How do I write the name of an honoree who was our mayor. Is he Mr. (Full Name), Former Mayor (Full Name) or The Honorable (Full Name)?
  — Ken

Dear Ken,
Former US elected officials continue to be officially listed as The Honorable for life. Since there’s a new mayor this former official is no longer the mayor anymore. “Former mayor” identifies him, but is not a form of address.  
The Honorable
 (a courtesy title) is used by others addressing the person. So, while it is never used by the host on his/her own invitation, it is used when listing a honoree:
 The Honorable (Full Name)
     If you feel you need to note what his job was for some reason, you can include his office, or former office on the next line:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Mayor of River City, 1990-2000
— Robert Hickey

How do I address a retired American Ambassador?  He was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service so he was a diplomat for a long time before he was an ambassador.
           — Carol Bentley

How do I address someone who served as an American Ambassador?  He was a close personal friend of The President and served for four years.
           — Keith Inge

Dear Ms. Bentley & Mr. Inge:
Any retired or former ambassador is addressed on the envelope, or in the address block of the letter, in the standard style used for addressing high US officials:
 The Honorable (Full name)

And, in the salutation or conversation he/she would be addressed as:
   Dear Ambassador (Surname),
     The difference between ambassadors will arise when you introduce them, describe them, give their title, or identify them in writing.

How to identify a political appointee who served as a Ambassador?
Those appointed to serve as a U.S. ambassador after a career in another field (typically they serve just one administration, more or less) are introduced as:
            Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country) from Year to Year
            Former Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country)

Who can be identified as a “Career Ambassador, Retired”?
There are certain individuals who can be identified as a Career Ambassador.   They have been accorded the “Personal Rank of Career Ambassador” by the President. If you do a web search for “career-ambassador U.S. Department of State” you find the list. There aren’t many. This small category of ambassadors is introduced or identified as:
          Career Ambassador of the Foreign Service of the United States of America, Retired

Who can be identified as a “Ambassador, Retired”?
Career U.S. Foreign Service Officers who have served as a U.S. Ambassador at one or more U.S. embassies are introduced or identified as:
          Ambassador of the United States of America, Retired

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/

When Bill Clinton first won the presidency, the form of address used for him and the first lady, Hillary, was as follows:
     The President and Mrs. Clinton

This form of address fits into the traditional formula in writing: The President and Mrs. (Surname) and in conversation: 
Mr./Madam President and Mr./Mrs. (Surname).

If Hillary Clinton wins the current presidential election, Bill Clinton will be a first: the first First Husband, Spouse, Partner, or Significant Other.

So, how will the White House staff address Bill Clinton? How will his name appear with the President’s on invitations?  How will his place card read at a state dinner? How should the media address him or refer to him?  Perhaps First Gentleman Bill Clinton, awkward as that might seem? According to Robert Hickey, author of The Protocol School of Washington’s Honor and Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles and Forms of Address, the formula for the husband of President of the United States (POTUS) has been around for a long time. It just hasn’t been used thus far:

In writing: The President and Mr. (Full Name)

As a former elected official, Bill Clinton does have a special title. He is “the Honorable.” Using this courtesy title fits right in without a hitch.

In writing: The President and the Honorable (Full Name)

However, which version of Bill Clinton’s full name would be correct?  That is a matter of how formal a reporter or social secretary chooses to be for any given occasion. Bill Clinton, William J. Clinton, or William Jefferson Clinton might be frequent choices.

Still, two questions linger:

1. How should he be addressed in direct conversation or as a salutation?
 a.  Mr. Clinton
b.  President Clinton

2. How should reporters refer to him in order to not mislead or confuse their audience on who is the current president and who is not?
 a.  Mr. Clinton
b.  President Clinton
c.  Former President Clinton

According to Hickey, the right option for both questions would be  a. Mr. Clinton.

