Archive for March 12th, 2011

I read about on your site how retired military officers can use their ranks in retirement according to U.S. Department of Defense regulations.  I am a retired police lieutenant from a municipal police agency, and I am offering my services as a public safety consultant and trainer.  I am eligible to use my police rank because I retired honorably after 21 years of service.  Please tell me what form or arrangement of my name and title would be most appropriate on a calling card?  I feel almost silly using the title, but it does lend credibility to my opinions, findings, and methods.  If anyone can settle this for me, I believe that you can.
— Lieutenant Ben Baldwin, SDPS, Retired

Dear Lieutenant Baldwin,
If the business card is for you as a consultant & trainer in public safety and using your former rank lends credibility to your opinions, findings and methods …. including your rank would be exactly what the Department of Defense (DOD) prohibits.  Generally police department’s traditions are similar to the DOD rules, which are based on over 200 years of military tradition.
Your municipal police unit may have guidelines. The DOD regulations state use of ranks (identifying oneself by his or her former rank) by retired personnel is restricted to social use, and that ranks are not for use in subsequent professional endeavors if could possibly be interpreted to be endorsed or supported by the DOD.
So, while the DOD has it in writing … the concept applies elsewhere:
* former/retired Judge is socially addressed as Judge (Name).  He’d issue a wedding invitation for his daughter as Judge (Name) since it social and no one would think that somehow the wedding is any sort of an official event.
But if he now works as a lobbyist in Washington for some industry, or as an attorney pleading cases in court … professionally he becomes Mr. (Name).  His professional bio would include his former position, but not his card.  While everyone would know of  … and value his experience … his professional stationery reflects his current professional role.

* former/retired US ambassador is socially addressed as Ambassador (Name),but if he runs for political office he becomes Mr. (Name) … although his bio would include his former diplomatic service.  E.g.
… Mr. (Name) served as the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium from 1990-1998…
Or in your case it could be:
… Mr. Baldwin served for 21 years in municipal law enforcement achieving the rank of Lieutenant…
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


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I’m addressing invitations and wondering what the best way is to include the first names of both spouses.
Which way is more correct:
Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Doe or 
Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Doe?
Or is there a better way than this?
— Lynna

Dear Lynna,
The forms you mention are awkward … and I think the reason is:
Mr. and Mrs. (His Full Name) is traditional/formal.
(First Name) + (First Name) + (Surname) is casual/informal.
I am not suggesting ‘formal’ is always best. Sometimes casual is better. But when you think formality is called for, they you end up using the formal forms.
The forms you mention are a little bit formal and a little bit casual, and end up being awkward. Thus you find yourself looking for a another solution.
One option that is frequently used in formal circumstances when it’s desired to include the woman’s given name is:
Mr. (His Full Name) & Ms. (Her Full Name)
… though typically with they use the same “family name” the first option is the standard.
— Robert Hickey

Mr. Hickey
I’m realize that traditionally, a formal invitation should be addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. However, I find it offensive to omit the female’s name and wish to find a formal way of including it.
This is actually a HUGE topic right now amongst women. Many are of the mindset that when etiquette becomes offensive, then its no longer proper etiquette. So, this debate has blossomed to figure out the best way to include both people’s names and to perhaps give up the “don’t separate a man from his name” tradition or to start putting the wife’s name first even if she’s not using Ms. and so forth. Consequently, people are just making up their own way to do it and there isn’t continuity. However, It seems they are yearning for continuity but can’t decide on the appropriate alternative.
To be honest, I don’t think either Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Doe or Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Doe sound good. Perhaps it’s just awkward because it’s new? I suppose other options could be Mr. John Doe and Mrs. Jane Doe, or Mrs. Jane and Mr. John Doe.
— Lynna

Dear Lynna,
Thanks for your thoughtful note.
Etiquette is something that (1) changes over time, (2) is specific to a situation, and (3) is specific to a group.  So it’s not etiquette that is offensive … it’s that rules that work in one place, won’t necessarily work everyplace.
What I suggest in my book is always the formal traditional option — one that can be done consistently for a wide variety of guests. And yes, the forms I present may be too formal for every situation.
The people who use my book are usually people working for high officials … perhaps in their office …. or organizing events where the guests include some high officials … military officers, elected officials, ambassadors, clergy, academics, and international visitors.
In those places you need to have a single style for all the types of names you write. What works best when addressing people from many different places ends up being the most formal. The White House, The U.S. Supreme Court, and many Governor’s offices use my book.
But when my niece, Kathleen, got married last October she didn’t follow what’s in my book for everyone.  But, for certain people accustomed to formality … she did.
So since you asked … why not address the invitations as you think the guest would like their name to appear when they get the envelope?

Casual for people you know would perhaps think formal is old fashioned:
Jane and John Doe
There is nothing wrong with casual!

Formal for people who will like the formal way:
Mr. and Mrs. John Doe

And for people you don’t know very well … you have two options: (1) call them and find out their preference or (2) do what most people do and go with the formal form since it is what most people are accustomed to seeing. It’s easier to explain being over dressed at a party than being under dressed … so being overly formal is easier to explain than being too informal. And most importantly — there is nothing wrong with casual!

