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Archive for February, 2011

I am hosting a cocktail reception in my home honoring the athletic director of a university. The university president and his wife will be attending and I want to list them on the invitation with a few other university officials. Please advise as to how I should list the couple:
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Clements, President, West Virginia University
Mr. Jim Clements, President, West Virginia University and Ms. Beth Clements
West Virginia University President Jim Clements and Beth Clements
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
— Sally H.

Dear Sally:
High officials may not need to be identified on invitations since the invitees know / should know the ranks of the notable guests.
And, every University president I have ever encountered is a “Dr.” not a “Mr.”
So, most formally it would simply be:
Dr. and Mrs. James P. Clements
If you need to (want to) include his position then it would be
Dr. James P. Clements, President, West Virginia University
and Mrs. Clements

Some people will want to list them as James and Beth Clements, but I’d use the first + last name format for a neighborhood party, but not for one honoring university officials.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

 

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I am addressing an invitation to Ben Brancel, the Secretary of the Wisconsin State Dept. of Agriculture, trade and Consumer Protection. If we were inviting Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, I would address the letter Dear Hon. Vilsack. But I am uncertain how to address a state-level official such as Mr. Brancel? Thank you,
— Pat Duryea
Manager, Communications and Membership
TBA Export Council.

Dear Pat Duryea:
Actually, Dear Hon. Vilsack is not correct.
“Hon.” is not as an honorific like “Mr.” “Dr.” “Senator” “Commissioner” or “General”
“The Honorable” is a courtesy title, an it always precedes a full name.
In conversation or in a salutation you change over to what ever honorific they are entitled to ….  “Governor”  “Ambassador”  “Senator”  “Judge”  etc.
A Secretary of a US Department, member of The President of the United States’ cabinet, is addressed on the outside envelope as:
The Honorable Tom Volsack
(Complete Address)
I would use “Tom” rather than “Thomas” since that’s what his office uses on his website / so it must be his preference.
In the salutation the traditional, most formal form would be
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Or also traditional, but slightly less formal is:
Dear Secretary Volsack:
State secretaries follow the same pattern:
The Honorable Ben Brancel
(Complete Address)
And in the salutation use:
Dear Secretary Brancel:
When I was researching my book I polled a number of state secretaries … and they unanimously preferred “Secretary (Surname)” rather than “Mr./Madame Secretary”.  One state secretary expressed it this way: there is only one US Secretary of our discipline in the Cabinet in Washington … but there are 50 of us at the state level … so the singular title makes less sense.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

 

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I am addressing an invitation to Ben Brancel, the Secretary of the Wisconsin State Dept. of Agriculture, trade and Consumer Protection. If we were inviting Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, I would address the letter Dear Hon. Vilsack. But I am uncertain how to address a state-level official such as Mr. Brancel? Thank you,
— Pat Duryea
Manager, Communications and Membership
TBA Export Council.

Dear Pat Duryea:
Actually, Dear Hon. Vilsack is not correct.
“Hon.” is not as an honorific like “Mr.” “Dr.” “Senator” “Commissioner” or “General”
“The Honorable” is a courtesy title, an it always precedes a full name.
In conversation or in a salutation you change over to what ever honorific they are entitled to ….  “Governor”  “Ambassador”  “Senator”  “Judge”  etc.
A Secretary of a US Department, member of The President of the United States’ cabinet, is addressed on the outside envelope as:
The Honorable Tom Volsack
(Complete Address)
I would use “Tom” rather than “Thomas” since that’s what his office uses on his website / so it must be his preference.
In the salutation the traditional, most formal form would be
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Or also traditional, but slightly less formal is:
Dear Secretary Volsack:
State secretaries follow the same pattern:
The Honorable Ben Brancel
(Complete Address)
And in the salutation use:
Dear Secretary Brancel:
When I was researching my book I polled a number of state secretaries … and they unanimously preferred “Secretary (Surname)” rather than “Mr./Madame Secretary”.  One state secretary expressed it this way: there is only one US Secretary of our discipline in the Cabinet in Washington … but there are 50 of us at the state level … so the singular title makes less sense.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

 

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I’m getting married in France (to a Frenchman) and am trying to find a compromise between our U.S. traditions for the English version of the invitation. In France, when one of the parents is a veteran, it’s mentioned. My father served four years in Vietnam but did not retire and ended his service. Would it be improper to add “United States Air Force” (the branch he served in)  after his name?
— Margo C.

Dear Margo:
In the US it would be not be in line with Department of Defense guidelines to include a rank and or branch of service for a veteran who is not a retiree. Further, branch of service after a name without a rank would not be something that you’d see in the U.S.A.
How about …. if the wedding is in the US, follow the US custom … or if the wedding is in France, follow the the French custom. Then you are consistent to the tradition in the place the ceremony is to occur.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

Good idea. That’s what we will do.
— Margo C.


