Posts Tagged ‘How to Address US Officials’

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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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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How do you address in writing a former state senator?
          — RW in Florida

Dear RW,
A U.S. state senator is addressed as “the Honorable” — once one is “the Honorable” one is “the Honorable” for life.  Retired senators, since they are not one-officeholder-at-a-time officials continue to be addressed as “Senator (Name)”.
But, you say former state senator.
If you are addressing a letter relating to his/her public service, or it is social correspondence (a letter to a neighbor, a holiday note, or get-well card) — address the envelope and use in the letter’s envelope and address block  The Honorable (Full Name).  Use Senator (Surname) in the salutation.
If you are writing to someone who served as a state senator, but is now working in some commercial/professional role —  e.g., they are now your insurance agent, attorney, or stock broker — and you are writing to them in the context of this commercial/professional endeavor — address him/her as Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name).  
In the U.S.A. we address people as pertinent to the situation. Each of us has many names and each is correct in a specific time and place. E.g., a woman named “Ann Robinson” might be addressed as “Mrs. Robinson”, “Ann”, “Mom” or “Sweetheart”.  Each name is how she is addressed in a certain situation. How she is addressed relates to (1) who is addressing her and (2) in which role she is being addressed.
Robert Hickey

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Would it be appropriate to address an acting mayor of a U.S. city as The Honorable? Do you call him the Mayor (Name)?

— Cheryl

Dear Cheryl:
 The Honorable is reserved for officials elected in a general election … or those very high officials appointed by the President of the United States and approved by the U.S. Senate.
So if he/she is serving as acting mayor through an appointment … he/she would not be The Honorable. I say that with one exception: he or she might have been The Honorable due to prior elected service. 
    Typically acting officials are not addressed in conversation as if they were the fully elected and inaugurated official. An ‘acting’ mayor of a city, governor of a state, or president of a college isn’t really the office holder — he or she is ‘acting’.  So in a salutation or conversation use Mr./Ms/etc. (Name) and identify as the acting mayor.
              — Robert Hickey

Hi Robert:
This really helps us.  Our acting mayor who was formerly an elected legislator. Consequently, we will continue to refer to him as The Honorable.  We appreciate your assistance!
— Cheryl

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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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I was wondering if you could assist me with something?  I have a new City Manager of the City of Montgomery, coming in to visit our company this Friday.  Would he beThe Honorable?  If I was to put his title on an agenda how would I format it, possibly as I have stated below?
The Honorable Edvin Perez
Montgomery City Manager

 — Shelby in Aerospace

Is our county administrator The Honorable just like a mayor?
           — Marc in Michigan

Dear Shelby & Marc:
City managers and administrators are NOT The Honorable …  because because they were hired/appointed by the elected body … the city council … but were not themselves elected.
Only the elected officials get  The Honorable.
 So address them as:
  Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Full Name)
(Name of Job) (Name of Jurisdiction)

 — Robert Hickey

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