“While it is common practice in the media and elsewhere to address and identify former presidents as ‘President (Name),’ this is a mistake,” said Hickey. “Serving as President of the United States does not grant one the personal rank of ‘President’ for life. The office of President is a one-person-at-a-time role that a specific individual holds and then hands off to the next person.”

“Courtesies, honors, and special forms of address are symbols of the power of the office. They belong to the office and to the citizens, not former office holders.”

Hickey goes on to say the media and the public should be wary of identifying or addressing previous holders of the presidency and other unique offices by referring to them as “former (title).” This qualifier diminishes the singular prestige of both the office and its current occupant and is potentially misleading/confusing to their audience.

“There is an accepted term of respect used for previous presidents and other elected U.S. officials to recognize their service. This title is one of high distinction that they keep for life: she or he is addressed as “the Honorable (Full Name).”

I just looked at your website and I have a question .You reference a directive “the DoD directive you refer to forbids the use by retired personnel of a military rank in any sort of commercial enterprise.” Do you know the exact citation for the directive?

— Writing Away @ the Institute for Defense Analyses



Here is what I have posted on my website (which has more information than this WordPress Version)

Note: JER is the Joint Ethics Regulations.

JER, para. 2-304 concerns use of ranks

“Use of Military Title by Retirees or Reserves. Retired military members and members of Reserve Components, not on active duty, may use military titles in connection with commercial enterprises, provided they clearly indicate their retired or inactive Reserve status. However, any use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD.”

“In addition, in overseas areas, commanders may further restrict the use of titles by retired military members and members of Reserve Components.”

Here is an U.S. Army regulations that is related. Army Regulation 25-50, paragraph 6-6, paragraph d. The regulation refers to retired personnel in a post-retirement job among active-duty personnel but in which they are not on active-duty. “Army retirees serving as DA (Department of the Army) civilians will not use or refer to their military grade or rank except when referring to their personal retirement actions.”

DODI 5410.20 concerns use of uniforms or insignia

Paragraph 7 lists criteria to determine whether the best interests of the Government and DoD are enhanced by use of DoD materials, uniforms and insignia by anyone other than the Government and DoD. Any use of identifiably DoD material outside a a DoD environment is limited.

DODI 1334.01 concerns wearing of uniforms:

“It is DoD policy that:

3.1. The wearing of the uniform by members of the Armed Forces (including retired members and members of Reserve components) is prohibited under any of the following circumstances:

3.1.2. During or in connection with furthering political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest may be drawn.”

— Robert Hickey

Frequently I hear TV journalists address clergymen as ‘Reverend Smith” or simply as ‘Reverend’.  I think these are incorrect.  Am I wrong?
       — BH in Maryland

Dear BH,
Here’s what the standard in formal communications.  In writing use:
  The Reverend (Full Name)
  The Reverend Bennett Smith
      The conversational form (and what you use in a salutation) is:
 Pastor/Father/Dr./etc. (Surname)
  Pastor Smith | Father Smith | Dr. Smith | etc.
      Since not all communication is formal. If you are on the equivalent of being on a first-name basis.– the familiar, informal, version is often:
 Pastor/Father/Dr. (Given name)
    Pastor Bennett | Father Bennett | Dr. Bennett | etc.
What about Rev. (Name)?
“Rev.” is a shorthand version of “The Reverend”.  And indeed Rev. (Name) is the preference of some, but not all, clergy. Therefore use it when you know it is their preference.  If you don’t know their preference – ask.  Asking is always appropriate.
When Rev. is the preference rather than Pastor/Father/Dr./etc., use Rev. conversation and in a salutation. But in writing use the standard formal form – the Reverend (Full Name).
— Robert Hickey 

I have a Doctor of Medicine degree, Master of Science in Technical Management, Master of Science in Chemistry, and Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry.  I have only ever used: MY NAME, MD.  I see other physicians using THEIR NAME, MD, MS to include the fact that they have a master’s degree.  Which is correct?

