Archive for January, 2011

Presumably, a Duke’s title is not usually (or ever) the family surname.  For the sake of illustration, let’s say there is a British Duke of Highhampton, with the first name of Peter and family surname Cameron. His third son, who works as a minor government official in the Bahamas, introduces him to an American friend who also lives in the Bahamas (and who does not know the family’s history) at a casual lunch.  In an effort not to drop a conversational bombshell (as has happened with past introductions to Americans), the son does not say “This is my father, the Duke of Highhampton.” What would he say instead?  Would a member of the British aristocracy ever simply say “This is my father, Peter Cameron”? (If so, presumably the friend would call the father “Mr. Cameron” during the subsequent conversation, intending to show generational respect.  However, would a duke find this an offensive come-down from his real title?)  Or would it be most plausible that the son would at least say, “This is my father, Peter Cameron, Duke of Highhampton,” even when the introduction is in a relaxed setting?
— Florence Brook

Dear Ms. Brook:
I love this question because it superficially about addressing nobility, but it really about making introductions. For formal situations the forms of address are fixed by protocol. Casual situations may call for casual forms of address … which are the realm of etiquette. Etiquette allows for the individual to interpret what he or she believes is right for the situation.
Here’s what I think:
1) The job of the introducer is to provide the names for the people being introduced to use when each responds to the introduction.  The son will be in the best position to know what his father will like to be called by his son’s friends and what his friends will like to be called by his father. It is the son’s function as the introducer is to establish the right common ground.
2) Acknowledging the other person’s status … whether a student, military officer, your supervisor, or both father and the holder of a noble title …. is a essential to establishing good communication.
Perhaps the best plan is for the son to brief everyone in advance of what he will do and what he thinks each should call the other, so everyone can enjoy the start of a new friendship.  Protocol officers typically brief their bosses on what the “call by” names are for people they are about to meet. It’s really easy … and makes things go smoothly.
RE: In an effort not to drop a conversational bombshell (as has happened with past introductions to Americans), the son does not say “This is my father, the Duke of Highhampton.”
Secrets that explode during the event are really planning problems! The purpose of protocol is to establish a stress-free environment so the planned work of the event or meeting can be accomplished.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

Dear Mr. Hickey,
Thank you for your insight.  It’s very kind of you to respond, and charming to me for different reasons, not the least of which is the comment about a secret that explodes.  I was once the inadvertent subject at such a moment, and embarrassed a speaker in front of a big roomful of his peers and bosses due to the klutzy job he did introducing me (no loss of face for me, a whole lot of loss of face for him).  I don’t believe any of his staff ever had the slightest inkling that they should have been abashed for not briefing him properly.  They all just stood around and tsk-tsked him for his faux pas.
I once met an earl at a friend’s house in Oregon. We were hanging around on a summer day in shorts and were introduced by first name only (i.e., not a protocol-officer moment).  My friend is rabidly egalitarian, yet even she was quite ready to whisper in my ear that he was an earl.  I therefore guess it is unrealistic to think a member of the British aristocracy would ever fail to mention that fact, either prior to an introduction or during, no matter how casual the setting.  (A contessa I know is always introduced by only her first and last name, but she points out that her title doesn’t mean anything, since Italy is a republic.  And though she feels this way, I knew by the end of our first meeting that she is a contessa.  The secret just doesn’t keep.)
The only part of what you said that I wonder about is the assertion that once everyone’s status is on the table, they can go forth and enjoy the start of a new friendship.  Perhaps, if the room is full of other people of similar stature (wealth, fame, achievement or position). But if the room contains only one duke and some guys, it seems that the title must inevitably impede genuineness.
Anyway, many thanks again. I ordered your book last night and am looking forward to learning all the things I did wrong when working at the Senator’s office back in the day.
— Florence Brook

Read Full Post »

Sir: Our organization, a regional maintenance facility under the auspices of the National Guard Bureau and Oregon Army National Guard, will be hosting GEN Greenwood next month for a brief visit. The General Foreman of the facility, (rank COL/O-6), will be giving a short briefing, which includes a slide listing critical personnel of our organization. Two of the civilian personnel are retired military (one a master sergeant, one a lieutenant colonel). He wants to know if they should be listed as Mr./Ms. or as MSG (Ret) and LTC (Ret). I’ve read through pages and pages of protocol regs, blogs, etc. and you seem the most likely to have a definitive answer. Can you help? Thanks so very much for your time.
— Teresa Wood

