Archive for February, 2010

How should I address foreign diplomats who are not the ambassador – rather, they are in the ambassador’s office. Their positions are “Counselor, Deputy Chief of Mission” and “Counselor, Congressional Liaison Officer.” Thanks in advance for your assistance,
— Ellen

Dear Ellen:
Everyone at a foreign embassy …. except the ambassador …. is:
Mr./Mrs./Ms. (Full Name)
Embassy of (Official Name of Country)

In a salutation they would be
Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. (Surname):
I’ve never seen “counselor” used as an honorific in writing for a diplomat. I would use their office after their name in an introduction … but not on an envelope.
Internationally “Ms.” is not as ubiquitous as it is in the US, but a foreign diplomat serving in the US would be familiar with it.
Only an accredited ambassador — sent by a head of state –bwho has presented his credientials to the head of state or head of the international organization — is addressed as “His/Her Excellency” or in direct address “Your Excellency”
— Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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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:
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.
Today I find married women use various honorifics at various times depending of the situation.
Ms. Robin Buchanan …  where their marital status is not an issue
Mrs. (husband’s first name) Buchanan …. in very formal situations or when involved just as “a spouse”
Mrs. Robin Buchanan …. makes sense for women with kids — when dealing with school teachers (as you do) who they want to be a “Mrs.” because they are in the discussion because they are Mrs. Mom … and they ALSO want to provide their first name for those with whom they would be on a first-name basis.
For formal etiquette geeks like me Mrs. Robin Buchanan is the traditional form for a divorced women 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

Dear Mr. Hickey
Thank you for your prompt and thorough answer to my question. As a school director, I hope that our teachers follow proper etiquette in every way, especially when dealing with the public.  I will relay your response to the librarian and show that we all can learn something new every day. I certainly have! I will refer to your site for all protocol questions.
I followed the link to review your book. I enjoyed the section on how to address a PhD and how to address a MD. I work with few PhDs but an increasing number of EdDs (Doctorate of Education). I previously worked in health care and therefore worked with many physicians. From my limited experience, the PhDs and EdDs all are more defensive about being called “doctor” than an MD. I agree with your medical friend’s response to the “doctor” question.
Thank you again for your time.   It was a pleasure.
Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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In Chicago, we have aldermen who are elected to the City Council. Are they addressed as The Honorable in the address section? How should they be addressed in a salutation at the opening of a letter?
— Timothy Fields

Dear Mr. Fields:
City officials …. because they are elected, are entitled to be addressed as “The Honorable (full name)” and in a salutation use  “Mr. Smith”  “Dr. Wilson”  “Ms. Harrison”  etc. However whether the are addressed by as “The Honorable” does vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction by local custom.
I’ve heard alderman addressed as “Alderman Wilson” in conversation …. or referred to by a staff member in as “The Alderman will be here in ten minutes”  …. but “Alderman” is not used most formally as honorific in writing.  Address as Mr./Ms./etc. (Full Name).
Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I have to write to the curators of several Scottish Highland regimental museums.  Only one of the curators is identified by rank and name.
As to the others, I have no idea if the addressee is male or female, or whether rank is involved.  I presume (rebuttably) that the body of the letter would be addressed to ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, but I have no idea of the proper form for addressing the envelope.
Thank you for any help in this matter.
— John Luther

Dear Mr. Luther:
No names. No ranks. If I didn’t have either I’d address it to:
(Name of Museum)
And the salutation as you suggest:
Dear Sir or Madam:
However, before addressing to an unnamed person … I’d make an effort to contact them (phone or e-mail) and get a name. How a conversation begins often determines where the relationship goes. So when they know you went out out of your way to get their name … you will be starting the conversation on the right foot.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I will be sending a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual, so I read the section on your website about how to address a letter to him — thank you. But which salutation do I use at the opening of the letter? Is it Mr. Emanual or Chief of Staff Emanual?
— Kyle in Chicago

Dear Kyle:
Use Dear Mr. Emanuel: in the salutation. Chief of Staff is “an office” … and is not used as an honorific.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I’ve recently switched careers into nursing and have noticed that the order for post nominals, which I had previously thought went in the order of [degree] [licensure] [certification], is frequently violated.  The licensure, RN, is placed either before or after the degree, or multiple degrees of the same type are listed.  What exactly is the proper way for a nurse to list their degree(s), licensure (RN), and professional certification(s)?
— Kyle in Chicago

Dear Kyle:
The sequence I use is much like yours ….
[academic degrees] [professional certifications] [memberships/associations]
To determine the sequence of post nominals within a category you’d order them in some logical way … most important to least important OR alphabetical if you thought they were equal. Alpha is how the British list honors … and they include many, many, more honors that we do in the US.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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Good morning Robert:
I’m writing to inquire into an apparent discrepancy between Judith Martin’s writing on former titles and the position you put forth in you wonderful book. Specifically, Miss Manners writes about the One At A Time Rule (OAAT Rule) applying only to the President and that title holders revert back to their prior highest official title held.  You write that the OAAT Rule refers to all exclusive positions (Gov/Mayor.) which there is only one office holder at a time.
How does the lay person make sense of what looks like inconsistency within our field?  Many thanks for you help, Robert!
— Susan, A Graduate of The Protocol School of Washington

Dear Susan:
If Judith Martin says a former governor is formally addressed as “Governor” and a former mayor is formally addressed as “Mayor” … then I would disagree with her and would not agree it is historically based.   They continue to be “The Honorable” but most formally revert back their highest former title that wasn’t a O-A-A-T office.

My position is the most formal forms of address, the one used as official events. If someone is addressing a former O-A-A-T official by their former title, there is some element of flattery by the speaker, or some element of the former office holder wishing to hang onto the honors and courtesies of their former office.

Ask this question: At your company, club or association, is the former president addressed as ‘President’?  The answer is always no.  Addressing multiple people as president — or as mayor — or as governor — is confusing.

I’ve had e-mails from readers in Annapolis saying they always called former Maryland governors “Governor (Name)”.  I read that Sarah Palin’s publishing publicist directed people to call her “Governor Palin’ when she was on her book tour. And I’ve seen Newt Gingrich addressed as “Speaker Gingrich” on TV.  Former vice presidents, prime ministers, chief justices, chairmen, and chancellors, all get the same treatment.
But everytime I have directly asked a current or former O-A-A-T office holder … be they a mayor of a city or president of the country club …. they confirm the O-A-A-T rule is correct — having been in the situation of being ‘current office holder’ and having had interactions with ‘formers.’

The point is not to deny the former official of his or her history …. or to deny our deep gratitude for their service.  But our system allows only one person to hold certain offices and to speak with the authority of those offices. While they are in office they receive certain honors and courtesies that belong to the office, not to them personally. Having held the office, while notable, does not grant a lifetime elevation to some personal rank.

I think some of the confusion comes from people hearing e.g., former president Bill Clinton referred to as “President Clinton” on TV.  This is not a form of address but is narrative in the third person.  A newscaster referring to Bill Clinton in a story … is not a direct form of address.  If you meet him call him “Mr. Clinton.” If you introduce him use “The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton.”  Both are respectful and honor the current office holder.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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