Archive for May 15th, 2009

Dear Robert,
My first cousin Dana is married to a U.S. Congressman from South Carolina. I want to send them a thank-you note. I’m considering the following as the first line on my envelope:
              The Honorable Joe and Dana Baxter
Is this correct? His name seems formal. Her’s — not so much!
 — Jeff Williams, Mayor Pro Tem, Laurel, Texas

Dear Jeff,
The most formal way is to NOT break up the official person’s name and to give it a line by itself … so … most formally on the outside envelope it would be:
          The Honorable Joe Baxter
and Mrs. Baxter

OR a little bit less formally…
        The Honorable Joe Baxter and Mrs. Baxter
That’s the way the White House would send out the envelope. Being a US Representative is after all … a big deal. He’s entitled to his whole name, all together.
Women who use the same last name as their husbands don’t get their first name in a joint form of address: If she used a different last name she’s be “and Ms. Dana Williams”
And I’d not suggest you use “Mrs. Dana Baxter” since most traditionally that would be a form used in joint address to indicate they were divorced.
Then on the inside … where it’s personal … you would use her given name.
     Dear Joe and Dana,
— Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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Dear Mr. Hickey:
How would you address an invitation to Hillary Clinton and her husband??
        — Phyllis Brown

Dear Ms. Brown:
    Truth is you probably wouldn’t send an joint invitation unless you are a very close personal friend: it’s not like just anyone could say “Hillary, come to dinner and bring your hubby.” They each have an office (and scheduler) you’d have to contact. But that said — Bill Clinton has higher precedence as a former president than a current Secretary of State, so his name would be first. As a former president of the United States he is most formally The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton … and she is most formally as a current member of the cabinet addressed by “title” as … The Secretary of State.

            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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Dear Mr. Hickey:
    How do I address a wedding invitation to a former US Senator and his wife?
        — Marcia Buchanan

Dear Ms. Buchanan:
This formula works for both current and former U.S. Senators and State Senators.
On the invitation’s envelope write their names like this — line for line:
            The Honorable William T. Buchanan
                 and Mrs. Buchanan
    The formal form is to write the official’s name on a line by itself. And … formally … if his wife uses the same family name she does not get her first name.
    But, if his wife uses a different last family write it like this — line for line.
         The Honorable William T. Buchanan
                and Ms. Marcia Smith
Formally if she uses a different last name she does get her first name.
    You didn’t ask it, but if you are using an inside envelope write, most formally …..
               Senator Buchanan and Mrs. Buchanan
    What most people want to write is Senator and Mrs. Buchanan following the order in the standard Mr. and Mrs.Buchanan …. but with officials keep their whole name all together as a unit.
            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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Dear Mr. Hickey
When Barack Obama met Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip he called them “Your Majesty” and “Your Highness.”  Was that right? Was Michelle Obama putting her arm around the queen wrong?  I think it was nice.
        — Dana Harriman

Dear Ms.Harriman
        First the form of address question — a protocol question: The Queen of the United Kingdom, and every queen in the world, is directly addressed as Your Majesty.  A queen’s name is never used in direct address. When you hear “Queen Elizabeth” in the media, it’s sort of shorthand for Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom and Her Other Realms and Territories – which is a mouthful.
    The Prince Philip is not a Highness, he is a Royal Highness, and the correct address would have been Your Royal Highness.  
    Even though The President’s addres was a mistake, I am certain the whole thing was unimportant to the The Prince Philip.  British royals are imminently familiar with Americans and our lack of practice with the forms of address used when addressing nobility.
    Second the touching question — an etiquette question: 
Mrs. Obama putting her arm around the Queen was a more “familiar” gesture than would be correct by British tradition. Ms. Obama’s action does indicate that the Obamas were not as knowledgeable of British traditions as they might have been.
    No one questions the Obamas sincerity or warmth, but the visit was not a personal visit for Barack, Elizabeth, Philip and Michelle … it was an official, symbolic, photographed (and as such public) first meeting between heads of state. As such, a formal approach would have been appropriate for the situation. 
    If I met The President I would not go up and give him the big hug that is common between men in the US nowadays. Out of respect for him and his office … I would not. He’s entitled to his space!
    Same with the Queen. There are a many ways to express warmth, sincerity, interest, and respect without touching — and touching a royal person is not their tradition.
            — Robert Hickey      www.formsofaddress.info

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Dear Mr. Hickey,
      I have a very serious legal matter which requires contacting the US Attorney General. Can you tell me the correct salutation to use?
            — Paula Roth

Dear Ms.Roth,
     I have some basics on the Attorney General page on this site already. See that page.
In a salutation address him as Mr. Attorney General.

 — Robert Hickey      www.formsofaddress.info

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