Dear Ms. Wood:
You should list them as Mr./Ms.
If they are at the briefing as a retired officer use their rank, branch of service and “Ret.” … because it defines who they are in the context.
If they are at the briefing as a civilian use Mr./Ms.: their name should reflect their status at the briefing
This is no disrespect to their service: the DoD documents are clear they can use their rank in retirement socially.
That they are again working for the government makes the issue even more pertinent: Many retired officers want to continue to be addressed by their rank in every situation.  However the use is not supported by DoD Regs .
Make note of the posting I have elsewhere that has the USAF’s Chief of Protocol at the Pentagon quoted on the issue — from the point of view of retired personnel identifying themselves as “Retired Officers” in subsequent endeavors:  If retirees are in a new job, then they should use (identify themselves in a way) that supports that job and should not be using military rank and retired – it is a misrepresentation. They are an employee of the new employer and representing the new employer in their new official position – not the military. We run into this a lot when retired officers who attend Pentagon events and they are coming in their new “contractor” status not as a private/retired status. We don’t address them with their retired rank on invitations or tent cards etc., but with Mr/Ms (name) and their new company affiliation.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


Read Full Post »

I was wondering if you could help me with a protocol question. My organization is preparing a letter to The President that will have 30-40 (rather eminent/famous) signatories. Were we to include the physical signature of each signatory, the letter could end up dozens of pages in length—something we want to avoid.
My question is: What is the correct protocol in this scenario? Can we simply print the names of the signatories in a compact list at the bottom of the letter? Or are the physical signatures essential? Any additional information you have would be greatly appreciated.
Many thanks in advance,
— Burke Mathman

Dear Mr. Mathman:
I don’t know of protocol specifically for multiple signatures letters …. but in ceremonies, when there are too many people to participate in ceremony (e.g., be on the platform), a useful practice is to select one person to represent all those in the large group — which keeps the number of participants manageable.
So if you follow that model, you would have, say, the chairman sign and all the other (eminent/famous) siignatories listed.
I see that format used in The New York Times when a group takes out a full-page ad on some issue, and the letter signed by many luminaries: the lead person’s signature appears and all the rest are listed by name, or name and position.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


Read Full Post »

Speaker, Madame or just Ms. Pelosi? –– Here’s a feature story by Jake Sherman inPolitico on what everyone should call a former Speaker of the House when there is a new Speaker? He asks: What should people call Pelosi? I wrote an letter to the reporter to tell him what traditionally has been done.
FYI I have a blog post on the topic … since it’s not really a mystery. 

There’s a question lingering around the Capitol: What should people call Nancy Pelosi? Is it still Madame Speaker? Or is it Madame Leader, or Ms. Pelosi?
— TB

Dear TB:
Former Speakers are not addressed as “Speaker.” They go back to whatever they were addresses as before being the Speaker and are identified as “a former Speaker of the House.” Only the current office holder is addressed as a Speaker.
The media refers to the Speaker in stories as “Speaker (Name)” … but this is in the third person, a shorthand to make it clear to the reader or listener to whom the journalist is referring. In direct address the correct form is “Mr. Speaker” or “Madame Speaker.”
Here are the rules:
#1 For offices of which there is only one office holder at a time (e.g., Prime Minister, President, Speaker, Governor, Mayor, etc.) only the current office holder is addressed by the same honorific of the office.
Former office holders go back to whatever their honorific was before they held office. In this case the former Speaker goes back to the highest honorific to which they are entitled before becoming Speaker.  Or, in another example, Colin Powell is not addressed as Secretary Powell … he is General Powell.
Ms. Pelosi, Congresswoman Pelosi, Representative Pelosi, Chairman Pelosi … whatever is her preference and pertinent to the office you are referring to her as holding, are the completely respectful, and traditional forms of address.
#2 Offices that are held by more than one person at the same time are different. In those cases, (e.g.,  Admirals, Senators, Judges, Professors, Ambassadors, etc.). former and retired individuals DO continue to use their former honorific. Having two ambassadors or two senators in the room is not confusing.
I find that the individual is flattered by the “honorific inflation,” but, when you ask them directly they say “It’s not correct.” Having been the singular office holder they know what it’s like to have all the formers clinging to their past glory!
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

Read Full Post »

How should one address a note of thanks for services rendered by a medical professional, such as a person ranked MD, RN, or CNA, whose name badge gives only the person’s first name and surname initial? I ask because my mother, who is elderly and as of today is receiving hospice care, recently spent several grueling weeks in a local hospital, and has asked that I express her gratitude to the medical personnel who attended her with outstanding kindness and compassion.
I know her main physicians’ surnames, but most of the medical team revealed only their first names and last name initials, such as Beth M., RN or Bob M., CNA on their badges. This reminds me of elementary school, when we children were required to head our papers with only our given names and surname initials. That was appropriate for young children with emerging manual dexterity in a small classroom, but I do not understand how it makes sense in a professional setting, unless the personnel involved fear legal retribution, such as malpractice suits, and thus wish to hide their true identities.
Please advise me on how to address these semi-anonymous professionals, who hold their patients’ lives in their hands but will not reveal their full identifies.
— Taylor Stuart

Dear Taylor Stuart:
All you can do is to follow the lead of the individual … and address it to the name you have:
Beth M., RN
Surgical Recovery Unit
Wilson County Hospital
4455 Smith Road
City, State, ZIP

