Archive for May, 2010

I am writing with a question regarding the use of the Honorable in listings of names that are included on invitations. I work in the communications office at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. We hold many events on campus that often include invited guests of our President, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We are responsible for creating many materials including invitations and programs-for these events.
Our specific question is, how should we refer to Dr. Jackson on our invitations and programs, and what is the proper etiquette for listing titles for individuals who hold many degrees (both earned and honorary) and are also current or past holders of government offices and are “Honorables”.
Example: Is it proper to say, The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., invites you to join her and the 2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Honorary Degree Recipients as they come together to discuss Re-Igniting the Innovation Economy: Science and Technology. I had read that it is NOT proper for someone who is an Honorable to use it in an invitation. Please advise.
— DP

Dear DP:
I’ve driven by Renssalaer many times … so I am happy to see your note. What a fantastic institution.
To your question …. in the United States “The Honorable” is not used with military ranks, personal honorifics, or scholastic degrees.
The concept is … it is a courtesy title given by grateful citizens to those who have served “we the people” … either as an official in office via a general election … or appointed by the President of the United States.
It is an honor so high it trumps academic degrees.
One does not identify himself/herself as “The Honorable” … others address him/her as “The Honorable.”
So NO to:
The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
and YES to:
The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson
… or if the degree is important …. e.g. on a academic paper … or on in a list where you want to establish her academic accomplishments … then include it … BUT “The Honorable” disappears:
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

and in every instance in conversation she is:
Dr. Jackson

I say “in the United States” because the British DO INCLUDE all personal courtesy titles, ranks, honors, degrees, certifications, etc. with their name. Their ‘complete’ name is their resume.  So you will in see U.K. names such as:
His Excellency The Right Reverend Admiral Sir Kenneth Wilson, O.B., Ph.D., M.B.A., P.C.

On invitations the host/hostess does not identify himself/herself as “The Honorable” … others address him/her as “The Honorable.”
So YES to:
Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I am writing a joint thank-you letter on behalf of two non-profit organizations in our community – the Women’s Business Organization (WBO) – and the Historical Museum.  We recently partnered to do a fundraiser called “Dine Out Springfield”, which raised money that allowed WBO to offer three additional scholarships this year and allowed the Museum to enhance their artifacts and community outreach.
The WBO signatory is our current president.  The museum’s signatory is a US Navy Rear Admiral who is retired.  What is the correct way for me to note his name and rank below his signature line?  Is it Rear Admiral Warren Thompson, USN, Retired or Warren Thompson, R. Adm. (retired) or something else??
— The President-Elect of  WBO

Dear T P-E of WBO:
Note his name below his signature line in the same way one would address him most formally:
Rear Admiral Warren Thompson, USN, Retired
It might be a good idea to include his role under his name since he is not signing the document in any capacity related to his service as a rear admiral:
Rear Admiral Warren Thompson, USN, Retired
Representative for the Historical Museum

I include all the forms of address for rear admirals on page 216 of my book.
Some retired admirals might not use their rank in a post-retirement non-military position, but if you know that he’s a retired admiral, his preference must be to be addressed by his rank.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I find your site very informative.  I have a question from one of our Embassies overseas and would like to check with you on the order of precedence for the following:
A US ambassador
A head of a presidential delegation on a mission
A three-star general
A local mayor

— Elizabeth at the State Department

Dear Elizabeth:
I am more of a “names, titles, and forms of address” guy …. so I checked withPamela Eyring (director of The Protocol School of Washington®) and Diane Brown(who teaches precedence at the PSOW’s Protocol Officer training) and neither felt there was a single answer without knowing a bit more about the delegation.
Diane comments “The variable is the delegation … depending on the level of the delegation head and the purpose of the visit, the Ambassador may defer honors to that individual, similar to what is commonly done when Sec State travels abroad.”
Pamela wonders “what is the representative’s title? …. would be useful to confirm what if any precedence they personally have. They usually are something besides ‘presidential delegation head.'”
But both agree that a good place to start would be:
1. A US ambassador at his/her post
2. A head of a presidential delegation on mission
3. A local mayor in his own city
4. A three-star general
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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Some of our association members are retired from the Senior Executive Service (SES). Is there any title for them?
For example …. John Smith, SES (Ret.) Maybe?
— DF

Dear DF:
I have not seen SES used as a post-nominal abbreviation.
It would be used after the name in an introduction .. e.g., “Our speaker to day is Edmund Burns, a member of the Senior Executive Service and ….”
However everyone who is SES has (or had in the case of retired SES) a specific job and job title and it would be appropriate to note that person is a “former (whatever position they held).
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I am working on an informal publication that will be published by the Defense Department and I need to list members who participated in some of the work. The members include retired military, retired government civilians, persons with academic degrees (PhDs), etc.
I just looked at you website and I have a question .You reference a directive “the DoD directive you refer to forbids the use by retired personnel of a military rank in any sort of commercial enterprise.” Do you know the exact citation for the directive?
— Writing Away @ the Institute for Defense Analyses