I am a holistic health practitioner (HHP), certified aromatherapist (cert aroma), registered aromatherapist (RA), master herbalist (MH), licensed massage therapist (LMT) and esthetician (LE).
      Should my name on my business card be (Full Name), HHP, cert aroma, MH, LMT, LE, RA?

Dear KTW & HHP:
Two issues here:
  (1) What is pertinent to your clients? 
On their business card (and other items presented to the public) individuals use the pertinent post nominals when presenting their name to the public (clients, peers, licensing agencies, etc.) so the public can know with what preparation they present themselves.
E.g., physicians include MD and professional affiliations to define their type of schooling and specialty. Both clarify to the public their credentials to offer their service. They could include another degree/certification such as a Masters in Science in Chemistry when related. But a Masters in Fashion Design might not be. Both degrees would be on their CV/resume but whether they are used with the name on a business card would depend on the service offered.
  (2) Which post-nominals will the public recognize? 
When they are yours you are very proud of every one.  But a business card is not your CV/resume.
So, when deciding which post nominals to include, you should also ask: are what the post nominals stand for common knowledge?
If they are not, it may be better just to list the services you offer e.g, “Holistic Health Practitioner” “Master Herbalist”  “Aromatherapy” and “Licensed Massage Therapist” on your card — and the detailed information on the on your CV/resume.
           — Robert Hickey

I received a note addressed to M Chris Buchanan, not Mrs. or Ms.  
Is using M proper?
        — Ms. Chris Buchanan

I have read there is a rule that one never signs one’s signature with an honorific — Mr., Mrs., Judge, Senator, Captain, Dr., etc. But I sign my e-mails Mr. Robin Thompson so people when they reply know to address me as Mr. Thompson rather than Ms. Thompson.
Is that O.K.?
        — Mr. Robin Thompson

Dear Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thompson:
     The issues here are “how to address someone as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss when you don’t know their gender?”  #1 & #2 below – and – “How to specify your gender when you know they will want to know it?” #3.
     1) Though not traditionally formal, when you don’t know the gender and you want to address someone, address them by their (Given Name)+(Family Name):

Chris Buchanan
Dear Chris Buchanan,

Robin Thompson
Dear Robin Thompson,

     2) If you want to formally address someone and use Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss … and don’t want to do #1, you have to ask them to share that information: call their office. That takes time, but is the only thing you can do. If you are trying to start an important conversation, what could be more important than getting their name right?
     3) With regard to not giving oneself an honorific, I still advise when you sign your signature never give yourself an honorific: just sign your name.
But it is O.K. to type your name at the end of an e-mail as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss (Given Name)+(Family Name) to someone you have not met – or – type your name as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss (Given Name)+(Family Name) in the signature block (above which you actually sign) on the letter.
      Others will want to know – and it is both useful and considerate to provide that information.
– Robert Hickey

I am a school board representative who received a hand-written note from the school librarian asking me to read to a class. The envelope was addressed to M Robin Buchanan, not Mrs. or Ms.
Is using M to address a woman a proper salutation? I understood M is to be used to address men.
I thought perhaps the librarian did not know if I was a male or female, although that information would be easy to find.
Should I be concerned by her lack of consideration to the person she is writing to or worry that she is using improper salutations?   Or do I something new to learn?    Thank you for your clarification.
Best regards,
    — Mrs. Robin Buchanan

