, Retired
             Brigadier General
Arthur Portnow, USA, Ret.
    You may want to consider for your database using the service-specific abbreviations for the ranks:
Arthur Portnow, USA, Retired
Arthur Portnow, USA, Ret.
    [DoD documents show the form as: (rank) (full name) (USN, USMC, or other branch) (Ret.) but that is not meant to include Ret. in parentheses.]
    DOD people like the service-specific abbreviations because they can tell that a BG is in the Army, and a BGen is a Marine.  All those
service-specific abbreviations ... USA, USN, USMC, USAF and CG .... are in my book.
   Note that the branch of service and retired status may not be necessary for what you are doing: On social correspondence (personal letters, invitations or cards) their status ... active duty, retired ... or branch of service ... is not pertinent ... and is not suggested in DOD guides.
    When "retired" IS PERTINENT is in military environments where "active duty" personnel are present.
    Say a retired officer is working at a defense contractor. It would be potentially confusing to present themselves as a "General" when in fact they are not longer a commanding officer and may be dealing with an active duty "General".   That's the logic, and in that case "Retired' is always noted.

                           -- Robert Hickey

Retired: In Parentheses or Not?
Dear Mr. Hickey,
      Regarding your advice to write one’s name when retired.
                MSgt Trevor Ross USAF (Ret.) 
      With the parentheses as shown above is the correct way to signify for retirees -- not as you advised.
                   -- T.R.

Dear TR:
       Thanks for your note, but I disagree. Either of these forms is correct:
            MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, Retired
            MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, Ret.
      Here’s why: the DoD stylebook suggests:
           (Rank) (Name), (Branch of Service), (Retired)
           (Rank) (Name), (Branch of Service), (Ret.)
      Every protocol officer I’ve polled (and that is a large number including the offices of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of the Army) all say the DoD stylebook is not suggesting to include parentheses around
Ret. anymore than it is suggesting to put parentheses around the (Rank) or (Name).
       So while I agree you do see people using the parentheses around Ret.… I follow the lead of those at the protocol officers at the top of the Pentagon .... and they all say "no parentheses."
               -- Robert Hickey

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 29 October 2018

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      

     Back to Main Page of the Robert Hickey's BLOG 

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

Copyright © 2016 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.

All information on is copyright © 2016 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®