Archive for March 3rd, 2011

I was looking at your blog on forms of address for military invitations. My fiance and I are both active-duty military.  I am a Navy Lieutenant Commander (O4) and he is a Marine Chief Warrant Officer Five.  He will be in uniform for the wedding, I will not.  Should we both have our ranks on the invitations?  If so, could you please advise on how this should be written.  Using John and Jane Doe, Is it:

at the marriage of
Jane Doe
Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy
John Doe
Chief Warrant Officer Five, United States Marine Corps

Thanks in advance,
— Laura

Dear Laura,
I asked my experts on military protocol and military invitations to give me their view, and here’s what I found. Pamela Eyring, Director of The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW) says: The Blue Book of Stationary suggests members of the US armed forces follow the same etiquette as civilian weddings with the exception of the use of military titles & service designations.  Military titles are never abbreviated unless necessary because of space limitations.  The rank should be placed on the same line as the name, with the service listed the next line below.  To have consistency on the invitation, my recommendation would be to use both as rank+name and branch of service:

Lieutenant Commander Jane Doe
United States Navy
Chief Warrant Officer John Doe
United States Marine Corps

I also asked Diane Brown of Protocol Solutions and a fellow training facilitator at thePSOW and she added:  Historically, use of ranks by military personnel was only for officers 03 and above. If they were not an 03 or above, the rank would appear on the second line with the branch of service.  From my perspective, the military has evolved in many ways regarding enlisted service members, so I wouldn’t be opposed to using the enlisted rank, if desired by the military couple.  Often, military members simply do not use their ranks.
The Service Etiquette book has some good examples of wedding invitations for service  members.
Simple points:
1.  Ladies name first.
2.  Rank should be spelled out followed by the name.
3.  The service should be under the name, spelled out.
Bottom line:  In this case, I would do it as Pam suggested above.
Also note that neither Pam or Diane includes “Five” with “Chief Warrant Officer.”  DoD guides say “the numbers” aren’t used in social address.
Let me know if that helps.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

Thank you Robert
I am still undecided whether or not to use my rank on the invitation but my fiance will definitely use his.  I appreciate your assistance and think it’s pretty cool that you asked someone in military protocol since I am transferring to the Pentagon in a few months!
— Laura



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I am trying to confirm how one would address a former Prime Minister directly when meeting him/her for the first time. Do you say Hello Mr. Prime Minister or Hello Prime Minister or Hello Mr. Blair?  I appreciate your guidance.
— A. K. @ RWB & Co.

Dear A.K.:
I show that form on page 358 in my chapter on British Officials.
In conversation a current office holder … David Cameron … would be addressed as Prime Minister in conversation.
But you mention Mr. Blair.
Former prime ministers do not continue to be addressed by as if they were still in office, which would be considered disrespectful to the current prime minister.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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When you have already referred to Captain Smith in a work of fiction, for instance, and then refer to THIS PARTICULAR CAPTAIN SMITH again, and it is clear from the context (because, perhaps, he is the only CAPTAIN spoken of in the text) does one capitalize the C in captain? (that’s when no Smith appears.)
Captain Smith was a tough officer. When the Captain greeted us OR When the captain greeted us
— Jerome S. T.

Dear Jerome S. T.:
This is really a copy editing question … rather that a form of address question … but I know the answer.
Proper names are always capitalized … so when you refer to a specific “Captain” by rank-only … it is capitalized just like it is a name:
When the Captain arrives we will have dinner.
The President and Mrs. Obama will travel to the United Kingdom.
Please ask the Ambassador if he wants milk in his tea.
When you refer to the rank, but not to a specific person,  it is not capitalized:
The ranks of captain in the USN and captain in the USA are not equivalent.
The office of president of the United States has a term of four years
An accredited ambassador from the Federal Republic of Germany has not been assigned.

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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When addressing a letter to a dentist and his wife, do you use Dr. and Mrs. John H. Smith, DDS or either the Dr. or the DDS?  I appreciate your help.
— Debra Kowanetz

Dear Debra:
I cover this in my book’s chapter on “Professionals and Academics”.
If you are addressing a letter to a dentist and his wife … it is probably a social letter.  Post-nominals are not used on social correspondence.
An official/professional letter to his office would be:
John H. Smith, DDS
A social letter to his home would be:
Dr. John H. Smith
joint social letter would be:
Dr. and Mrs. John H. Smith
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


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I have to send a letter addressed to two state legislators, one a woman, the other a man. They are co-chairs of a joint committee.
I assume the letter should be addressed to each separately using The Honorable, as in
The Honorable (insert full name), Co-Chair
Joint Committee Name
Room Number
State Capitol
What would the salutation be? Would it be:
The Honorable (insert full name)
and The Honorable (insert full name)
Or should I begin the salutation with Dear as opposed to The?
Since they both have the same status as co-chairs, and each has held the position the same amount of time, should their order, both in the address and salutation be determined by how long each has been a legislator?
Thank you in advance for your reply.
— Bob E. in Wisconsin

Dear Bob:
Your outside envelope looks fine.
You can use this form on the letter’s “TO” spot, also.
In a salutation you use the “conversational form”   So it would be:
Dear Senator (Surname): …. if a member of a senate
Dear Delegate (Surname): …. if a member of a house of delegates
Dear Mr./Ms. (Surname): …. if a member of legislature that doesn’t have it’s own honorific
… etc.
The Honorable is a courtesy title that always precedes a full name, and is not used in salutations.
As to the order of the names …. even when legislators were sworn in on the same day one was first and one was second …. so they have precedence.  Maybe you can see them listed on their committee website and see who is listed first there?
But if this is impossible, to use their precedence as legislators would be reasonable.

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I am a parent at a school and we are hosting an event tonight. Our local, elected provincial MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) will be in attendance. Would he merit the introduction of The Honourable?  Thanks in advance for your time
— Chantal in Ontario

Dear Chantal:
I have a entire chapter on Canadian forms in my book covering national, provincial, and municipal officials.
MPP’s are not the Honourable.
Address or introduce as:
Mr. Peter Fonseca, member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Ms. Christine Elliott, member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

The only provincial offices addressed as the Honourable are the premier, commissioner, government leader, provincial or territorial minister and speaker of a provincial assembly — but, not the members of the assembly.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


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Just a quick question in regards to military order of precedence, I understand that the retired officer follows the active duty officer of the same rank, but for introductions for a retirement ceremony script, does a Major General (ret) get introduced first or after the active duty Colonels?
— Michael S., USAF

Dear Steven:
Introductions are done in precedence order and I include a copy of the US precedence list in my book’s chapter on “Precedence” for just this sort of query.
The way the precedence list is worded is: VIP Code 5, #43, Two-star military: Major general, rear admiral, by seniority. Retired officers by rank with, but after active officers.
Colonels and captains are VIP Code 7, #47 …. so they come after all those in #43.

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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