Dear Ms. Buchanan:
     1) The issue here is ‘how to address you formally?’  I suspect they wrote M Robin Buchanan … just because didn’t which honorific you preferred … or didn’t know your gender … and were avoiding the issue. I advise if one is writing someone and are unsure of how he or she prefers to be addressed — call and ask. I find no one minds being asked how to be addressed respectfully.
     2) As to the question of ‘How do I present my name to others?’  …. today I observe that married women use various honorifics depending on the situation.
Ms. Robin Buchanan …  where their marital status is not an issue but you want to specify an honorific. Doing so implies you are not automatically on a first-name basis and prefer be formally addressed in conversation as Ms. Buchanan.  Many women use this form at work.
 Mrs. (husband’s first name) Buchanan …. in very formal situations or when you are involved as a spouse/part of a couple. This definitely implies that others will call you Mrs. Surname.  Widows continue to use this form when formally addressed as part of a couple.
 Mrs. Robin Buchanan is often the choice of women in the context of being a mom — dealing with school teachers (as you do), pediatricians, etc.  This form provides the given name for those with whom they would be on a first-name basis: this form provides information for others to address them by (First name) or as Mrs. (Surname).  Part of presenting your name is giving guidance to the other person as to what you want to be called in subsequent conversation.
[Another note: Traditional etiquette references state that using Mrs. (Woman’s Given name) + (Family name) is the form used by a divorced woman, who wants to keep using her former husband’s family name, but can no longer use Mrs. (husband’s given name) (Family Name) because her former husband might have remarried and there would be a new Mrs. (husband’s given name) (Family Name).Thus, she uses her given name with Mrs.  But some still married women don’t care what was ‘traditional’ in etiquette books and like to use Mrs. … thus including their marital status with their given name.
 Robin Buchanan …. is casual. You also use this form when signing your own name: One never gives oneself an honorific.
So to me — you are all of those names at different times. You choose the one that’s right for the circumstance.
For formal etiquette geeks like me Mrs. Robin Buchanan is the traditional form for a divorced woman who was formerly married to someone named “Buchanan” …. but had kept using the “Buchanan” perhaps because that’s the family name of her kids, or for some other reason.  BUT … one of the basics of forms of address is that your name belongs to you …. and EVERYONE is entitled to be addressed as they prefer!
    — Robert Hickey

How do you address a former pope of the Roman Catholic Church? I bet you never considered that!
          — B. E. in Georgia

Dear B.E.,
It’s less that I have not considered it, than the Roman Catholic Church didn’t have a formal style for how to address a retired pope in it’s modern literature.
I don’t define how anyone is addressed … I just keep track of how current organizations address their current and former officials – so those of us outside their domain can address them correctly.
Now they’ve established there can be a former office holder.
Some would have guessed that Pope Benedict would return to the form of address to which he was entitled before assuming office — cardinal. There are already retired former office holders at that level. Having a retired cardinal addressed in the same way as current cardinals presents no confusion, since being a cardinal is not a singular (only-one-office-holder-at-a-time) position.

* For example, when Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated the throne to her son Willem-Alexander in 2013, she returned to the form of address to which she was entitled prior to taking office: Princess.

However, In the UK, “Queen Elizabeth” – the Queen Mother (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was the mother of Queen Elizabeth II, the present British sovereign, and the widow of King George VI) continued to be addressed as Your Majesty when her daughter assumed the throne without much mishap.

These situations are, of course, a bit different, but they are modern examples of how other hierarchies dealt with titles of office holders.
       — Robert Hickey 

How should a pastor go about signing his or her name?  I’m wondering whether I should be signing my name as “Rev. (Full Name),” “(Full Name), Pastor,” or ” Pastor (Full Name).”
     — DPM

Dear DPM,
When you say signing your name …. well, actually we just sign our names as … our name.
I never sign Mr. Robert Hickey …. I just sign Robert Hickey.
Physicians don’t sign their prescriptions (if you can read their signature) as Dr. (Name), they sign as (Full Name).  Full Name, MD appears in writing on the form, so they don’t need to include MD in their signature.  Even the President of the United States just signs his name to correspondence.
So, it would be odd to give yourself an “honorific” when you sign your own name.
Formally in writing your name is written (e.g., on the letter for you to sign above, in the weekly bulletin, or a sign outside your church} as:
   The Reverend (Full Name)  or
              The Reverend (Full Name), Pastor
In up to you to let others know how you like to be addressed in conversation or a salutation — Rev. (Name), Pastor (Name) etc..  So if you prefer pastor, a salutation would be:
    Dear Pastor (Surname).
       — Robert Hickey