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I have been engaged by our local military as a consultant for an event. They want to hold a black-tie dinner to celebrate the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. I am responsible for most of the arrangements and will provide a dining etiquette presentation to the guests. I am just putting together the invitations and have written Prince William’s name before Catherine’s. Would you agree? I have been in contact with the office of the private secretary to Prince William on other matters and they have been very helpful but I am to embarrassed to ask them, I should really know these things. I thought I would ask the expert!
— Jan C. in Ontario
 

Dear Jan C. in  Ontario:
Interesting question!
Among commoners typically the bride’s name is first: The parent’s of the bride invite you to the marriage of their daughter to this man, etc. But in this case his name is first since he is royalty.
See the two invitations below. Both list the royal person first:
1. The recently married Crown Princess of Sweden to Daniel Westling, a commoner.
2. The Prince of Wales to Diana, who was noble … but not royal like the H.R.H.
FYI I was just in Belgium and I read a story in Point de Vue, a magazine that focuses on nobility, about the maker of china souvenirs (mugs, plates, etc.) who had already made items with the couple’s initials intertwined … his “W” first …. her “C” second … then destroyed them all.
Reason being that WC had the wrong connotation and they redid them with the “C” on top sitting in the open “W” — deemed to be more suitable.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


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May I ask you to clarify proper form of address for a university Provost.  The Provost in question is William W. Wilson, PhD. In the context of a letter does one address the Provost as Dear Dr. Wilson or Dear Provost Wilson?
— DM

Dear DM:
One might address a provost as Provost Wilson when presiding as the provost … and refer to him/her as The Provost or Provost Wilson …. but a provost is not addressed as “Provost (Name)” (Provost used as the honorific). It is the same pattern with a university’s president, chancellor, dean, professor, or chairman of a department. 
Here’s why:
One of the basics of formal forms of address is “Address by rank” and“Identify by office” When “Dr.” is one’s permanent personal rank and the “office of provost” is a temporary position you address as “Dr.” and identify them as “Provost.”
So most formally, address him or her on the envelope as one would officially address any academic:
William W. Wilson, PhD
Provost
University of (fill in the blank…)
(Address)

And the formal salutation:
Dear Dr. Wilson:
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

 

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We were glad to stumble upon your blog and learn about your book!  I’m hoping you can help us settle a debate.  While I see from your blog that the general rule for the use of “The Honorable” is that you never use it reflexively, I have a related question.  In your post about business cards you said that since your wouldn’t use “The Honorable” on a card, you would use the name followed by the title.  In our case, my boss is a former State Representative but is now running for city council.  Thus she doesn’t want to use “former State Representative” as her title on her new campaign business cards.  I say that she shouldn’t use anything, but if she did, it would be:
Helen Cohan
Candidate for City Council

My colleague says that since she doesn’t have an official title right now, the use of “The Honorable Helen Cohan” on a card would be appropriate here and would be an exception to the general rule.  Who’s right?
— Barbara Boykin
Communications Director
Helen Cohan for Council Campaign

Dear Ms. Boykin:
Your candidate should not use “The Honorable” on a business card because one does not refer to oneself as “The Honorable” and a business card is one presenting one’s name to another person.
Others use courtesy titles … “His/Her Excellency,” “The Reverend” or “The Honorable” when formally addressing a person … but the person does not use it themselves.
Similarly, I introduce myself as Robert Hickey not Mr. Robert Hickey
Your candidate should introduce herself as Helen Cohan and identify herself as acandidate for City Council here in River City …. and thus use those on her card. When I introduce her from the podium prior to a speech I would say Today I am pleased to introduce The Honorable Helen Cohan, here today as a candidate for city council  …
So you are right…  and your colleague is not right! You solution is both elegant and clear.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


 

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How do you address a new widow who kept her maiden name?
For example: If her name is Jane Smith and her husband’s name was John Taylor?
— Sausalito, CA

Dear Sausalito:
If she kept her maiden name … then she never used Mrs. John Taylor
That’s the form the etiquette books would say was the traditional form for a married woman. But of course many women keep their maiden names, and in much of the world it’s the norm for women to keep their name. I’ve taught classes in the Middle East, and while some American may think the Arabic women are oppressed there … Arab women think it’s barbaric that a woman would give up her birth name when she marries!
So you should address her as a widow by the name she has always used:
Ms. Jane Smith
Not using her spouse’s name made her no less married — than his not using her name made him any less married.

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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My brother (Erwin Wright) and sister-in-law (Monica Vintner) write their names asWright and Vintner on the return address. She has kept her maiden name and also has a PhD in academia. What is the correct way to address them on invitations (formal and informal), as well as holiday or anniversary cards?
— M. Torres

Dear M. Torres:
The formal social form would be (following the rules in etiquette books) to put Monica first since she’s “Dr.” and that has a higher precedence than a “Mr.”  Partners with special honorifics (doctorates, military ranks, etc.) are most formally listed first in joint forms of address:
Dr. Monica Vintner
and Mr. Erwin Wright
3333 Smith Court
Henderson, OH 44444
But — you are using this on family social cards. Hummm. Since they list themselves “Wright and Vintner” on their return address — they have established that to be their casual preference.  For casual correspondence I’d use it and address the envelope as:
Wright and Vintner
3333 Smith Court
Henderson, OH 44444
And inside write “Dear Monica and Erwin”
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

 

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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

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