Dear Beth,

But to get a more thoughtful answer, I asked an expert on etiquette and professional polish in the medical arena — Karen Hickman of Professional Courtesy, LLC — (who is a graduate of The Protocol School of Washington) for her take on it:
I agree with your response, but would like to add a couple more points. The primary reasons medical personnel list first names only is for security reasons, but also because nurses are authorized to phone in prescriptions for physicians and there is less chance for a clever patient to call in medications using the nurses full name.
Also, if the patient has an established relationship with the facility there is a chance that a manager or supervisor would share last names.
Speaking from personal experience, from my nursing days, cards and notes of gratitude are always so appreciated from care givers. Any gifts, like candy or other food items should be sent to the team since ethically, nurses and physicians are discouraged from accepting personal gifts.
Karen: I learned something from you today (no surprise!). Thank you!

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

Read Full Post »

(A Google Alert took me to Lynn Gaertner-Johnson’s blog on Business Writing. Here’s a question Lynn got from Carol on joint forms of address. Lynn liked Carol’s proposal. Me? Not so much! Here is Carol’s note, part of Lynn’s, and my note to Lynn.)
Hi Lynn: My boss does not like me to address letters like this: Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jones, mainly because she wants the wife’s first name mentioned too, so would Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Jill Jones be appropriate? Otherwise, I have to take off the Mr. and Mrs. and just put their first names, which is too informal.
— Carol

Hi Carol: I do support it. It makes perfect sense to use both spouses’ names, and in many situations the courtesy titles Mr. and Mrs. are required to communicate respect and formality. So carry on, Carol! Although in early 2011 you will not find a reference book that agrees with us, your approach acknowledges both spouses and treats them with respect..
— Lynn

Dear Lynn:
I really enjoy your blog and your postings!
Regarding Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Jill Jones: As the instructor on names, titles and forms of address at The Protocol School of Washington (www.psow.edu), I get lots of questions in the same vein, and here’s how I have come to think about it.
There are formal forms of address that provide “a default form” when you don’t know the preference of the individual. The traditional forms are useful to protocol officers and event planners when the requirement is to use the most formal forms of address for invitations, place cards and programs.
These people are the ones who love the rules!  They love consistency as the scan a table of place cards or a list of donors in a program.
For people not in those positions, they have the option to be more creative since they are just ‘crafting” one name at a time. These are more casual forms .. useful in less formal and informal situations.
I don’t see the first group as better … but the two groups are definitely different!
The “protocol approach” when drafting joint forms of address for couples being issued a formal invitation … is to write the name of the most important person (or the intended guest, who might actually have a lower rank, but at the event, they are #1) on the first line, then the name of their spouse/companion/whatever on the second line.
That means the most formal, traditional form is ….
Lt. Colonel William Smith
and Mrs. Smith
or if it’s her preference
Lt. Colonel William Smith
and Mrs. Nancy Smith
or if it’s her preference
Lt. Colonel William Smith
and Ms. Nancy Smith
or if the woman his the higher office
Lt. Colonel Nancy Smith
and Mr. William Smith
So, since that’s a normal pattern this is how we teach to address the couple you write about:
Mr. Robert Jones
and Mrs. Jill Jones
This form is better to me …. with the benefit that both people get their names as a complete unit … which is very respectful!
Also what is great about this approach is that it works well for any couple that presents themselves as a couple:
Mr. Robert Jones
and Mr. Tom Wilson
Ms. Jill Jones
and Ms. Ann Thomas
The approach I cover all the variations in my chapter on Joint forms of Address.  I recommend when you are creating a form of address first find the traditional form of address so you can know what ‘usually works” then confirm the preference of the individual.
Ultimately one’s name belongs to them, and others should address them as they want to be addressed.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

Read Full Post »

I live in the U.S., am a registered pharmacist (R.Ph.). I also have a master of science in molecular biology (MS) unrelated to my work in pharmacy and obtained after may pharmacy degree/registration. And I have a Juris Doctor I obtained last: I am a member of my State Bar Association so I believe I may use Esq.
I work at a Federal Agency in a medical/science/regulatory role.
Which should I use?
— RD

Dear RD:
In business and commerce (areas outside formal academia), people use whatever post nominals are pertinent to the position they hold / or the services they offer …. so the public will know what credentials the bearer has to offer the expertise / provide the service they present themselves to provide.
So one’s name on a business card or e-mail signature isn’t presented in the same form one might put it on one’s resume or paper in an academic journal.
1) If any of the degrees/certifications show you to be more able to regulate medicine/science … then they are pertinent
2) Find out what your colleagues are doing. Use of post-nominals is more “etiquette” (unofficial, and changes from place to place and situation to situation) than “protocol” (official, written, and more fixed over time)  and it will be your peers who would offer the harshest criticism if you do it ‘wrong’.
3) I suggest you use JD rather than Esq. It would match the others since it is an academicpost-nominal abbreviation.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »