Archive for the ‘“The Honorable” – How to Use It’ Category

How do I write the name of an honoree who was our mayor. Is he Mr. (Full Name), Former Mayor (Full Name) or The Honorable (Full Name)?
  — Ken

Dear Ken,
Former US elected officials continue to be officially listed as The Honorable for life. Since there’s a new mayor this former official is no longer the mayor anymore. “Former mayor” identifies him, but is not a form of address.  
The Honorable
 (a courtesy title) is used by others addressing the person. So, while it is never used by the host on his/her own invitation, it is used when listing a honoree:
 The Honorable (Full Name)
     If you feel you need to note what his job was for some reason, you can include his office, or former office on the next line:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Mayor of River City, 1990-2000
— Robert Hickey

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How do I address a retired American Ambassador?  He was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service so he was a diplomat for a long time before he was an ambassador.
           — Carol Bentley

How do I address someone who served as an American Ambassador?  He was a close personal friend of The President and served for four years.
           — Keith Inge

Dear Ms. Bentley & Mr. Inge:
Any retired or former ambassador is addressed on the envelope, or in the address block of the letter, in the standard style used for addressing high US officials:
 The Honorable (Full name)

And, in the salutation or conversation he/she would be addressed as:
   Dear Ambassador (Surname),
     The difference between ambassadors will arise when you introduce them, describe them, give their title, or identify them in writing.

How to identify a political appointee who served as a Ambassador?
Those appointed to serve as a U.S. ambassador after a career in another field (typically they serve just one administration, more or less) are introduced as:
            Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country) from Year to Year
            Former Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country)

Who can be identified as a “Career Ambassador, Retired”?
There are certain individuals who can be identified as a Career Ambassador.   They have been accorded the “Personal Rank of Career Ambassador” by the President. If you do a web search for “career-ambassador U.S. Department of State” you find the list. There aren’t many. This small category of ambassadors is introduced or identified as:
          Career Ambassador of the Foreign Service of the United States of America, Retired

Who can be identified as a “Ambassador, Retired”?
Career U.S. Foreign Service Officers who have served as a U.S. Ambassador at one or more U.S. embassies are introduced or identified as:
          Ambassador of the United States of America, Retired

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WASHINGTON, July 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/

When Bill Clinton first won the presidency, the form of address used for him and the first lady, Hillary, was as follows:
     The President and Mrs. Clinton

This form of address fits into the traditional formula in writing: The President and Mrs. (Surname) and in conversation: 
Mr./Madam President and Mr./Mrs. (Surname).

If Hillary Clinton wins the current presidential election, Bill Clinton will be a first: the first First Husband, Spouse, Partner, or Significant Other.

So, how will the White House staff address Bill Clinton? How will his name appear with the President’s on invitations?  How will his place card read at a state dinner? How should the media address him or refer to him?  Perhaps First Gentleman Bill Clinton, awkward as that might seem? According to Robert Hickey, author of The Protocol School of Washington’s Honor and Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles and Forms of Address, the formula for the husband of President of the United States (POTUS) has been around for a long time. It just hasn’t been used thus far:

In writing: The President and Mr. (Full Name)

As a former elected official, Bill Clinton does have a special title. He is “the Honorable.” Using this courtesy title fits right in without a hitch.

In writing: The President and the Honorable (Full Name)

However, which version of Bill Clinton’s full name would be correct?  That is a matter of how formal a reporter or social secretary chooses to be for any given occasion. Bill Clinton, William J. Clinton, or William Jefferson Clinton might be frequent choices.

Still, two questions linger:

1. How should he be addressed in direct conversation or as a salutation?
 a.  Mr. Clinton
b.  President Clinton

2. How should reporters refer to him in order to not mislead or confuse their audience on who is the current president and who is not?
 a.  Mr. Clinton
b.  President Clinton
c.  Former President Clinton

According to Hickey, the right option for both questions would be  a. Mr. Clinton.

“While it is common practice in the media and elsewhere to address and identify former presidents as ‘President (Name),’ this is a mistake,” said Hickey. “Serving as President of the United States does not grant one the personal rank of ‘President’ for life. The office of President is a one-person-at-a-time role that a specific individual holds and then hands off to the next person.”

“Courtesies, honors, and special forms of address are symbols of the power of the office. They belong to the office and to the citizens, not former office holders.”

Hickey goes on to say the media and the public should be wary of identifying or addressing previous holders of the presidency and other unique offices by referring to them as “former (title).” This qualifier diminishes the singular prestige of both the office and its current occupant and is potentially misleading/confusing to their audience.

“There is an accepted term of respect used for previous presidents and other elected U.S. officials to recognize their service. This title is one of high distinction that they keep for life: she or he is addressed as “the Honorable (Full Name).”

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How does one address the envelope of an invitation to the mayor of a city and his wife?
 — Susan Hensley

I need to address our elected sheriff and his wife. On the envelope, would it be The Honorable and Mrs. James Smith?
 — Agnes Harrington

How do I address a governor and his wife?
 — J.K. in Virginia

How do I address a former senator and his wife?
 — Ann Buchanan

Dear S.H, A.H., J.K., and AB:
I cover how to every type of elected official and spouse in my book in Chapter Nine: Joint Forms of Address.

What all these U.S. officials have in common is that they are addressed as “The Honorable.” You didn’t tell me the names … so depending the form of her name … there are several options.

If she uses “Mrs.”  and uses the same last name … then traditionally her first name does not appear:
The Honorable William Stanton
and Mrs. Stanton

This is the form the White House would use for a married couple using the same last name. The rule is not to break up “The Honorable” from “(name)”
What you want to avoid is:
The Honorable and Mrs. William Stanton

If she uses a different last name, then her first name does appear, e.g.:
The Honorable Alan Greenspan
and Ms. Andrea Mitchell

If she has her own rank, courtesy title, or some special honorific, then her first name does appear:
The Honorable William Stanton
and Lieutenant Linda Stanton

The Honorable William Stanton
and Dr. Linda Stanton

The Honorable William Stanton
and the Reverend Linda Stanton
Probably more answer than you wanted … but I hope it is useful.
 — Robert Hickey

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I have an example referring to a former president as “The Honorable (Name)”  Is that incorrect?  Yet I also find that one should call a former president as “Mr. (Last Name), and identify him as a former president. So what should I say to formally introduce a former president?
            — MJH

Dear MJH:
Former U.S. elected officials are The Honorable (Full Name). 
All of these would be correct for a formal introduction:
The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton,
President of the United States. 1993-2001

The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton,
                   Former president of the United States
          The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
                   42nd president of the United States
If you just first & last name – William Clinton – that would constitute a (Full Name) too. I would not suggest using his nickname – Bill Clinton – with The Honorable.
This is correct for direct address, in a one-on-one introduction, or in conversation:
  Mr. Clinton
— Robert Hickey      http://www.formsofaddress.info/faq.html

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What is the proper way to address envelope to a State Attorney of the State of Florida?
          — KP

Dear KP,
I can’t say this is true for a State Attorney in every state, but in Florida, in salutation or conversation he or she is a Mr./Ms. (Surname).
Every State Attorney in Florida is elected in a general election, so each is entitled to be addressed as the Honorable.
Address the envelope as
The Honorable (Full Name)
State Attorney
17th Judicial Circuit of Florida 
 (or whatever circuit is corrrect)

          — Robert Hickey     http://www.formsofaddress.info/faq.html

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I have a hard time writing The Honorable when I don’t find the official honorable(living with a woman not his wife, lying, corrupt etc.). Is it completely ignorant, to just use their official title such as Senator (Name)Governor (Name), etc?  I am respectful when writing to government officials, but that title galls me in some cases.  However, I don’t want my letters to be ignored just because of a lack of political etiquette.  So how crucial is it?
          — G.C.

Dear G.C.,
The Honorable is a courtesy title which we in the U.S. have addressed elected officials since the late 1700’s. If you want someone to pay attention to you, starting the conversation in a way they think is respectful — is key to getting their attention. I know how I feel when I get a misaddressed letter, or get a letter with my name misspelled: I know for sure they don’t actually know me, and the letter is going to be a waste of time.
You write “I have a hard time writing The Honorable when I don’t find the official honorable.”  I get variations on that question often:
          * Should I call the rabbi, Rabbi (Name), which means master or great one, if I am not Jewish?
          * Can I not address the mayor as Mayor (Name) if I voted against him?
Of course, you can do whatever you want to do, but, it’s standard practice to address an official in a hierarchy with their traditional forms of address. To push one’s opinion into a conversation — not on that specific topic — may make the conversation a waste of time.
So I say if you are taking the time to write a letter, address it in the way it’s most likely to get the greatest attention.
— Robert Hickey    http://www.formsofaddress.info/faq.html

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