Posts Tagged ‘Joint Forms of Address’

I received a note addressed to M Chris Buchanan, not Mrs. or Ms.  
Is using M proper?
        — Ms. Chris Buchanan

I have read there is a rule that one never signs one’s signature with an honorific — Mr., Mrs., Judge, Senator, Captain, Dr., etc. But I sign my e-mails Mr. Robin Thompson so people when they reply know to address me as Mr. Thompson rather than Ms. Thompson.
Is that O.K.?
        — Mr. Robin Thompson

Dear Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thompson:
     The issues here are “how to address someone as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss when you don’t know their gender?”  #1 & #2 below – and – “How to specify your gender when you know they will want to know it?” #3.
     1) Though not traditionally formal, when you don’t know the gender and you want to address someone, address them by their (Given Name)+(Family Name):

Chris Buchanan
Dear Chris Buchanan,

Robin Thompson
Dear Robin Thompson,

     2) If you want to formally address someone and use Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss … and don’t want to do #1, you have to ask them to share that information: call their office. That takes time, but is the only thing you can do. If you are trying to start an important conversation, what could be more important than getting their name right?
     3) With regard to not giving oneself an honorific, I still advise when you sign your signature never give yourself an honorific: just sign your name.
But it is O.K. to type your name at the end of an e-mail as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss (Given Name)+(Family Name) to someone you have not met – or – type your name as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss (Given Name)+(Family Name) in the signature block (above which you actually sign) on the letter.
      Others will want to know – and it is both useful and considerate to provide that information.
– Robert Hickey


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In an age when it is the ideas that are important, why are office holders so dogged in demanding reverence? Why do office holders require others to use titles to address them?  We are all equals. Doesn’t insisting on being addressed in a fancy way indicate an inferiority complex rather than confidence?
     — BB

Dear BB,

Since the Stone Age, man has addressed those with specific roles by title.  This lets everyone know who is who in the hierarchy. And, there is always hierarchy in a room when there is a group of people.

Much of what you find so irritating is a person’s craving to hold onto status and privilege. We all find this to be unbearable when we observe it in others.

When we notice this behavior, it’s wise to remember that in democracies, the power of public office does not belong to the occupants — but to the citizens: a current office holder wields the power of the people. Thus, respecting the office — and the current office holder — respects the people. Whenever you show respect to someone you show respect to yourself.

When I was a teenager my Dad gave some advice to me that still resonates today, I was frustrated with some completely unreasonable dictum handed down by my Mother. He calmly said “Robert, you don’t say those words in that tone of voice to your Mother. You may disagree with what your Mother says, but you owe her your respect because she is your Mother.”

Our presidents, prime ministers, premiers, mayors, police officers, even our bosses, fall into this category deserving some deference simply due to their office.

So, while we may personally disagree with a judge, we behave appropriately in his or her courtroom thus respecting the rule of law. That’s why they call misbehaving in court “contempt of court’ not “contempt of the judge.”

Sometimes we do encounter an official who is demanding special treatment. Just remember that this current-office-holder unlike our “Dad” or “Mom” is just temporarily in the role. His or her successor may be more down to earth and to our liking!

        — Robert Hickey

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I am creating a rustic wooden sign for my daughter & her husband for their lake house.  I was planning on on putting Todd & Bethany’s Lake House on the sign, but my friend insists that there is a rule that Bethany should be first.  Is there a rule on this?
             — DC

Dear DC,
There is a “rule” that when you write a couple’s name … and they use his family name as their joint family name … you keep “his” name together as a unit:
 Bethany and Todd Wilson
Rather than:
 Todd and Bethany Wilson
Other books suggest that the woman’s name is always first … due a “ladies first”rule.
I don’t think either are critically important rules since using both first names is informal … and informality is flexible. (Formal would be Mr. and Mrs. Todd Wilson)
I am always looking at donor lists in programs and you typically see both forms among the names.
So to me it’s a personal option … but I would use your friend’s suggestion.
I follow the Bethany and Todd Wilson rule, thus the Bethany and Todd’s Lake House form is consistent with that … and I like to be consistent.
Professional obsession I guess!
      — Robert Hickey

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Can you please help me? When writing a couple’s name would you write Charles Henry, Sr. and Daisy Ellis Rivers. Or would it be Charles Henry and Daisy Ellis Rivers, Sr. 
— Betsy Mizner @ yahoo.com

I am preparing programs for my wedding. We are listing our grandparents who have passed. My grandfather was a junior.  However, my grandmother, his wife, is also deceased.  Where do we put the junior as to not confuse him with the other men with those names?
Example:  Jane and Thomas Smith, Jr. (?) or Thomas and Jane Smith, Jr. (?)
— Kristen Smith

Dear Ms. Mizner & Ms. Smith:
       When one combines names … as in … Jane and Thomas Smith or Charles Henry and Daisy Rivers … these are casual, informal forms.
The casual forms are sort of a free style … there are no rules.  But with casual forms, the names can’t be done as elegantly and consistently as they can when using formal forms. That’s what the formal forms were developed to do … to be consistent and elegant.
    #1 The traditional form for a married couple is:
   Mrs. and Mrs. Thomas Smith Jr.
Mrs. and Mrs. Charles Rivers, Sr.
    #2 But I am guessing you want to use all their given names … her name and his. Thus the most formal way is to write each name fully and not combine them:
     Thomas Smith, Jr. and Jane Smith
Charles Henry Rivers, Sr. and Daisy Ellis Rivers
or, ladies first ….
  Jane Smith and Thomas Smith, Jr.
Daisy Ellis Rivers and 
Charles Henry Rivers, Sr.
The majority of etiquette book suggest the former form, but I don’t actually think that’s the only correct option. You should choose.
In such a listing, the and between their names indicates they are married/are a couple because individuals who are not married/are a couple are listed separately / not listed together.
                 – Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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How do I address an envelope to a United States Navy Captain and a Dentist who are married?
 Captain Joshua & Dr. Brooke Jones?
        — D. Bainbridge

Dear Mr. D. Bainbridge:
Most formally people with titles and ranks get their names as a unit … not combined with another person’s name. Since he is in uniform … military uniformed personnel have precedence over civilians … so the USN Captain is listed first.
So the form would be:
Captain Joshua Jones
                and Dr. Brooke Jones
         – Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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How would I address and invitation to Rabbis that are husband and wife?
   — D.K.

Dear D.K.:
The most formal way would be to list them both fully …. first one … then the other.
   Rabbi Joel Pine
and Rabbi Julia Pine
2141 Wilson Boulevard
Silver Spring, Maryland 20987
Which one you put first will depend on the topic on which you are writing:
If it’s an invitation to her and he is on the letter as her spouse …. she’d be first
If it’s to him or to them together use the Mr. and Mrs. order …. list him first.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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A physician and his wife are co-chairing a hospital event.  How do I recognize them on the invitation and signage.
Are these the only 2 options?
Dr. and Mrs. John Doe
John and Mary Doe
Anyway to include the wife’s first name and also mention husband is a MD??
~ Fluharty in Lynn, MA

Dear Fluharty:
Most formally would be:
Dr. John Doe and Mrs. Doe
Dr. and Mrs. John Doe
… but if you wanted to include her name you could consider:
          John Doe, MD, and Nancy Doe
It is not as formal, and includes his academic post-nominal (usually used just on official correspondence sent to his office) but does allow for you to include her given name.
      – Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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