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Archive for September, 2009

Dear Mr. Hickey,
In Europe, university professors use the honorific Prof., or Prof. Dr., in (semi-) formal social context.
Is it ever acceptable for Americans to do so in the US? It might be valuable to distinguish oneself from a medical doctor.
Thank you,
David Uslan, PhD
Associate Professor of Astronomy
University of (State)

Dear Dr. Uslan,
In the UK they have a tradition of using every honorific, courtesy title, and rank one is entitled to. Their name is their resume … their curriculum vitae.
So, you do see names written … as you note:
Professor Dr. David Uslan
You even see:
His Excellency the Reverend Captain Sir David Uslan, PhD.
The Germans do it too: Ambassador Professor David UslanGeneral Dr. David Uslan. etc.
In the US we have a simplified tradition of just using the one honorific, courtesy title, or rank — usually choosing the one that is pertinent or is the preference of the bearer. For example the former US Senator from Tennessee, Bill Frist, was an MD and a US Senator. He preferred to be Dr. Frist to Senator Frist, but was neverSenator Dr. Frist.
In your case I’d say that traditionally you would be
Professor Uslan -or- Dr. Uslan in the classroom.
David Uslan, PhD on a letter mailed to your office (post-nominals with official correspondence)
or
Dr. David Uslan on a holiday card mailed to your home (honorific with social correspondence).
I had another Q&A that was similar, FYI.

– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I am wondering if it is improper to use abbreviated ranks on an invitation’s envelope. Would this be correct?
LTC & Mrs. John Smith   (on the envelope)
— Diana in Baltimore

Dear Diana:
Most formally everything in an address on a formal invitation’s envelope is spelled out … except for
1) Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.
2) State abbreviations: MD, VA, PA … because that’s what the US Postal service requests
3) … and by the Armed Services …. the service-specific abbreviations for ranks ..  LTC vs. LtCol vs. Lt Col … for the Lieutenant Colonel in the ArmyMarines, andAir Force respectively. These are always
abbreviated by the U.S. Armed Services on envelopes and everywhere else for that matter. You can use them too, but just make sure you get caps and spacing right or you will put your guest into the wrong service.
One comment on the way you wrote the name. Most formally when addressing a person who has an honorific, rank or title other than Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. you shouldn’t break up their “honorific” from their name …
So rather than:
LTC and Mrs. John Smith
The Honorable and Mrs. John Smith
Judge and Mrs. John Smith
Most formally it would be:
LTC John Smith
and Mrs. Smith
The Honorable John Smith
and Mrs. Smith
Judge John Smith
and Mrs. Smith
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I am going to meet Joe Biden, The Vice President. What should I call him when I do?
Lloyd Greene in DC

Dear Mr. Greene:
The holders of the highest offices in our government are addressed as Mr. (Office)
or Madame (Office) … not by their name. So simply call him Mr. Vice President.
You might hear The Vice President referred to as Vice President Biden in the media, but this is used to identify
The Vice President in the third person or in a news story, not the most formal form of direct address.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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It has been said the Lieutenant Governor of a US state should be addressed asGovernor just as a Lt. Colonel is addressed as Colonel. People want to address the Lt. Gov. with the whole title of “Lieutenant Governor”, however, that is very cumbersome.  Or should the person address simply be, “Mr. Jones”?
Wondering

Dear Wondering:
Addressing a lieutenant governor as Governor (name) is really going to displease the governor of your state.  Vice president’s aren’t addresses as President because it shorter.  Lieutenant governors don’t have a special honorific for their office. Simply address him or her as Mr./Ms./etc. (name) … and identify as the Lieutenant Governor of (state) as necessary.
You might hear the Lieutenant Governor referred to as  “Lieutenant Governor Herbert” or “Lieutenant Governor Bell” in the media, but these are phrases used to identify these officials in a news story, not a direct forms of address.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I am told that we should address our state attorney general as “General”. However, I think the derivation of the term “attorney general” is that this office is the attorney for the general populace/constituency rather than an attorney for a specific group or person, and that the rank of the office is not a “general” in the military sense.
GB in Salt Lake

Dear AS:
The person who told you that doesn’t know what’s correct!  Addressing an attorney general as “General (Name)” is just wacky.
Mister/Madam Attorney General …. yes
Mr./Ms. (surname) ….
yes
You might hear an attorney general referred to as Attorney General (Name) in the media, but that’s a phrase to identify him in a news story, not a direct form of address.

– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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Increasingly in this country (UK) people with PhDs are signing themselves in their correspondence (such as in e-mail) as Dr (Name). I have always thought that it was bad form to present yourself your title (even Mr). Shouldn’t people use (Name),  PhD andNOT Dr (Name)? Is there is a difference in practice between US and UK?  (By the way, I have a PhD.)
Geoff In London

Dear Geoff in London:
I have several Q&A on giving oneself an honorific. See http://www.formsofaddress.info/PA.html and specifically at  http://www.formsofaddress.info/PA.html#106 where I compare those who hold doctorates and work in different places.
But on the Honorific vs Post-nominal Abbreviation issue … (Name), (post-nominal initials)
is how you address a person on a letter to their office (professional correspondence). Dr. (name) is how you address a person in conversation or address a letter to their home (social correspondence).
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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Is the “t” capitalized when referring to the Honorable?
— Carl Hanson

Dear Mr. Hanson:
It’s not capitalized unless it’s the first word in a line … or in a sentence.
In my book I followed the style recommendations of the Chicago Manual of Style andNew York Times Manual of Style … and neither would cap the “t” in “the Honorable” in the middle of sentence.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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My future son-in-law, a West Point grad who is now a Captain in the Army, visited our home last weekend for the first time. I am writing him a thank you note for his thoughtful hostess gift. My question: on the envelope do I write Mr. William Smithor Captain William Smith? I know from referencing my copy of your book Honor and Respect that I would write Captain if this was official business — but this is personal. Which title would be correct?
— Rennie Hendricks

Dear Ms. Hendricks:
He’s always a “Captain (name)” except when you are addressing him on a first-name basis!
Use the form I show in my
book Honor and Respect listed as “Envelope, Social” … just below “Envelope, Official.”
Social envelope:
Captain William Smith
Address
i hope you are on a first name with him!  So inside start your note …
Dear Bill,
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I have a question as to how to address a wedding invitation when the husband is a Doctor and the wife is a pharmacist?  She has a PharmD so should I address the envelope as The Doctors Smith or do I address it as Dr. and Mrs. John Smith?
— Sarah Faulders

Dear Ms. Faulders:
She probably uses “Dr. Susan Smith” socially. If so, then address the envelope:
Dr. John Smith
and Dr. Susan Smith
(address)
On the inside envelope (if the invitation has an inside envelope) if she used “Dr” socially, you would write:
Drs. Smith
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I am meeting one of our former congressional representatives next week, and I am wondering if it is still appropriate to refer to them as Congressman orRepresentative, even though they have been voted out of office?
— Peter Michaels

Dear Mr, Michaels:
Address your former congressional representative as Mr./Ms./Mrs. (name), If you introduce him/her to someone … then add that he/she was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 19XX to 20XX for the XXX Congressional District of (State).
Current members of the US House are most formally addressed as
Mr./Ms./Mrs. (name),
You DO hear “Representative Smith” and “Congressman Smith” in the media as a shorthand way to refer to the official. It lets all the listeners know who this person is — there are so many members and it’s likely listeners won’t know every one. And sometimes members of the House like to be addressed as as  “Representative Smith”  and “Congressman Smith” when they are away from Washington … just to make sure everyone knows who they are. They like their status to be clear. But on Capital Hill … members address one another simply as
Mr./Ms./Mrs. (name),
I’ve spoken to many Members of the House Representatives on just this point and while some like their invented “Representative (name)” or “Congressman (name)” …. all agree that
Mr./Ms./Mrs. (name) is absolutely correct.
But in any event — former members don’t get a special honorific.

– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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