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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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