I asked an front-line expert on the topic … a Protocol Officer (and Protocol School of Washington® graduate) for the reference: CDR Ginny Raderstorf, NC, USN Retired, Special Assistant, Executive & Legislative Affairs, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. Here is what she says backs up the statement. Note: JER is the Joint Ethics Regulations.
From the JER, para. 2-304:  “Use of Military Title by Retirees or Reserves. Retired military members and members of Reserve Components, not on active duty, may use military titles in connection with commercial enterprises, provided they clearly indicate their retired or inactive Reserve status. However, any use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD.  In addition, in overseas areas, commanders may further restrict the use of titles by retired military members and members of Reserve Components.”
DODI 5410.20, Public Affairs Relations With Business and Nongovernmental Organizations Representing Business, has a section on commercial enterprises, too — see para. 7.
DODI 1334.01, which concerns wear of the uniform:
“It is DoD policy that:
3.1. The wearing of the uniform by members of the Armed Forces (including retired members and members of Reserve components) is prohibited under any of the following circumstances:
3.1.2. During or in connection with furthering political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest may be drawn.”
Thanks, Ginny!
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I am writing a letter from a High School to a Judge and his wife regarding their child.  What is the proper greeting?  Dear …………  ??
— Thanks, D.N.

Dear D.N.:
On pages 145-146 in my chapter on Joint Forms of Address I answer this question.
The most formal form on the envelope would be
The Honorable Franklin Jennings
and Mrs. Jennings
2345 Westside Road
Melville, NY  11747

The most formal saluation would be
Dear Judge Jennings and Mrs. Jennings:

Most formally people who have high titles get their whole name as a unit, all by itself … so “Dear Judge and Mrs. Jennings” would not be traditionally correct.  Wives who use the same surname as their spouses traditionally lose their given name with addressed with their husband.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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Please tell me how to address an envelope to a commissioner and his/her spouse. Thanks in advance.
— Karen S. in Fort Pierce, Florida

Dear Karen:
On pages 145-146 in my chapter on Joint Forms of Address I answer this question. If the commissioner is elected in a general election … he or she is addressed as “The Honorable” … and if you are inviting a couple, then the envelope would be considered social correspondence … and the social form would be:

The Honorable William Smith
and Mrs. Smith
The Honorable Jane Smith
and Mr. William Smith
Men using the same last name as their spouse get their full name. Women don’t …. so she is just Mrs. Smith and he is Mr. William Smith.   Not fair perhaps … but that’s the tradition.
If he’s an appointed commissioner … well …. appointed officials are not addressed as “The Honorable.”

Commissioner William Smith
and Mrs. Smith
Commissioner Jane Smith
and Mr. William Smith
– Robert Hickey

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At our school’s classes we cover how to fold the American flag, its proper uses and display. When we addressed the issue of how it is draped on a coffin, I had the question: Is it only used for military funerals or can it also be used for civilians?  I had no idea and would appreciate your advice
— John R.

Dear John R.:
Most people are familiar with a flag-draped coffin at a military funeral and assume it can be  done only by the military. While it is a widely held opinion, but it’s not supported by the regulation.  The U.S. flag code is from our government, not the military. Just like any citizen can display the flag at his or her home, any citizen can have the U.S. flag on their casket as long as the flag is displayed correctly. When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the top left of the flag is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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A Google alert sent me to a story that’s got me thinking. See this California.com story entitled Monterey County resident’s speak of the etiquette of displaying foreign flags by Kimber Solana.
Flag protocol seems so straight forward to me, why is it such an issue in the US? It’s a rhetorical question, I know (but I do not understand) that the US flag is an untouchable issue for many citizens.
— John R., Canadian PSOW Graduate now living in the UK