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I am writing place cards for an event and we have some cadets from West Point attending.  Do I write Cadet (last name), Mr./Ms. (last name) on their place card or just (First name) + (Last name) ?
— Cortney P.

Dear Cortney,
Yes … I have all the forms of address for United States Military Academy on page 210 of my book.
Place card would be: Cadet (surname)
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


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I am planning my daughter, Alexis’, wedding and need your help. Alexis and Keith are being married in a local church, not on a military base. Is it appropriate to have the United States Flag hanging in the chapel during the ceremony?
— Michael Halpern

Dear Mr. Halpern,
The American flag can be flown anywhere … just fly it correctly.  Contact your local military district for instructions on how to fly a flag, check out on-line display guidelines or, even, call the Boy Scouts!

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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As a court reporter, it is standard for us to indicate who is speaking by putting, e.g., “MR. JONES:” and then follow with his comments.  I have questions regarding how to indicate individuals when “Mr.” or “Ms.” is not sufficient.
When a former chief justice of a state supreme court speaks, is it preferred to keep the title and put “CHIEF JUSTICE (last name):” or “CHIEF JUSTICE (full name):” or “THE HONORABLE (full name):” or “MR. JONES:” or something else?
As to a person who is currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals, should that person be shown as “THE HONORABLE (full name):” or something else?  Can one serve without being a judge?
Thanks very much for your help, as I do not want to indicate disrespect by not using the correct title.
— Sandi Lyonnaise

Dear Sandi,
You write: As a court reporter, it is standard for us to indicate who is speaking by putting, e.g., “MR. JONES:” and then follow with his comments.  I have questions regarding how to indicate individuals when “Mr.” or “Ms.” is not sufficient.
The issue here is what is a form of address? vs. what is the editorial style to use when referring to a person in the third person in text — so the reader will be clear who you are discussing?
Your question is a matter of editorial style rather than a form of address. In a court report, if a person has a special function, it makes sense to continue to use his or her “title” for clarity … rather than just “Mr./Ms.”
A form of address is what you use when directly speaking or writing TO the person. The President of the United States is directly addressed as “Mr. President” and referred to by his staff as “The President”  His name is never used.
However, reporters refer to him as  “Obama”   “Barack Obama”  “President Obama”  and even  “Mr. Obama.”  None of those are forms of address … but are clear in news report who the reporter is referring to.
If you meet him … call him “Mr. President” … not “President Obama.”

You write: When a former chief justice of a state supreme court speaks, is it preferred to keep the title and put “CHIEF JUSTICE (last name):” or “CHIEF JUSTICE (full name):” or “THE HONORABLE (full name):” or “MR. JONES:” or something else?
If they are speaking from an official position… then you could refer to them as a “Justice”
If not … “The Honorable” would be complete correct and more accurate, since he continues to be “The Honorable” forever.
Since there is only one chief justice, a former chief justice is not formally addressed as “chief justice” since it would be disrespectful to the current office holder.  Especially in the present of a current “Chief Justice.”

You write: As to a person who is currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals, should that person be shown as “THE HONORABLE (full name):” or something else?  Can one serve without being a judge?
A judge is “The Honorable (Full Name)” in writing … and in a salutation or conversationally is “Judge (Surname).
If he or she is on a court … he or she is a judge or justice as far as I know.

Wow. that was a lot!
If this sort of thing comes up often, you need a copy of my book!
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I use my initials than my first name. But, I am requested by an organization to have my full first name in the roster.  How would I write my name to insure that when someone see my name that they will ask for me by my initials not by my first name. And what is the correct way to write a title? Would it be:
Teresa J. “T.J” Smithson
T.J. (Teresa) Smithson
Teresa “T.J.” Smithson
— TJ Smithson

Dear TJ,
I would not let them direct me on this …. I would tell them my first name was TJ and stick to my guns
The only group that probably could require you to be simply TJ should be the Department of Internal Revenue …. and they will definitely want your legal name, Teresa J. Smithson,on your IRS 1040 tax form.
However that said …. I like the middle one best since TJ is out front …. T.J. (Teresa) Smithson.

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I saw on your website that you are welcome to questions in reference to addressing someone. I am looking for information on how to address a retired Command Sergeant Major William Smith in an article for a magazine. I want to quote him … What is the right way to do this?
— CW3 Gillen

Dear CW3 Gillen,
If you are writing about person in a magazine article, you are actually referring to him in the third person … so it is not a direct form of address. This is really an editorial stylequestion … but I have some information on it.
Anyone who is retired and wishes continue to use their rank socially is authorized to do so by DoD documents. In official situations they are directed to include that they are “Retired” or “Ret.” … in the formula [Rank] [Full Name], [Branch of Service], [Retired]
Refer to him the first time as:
Command Sergeant Major William Smith, USA, Retired
Then you’ve established that he’s retired
Thereafter in article refer to him as:
Command Sergeant Major Smith
CSM Smith

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info


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