Sunday, 4 November 2012


Much has changed since Emily Post published her first collection of rules of etiquette in 1922, but the concept of etiquette as a common language of social behavior has persisted. We address our elected and appointed government officials in specific ways, not so much as an expression of respect for them (although many deserve such respect) as for the office that they occupy. The titles and salutations that we use are based mostly on custom. Some, like the Massachusetts governor's salutation of "Your Excellency" are dictated by state law and date back centuries. Some, like "Mr. President," are based on an official's (in this case, George Washington himself) insistence on breaking with a tradition. Each office carries with it a set of responsibilities and privileges but, at least in democratic nations, the office represents the people who fill it and salutations are designed to reflect that concept, not to convey an image of personal power.

Once upon a time, rulers were addressed with superlatives like Your Highness or Your Excellency. Over time, though, manners change. Most etiquette guides and many government departments publish proper forms of address, salutation and closing for many government officials, and some variations are inevitable due to internal protocols and the date of the guide's most recent revision. The U.S. Department of State's rules of protocol are usually the most reliably current; diplomats are in a critical position and can't afford to offend anyone. For most of us, though, if we remember the idea that we're addressing an office and that we should use the correct title in its briefest form, our salutation will be proper whether used in a business letter or reception line.

General Instructions: 

    •  United States of America
    • 1
      Address people formally unless you have been introduced to them on a first name basis or they have asked you to call them by their first name. Use "Hello Mr., Mrs. or Miss (last name)" when speaking and "Dear Mr., Mrs. or Miss (last name)" when writing a letter. If you do not know a person's last name, greet them with "Hello, Sir or Ma'am," which is the common abbreviated form of madam.
    • 2
      Recognize people who hold a doctorate degree by their title. "Hello, Dr. (last name)." Some physicians prefer to be addressed by their title followed by their first name, such as "Dr. Bob." Include a title for college professors prior to their last name, too. "Good evening, Professor Smith," for example.
    • 3
      Greet judges with their title followed by the last name. Male judges should be addressed as "Justice (last name)" or "Judge (last name)." Female judges should be addressed as "Madam Justice (last name)" or "Judge (last name)." When writing to judges, the envelope and inside address should read, "The Honourable (first and last name)," followed by their position such as, "Chief Judge," "Associate Judge," or "Bankruptcy Judge."
    • 4
      Address the President of the United States as "Mr. President" or "Madam President" when speaking or writing a letter. Close the letter with "Respectfully," sign your first and last name, and address the envelope, "The President, The White House, Washington, DC 20500." Former presidents of the country are simply addressed as "Mr. (last name)," but the envelope of a letter to them should read "The Honourable (first and last name)."
    • 5
      Greet a United States Senator as "Senator (last name)," and a United States Representative as "Mr., Mrs. or Miss (last name)" when speaking or writing a letter. When addressing an envelope, however, refer to either position as "The Honourable (first and last name)." Letters to senators are addressed to United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510. Letters to representatives are addressed to United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515
    • 6
      Address state governors as "Governor (last name)" when speaking to them and Dear Governor (last name) when to them. The envelope should read, "The Honourable (first and last name), Governor of (state)," followed by the address. The mayor of a town or city can be verbally addressed in three proper ways: "Mayor (last name);" "Mr. or Madam Mayor;" or "Your Honour." The salutation of a letter should read, "Dear Mayor (last name)," and envelopes are addressed to "The Honourable (first and last names), City Hall," followed by the address.

      2.  UK

      British honours are awarded on merit, for exceptional achievement or service. In 1993 the then Prime Minister, John Major, ended the automatic practice of conferring awards on the holders of certain posts, opening the honours system to more people - particularly those in the voluntary sector - who qualify on merit. Most honours are announced in one of the two annual sets of honours lists - one at New Year and the other in June, on the Queen’s official birthday. The Queen chooses the recipients of honours on the advice of the Prime Minister and other relevant ministers, to whom recommendations are made by their departments or members of the public.

      The various honours include:

      -Life Peers: These titles are not hereditary and are the only form of peerage regularly created by the Queen nowadays.
      -Baronetcies: A baronetcy is a heritable honour - a title that is passed on to male heirs.
      -Knighthoods: Knights may be either Knights Bachelor, or members of one of the Orders of Chivalry. The honour of knighthood derives from the usages of medieval chivalry, as does the method normally used to confer the knighthood: the accolade, or touch of a sword by the Sovereign.
      -The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire: this award is given mainly to civilians and service personnel for public service and other distinctions. The OBE and MBE are the two orders most commonly awarded to men and women for services to their country.

      Right Honourable (Rt Hon) is the form of address used for people holding the following titles or offices: an earl or countess, a viscount, a baron, a Lord Mayor (the title given to the Mayor of London and other large cities) and a Privy Councillor. All Cabinet ministers are members of the Privy Council, the private council of the Sovereign. The full title appears in the form ‘The Right Honourable the Earl of Derby’, for example.

      Information on the protocol of addressing holders of honours and titles can be found in ‘Whitaker’s Almanac’ (published annually) and ‘Debrett’s Correct Form’ (Webb and Bower, Exeter).

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