Dear John:
The story includes some good information on how flags are correctly displayed in official situations. Government, military and diplomatic protocol officers (as well as many others in those arenas) are sensitive to the flying of flags as national symbols.  But the general population has less knowledge of international protocols of how US and foreign flags are correctly displayed.
As a nation of immigrants there are many flags flying in the US. I live in New York City and it is full of foreign flags. There are national-day parades for Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, Turkish-Americans, Cuba Day, Norwegian-Americans, Haitian-Americans, Salute to Israel, Greek Independence Day, Puerto Rican-Americans, and St. Patrick’s Day (Irish) and many, many more. These events are mainly of interest to the participants and their families, and are generally viewed by non-participants as symbols of cultural heritage.
But, many people feel threatened when the flags appear (to them) to be flown as symbols of allegiance to current foreign political state.
So when I read “This is the United States of America; there’s only one flag we should fly” as the story quotes a Salinas, CA resident, I view it as another way the immigration issue has come up in public discourse.  You and many others found it to be a provocative story: there were more than 150 comments on the website last when I looked.
As a U.K. resident, here’s a question: In London, if whole neighborhoods were flying a foreign flag, would anyone ask “Where is the Union Jack?”  Perhaps those flying the foreign flag might not be thinking their neighborhood was part of a foreign political state … but were flying it as a symbol of their cultural heritage?  But others might have a different analysis of the symbolism? Yes?  No?
My father’s parents came here from Ireland in the 1890’s. They knew it was likely they would never return to Ireland when they boarded ships for the trip to the US. My grandfather told my father he didn’t want to go back: his home was here.  But with air travel ties to where one was born can be closer … and one can keep close bonds with their family who stayed behind. I constantly hear the foreign-born refer to their country of birth as “my country” … even after they are US citizens.
In the US many people see moving from one state to another state as a mere detail, not a matter of substance.  I don’t think this discussion is over in the USA!
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

Dear Robert
Many thanks for your thoughtful reply. Clearly, this was not an article about flags at all.
I was in London today and at a guess I would say that half the flags flying were the Union Flag and the rest assorted, flying at the various hotels, embassies, corporate owners and so forth. Hardly the same issue as the one at the centre of the Monterey County controversy.
I would have more sympathy for the US flags only within the USA opinion if Americans themselves respected other countries traditions in the same way they wish their own to be respected. My family summered in an area north of Toronto aptly nick-named Little Pittsburgh for the number of Pittsburgh families who summered there, also.  The lakes were surrounded by Old Glory, the golf club, too, although at the golf club we were able to apply international standards of flag size and order.  When I wintered in Grenada, it became an international incident (well, of Grenada proportions) when the US consulate there flew a flag the size of Central Park.  I’m sure it was visible from outer space.  Problem was, it was the largest flag on the island and the first thing visitors saw on their drive in from the airport.  There was no Grenadian flag anywhere near as large.  A polite request from the Prime Minister to the consul resulted in a not-so-polite reply and diplomatic notes had to be exchanged with Washington before the consul was ordered to replace it with a more diminutive model.  He was recalled at the end of his assignment but I wonder how much lower one can go on the diplomatic ladder than to be posted to Grenada.  Imagine, risking your career on such an issue.
I know of no other country that places such (to aliens, exaggerated) emphasis on their flag, and good on you and so be it.  We try to understand. But it is nowhere near as sore an issue anywhere (that I know of) that it is in the USA.
— John R.

Dear John:
Thanks for the ‘alien’ view. I’ve found that armed forces all over the world, with their military protocol officers, are very knowledgeable of flag protocol. Diplomats are usually knowledgeable — so the consul’s actions surprise me. The Pittsburghers are just an example of a not-knowing-the-rules / whatever-I-feel-like-doing-is-good-enough approach. The PSOW gets into flags big time because Pamela Eyring and Diane Brown, who lead the protocol trainings, are both former military protocol officers … and they just love flags!
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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We’d like to present a retired corporate officer some corporate business cards. The person has a Ph.D., is a Fellow of a prestigious professional organization e.g., ABC Fellow, and has retired as Managing Director, International Division.
What is the most appropriate designation on his business card now that he has no formal corporate responsibilities?
Dr. James Doe, ABC Fellow
Managing Director, International Division, Ret.
James Doe, Ph.D., ABC Fellow
Managing Director, International Division, Ret.
Dr. James Doe, Ph.D., ABC Fellow
Managing Director, International Division, Ret.
Dr. and Ph.D. sound redundant. Is it appropriate to use both? What is the best format in this case?
— Ike E.

Dear Ike E.:
Yes … Dr. and Ph.D. are redundant … Ph.D. is used professionally in writing … Dr. in conversation and socially … so use James Doe, Ph.D. on the card.
I have a chapter in my book just on abbreviations and post-nominals. What most frequently appears as a post-nominal abbreviation (in the US) is an advanced academic degree … M.B.A., M.D., D.D. … or a professional certification … A.I.A., A.S.I.D., C.P.A.  Those are initials, not words. I am not familiar with seeing a word like “fellow” included in a post-nominal abbreviation. I would think that the word fellow would be more appropriately included in an introduction or in a bio rather than as a post nominal.
But, there are many traditions. Call the organization in question and find out how they see other members using the designation.  Usually I call the public relations department where editors will be knowledgeable — OR a secretary in the president’s office will know. It will be in James Doe’s interactions with the other fellows he’ll encounter that will provide the most critical eyes as to whether it’s “right” or not.
Either Ret. or Retired is fine: Your form for Managing Director, International Division, Ret. seems good.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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