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Archive for May 17th, 2009

    In 1970  I was nominated by the President Nixon and confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary of Transportation. I was thereafter written to and addressed as “the Honorable”.
     In 1984 I was nominated by President Reagan and confirmed by the Senate as Under Secretary of Health and Human Services. Same “the Honorable” form of address.
     In between the two and after the second — in my civilian life — I used my business title, Chairman, President etc. with but two exceptions. My London office insisted upon using “the Hon.”, which seemed to please the British, and our Frankfort office, in typical German fashion, used all the titles they could think of.
     My question; is it permissible and a matter of my personal choice when to use “the Hon.” title somewhat similar to a “General” using his military tittle after retirement?
     I doubt that there would be many times when I would choose to do so, but upon occasion it might be useful (or amusing).
 
                     – The Honorable in DC

 

Dear The Honorable in DC:
    The rule is: once an “Honorable” always as “Honorable”.  So it is at the preference of the bearer (you), and the option of those who address you to use it.
    In the US we (by tradition) give a person one “courtesy title / honorific” before their name … usually the one appropriate for the topic you are addressing the individual. So a senator who is a doctor would be (in US tradition) Senator (last name) when you are his constituent, and a Dr. (last name) when he is examining your foot.
    As you note the British and the Germans use they all they are entitled to, so they would use Senator Dr. (name), and maybe even The Honorable Senator Dr. (full name), PhD, JD, Esq.
    That bring ups the Senator — Dr. Bill Frist, who asked to be called Dr. Frist. He didn’t follow the “rule” — but how one is addressed is always at the preference of the bearer.
            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info   

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I have an example referring to a former president as “The Honorable…”  Is that incorrect?  Yet I also find that one should call a former president as “Mr. (Last Name), and identify him as a former president. So what should I say to formally introduce a former president?
            — MJH

 

Dear MJH:
“The Honorable” is always used before a full name. So for instance, when you address a letter, include the name of an official in program, or introduce an official from the dias at an event – the most formal way to say their name would be “The Honorable (full name)” and then identify their office.
     So these would be correct:
          “The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, former president of the United States”
          “The Honorable Sonny Perdue, governor of Georgia”
          “The Honorable Roy Barnes, former governor of Georgia”
          “The Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles”
     These would NOT be correct
          “The Honorable Clinton”
          “The Honorable S. Purdue”
          “The Honorable Former Governor Barnes”
          “The Honorable Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa”
     These would be correct for direct address or in a one-on-one introduction or in conversation:
          “Mr. Clinton”
          “Governor Perdue”
          “Mr. Barnes”
          “Mayor Villaraigosa”
            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info   

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In a picture caption, should George Washington be “The Honorable George Washington”, “President George Washington” or “George Washington, our First President”?
             — CH in Watkinsville, GA

 
Dear CH:
A picture caption is not a direct form of address, so you can refer to the person however it will be the most clear to the reader. In the United States, George Washington is certainly one person who requires no elaborate “who he is and what he did” clarifications!
     “The Honorable” would be appropriate, but would be unusual. I’ve seen a list of “Honorables” being honored at an event and listed on program, and one of the honorees was recently deceased.  That person was listed among the honorees as“The Honorable (full name), 1935-2004, which worked in the context of that list on that program.
      NOW IF … I  was directly addressing the first president of the United States, in a seance perhaps, the I think I would call him “General Washington.”
  Only a current president is “Mr. President”, and once out office they are most correctly “Mr. (surname)”, unless they have another honorific, which General Washington did.
            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info   

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Dear Robert,
     I have a question regarding a former district court judge (in New Hampshire) that has returned to private practice. Would this person still be called “The Hon.,” or would that be inappropriate because of his new role?
             — Mark in New Hampshire

 
Hi Mark
The rule is “once The Honorable, always The Honorable.” 
    So, address the official envelope:
        The Honorable (full name)
            (Name of Firm)
                Address

    Retired judges are usually addressed in conversation as “Judge (surname)”
    However this judge might not be using “judge” as an honorific. A judge who has returned to private practice would be addressed as “Mr. (surname)” professionally. That way he would not be addressed as “Judge (surname)” in court in the presence of the presiding judge! 
    But that said … friends might orally address him as 
Judge (surname) socially.
    We have a tradition in the US of using only ‘honorific” at a time. E.G., an Navy Captain who is a Doctor, might be addressed as “Captain (surname)” when he is your commanding officer, and as “Dr. (surname)” when he is examining your injured foot.

            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info   

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I am a the mayor of a municipality – and the question arose, “Are mayors honorable for life”
             — Cate Wilson in Florida

 
Dear Mayor Wilson:
The rule is “Once an Honorable, always an Honorable”  So if you are currently the mayor of a municipality you are most formally: The Honorable Cate Wilson, Mayor of (town) … and I would call you in conversation “Madame Mayor” -or- “Mayor Wilson” -or perhaps “Your Honor”
    When you leave office you will be”  The Honorable Cate Wilson, former Mayor of (town)-.  … and I would call you “Ms. Wilson” — since jobs of which there is only one at a time, don’t continue to use the “title” when they are out of office.

            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info   

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Dear Mr. Hickey:
Is it proper to use the term the Honorable to on my business card

         — Keith Reinhardt, Cleveland

Dear Mr. Reinhardt:
   Y
ou would not use The Honorable Keith Reinhardt on your own card. on your stationery, in a letter you write, in your own signature, or an invitation you would issue. In every case you would write Keith Reinhardt, (office), so if you were a Senator, it would be Keith Reinhardt, United States Senator from Ohio.
            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info   

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A friend has been elected at the county level to sit as state’s attorney in our circuit court.  He signed a registry “The Honorable (name)” – Was that appropriate?
             — ABH in Montana

 
Dear ABH:
One never describes oneself as “The Honorable” … others address you as such, but you never use it ‘reflexively’
    So, your friend should have signed the registry with just his name. If he issues an invitation, he wouldn’t use “The Honorable (full name)” either …. 
    But I would write his name on an envelope — or introduce him/her — as  “The Honorable (full name), State’s Attorney for the Sixth Circuit Court”
    One caveat … not all officials in every municipality will use “The Honorable.” E.g., in Arlington, Virginia for some reason elected members of the county council do not use 
“The Honorable.” — but the elected Sheriff does.  So I don’t know what the state’s attorneys in your area do.  But if that’s the tradition … he should use it — if not, he shouldn’t. That should be easy to find out.
           — Robert Hickey

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