Questions on Professions

How does one address a Lord Lieutenant and his deputy, both in writing and in conversation? 

A Lord-Lieutenant has no special form of address, but if you are writing to him in his official capacity you may certainly add HM Lord-Lieutenant of Blankshire on the envelope. Of course many Lord-Lieutenants are already titled in their own right, in which case the appropriate form of address must be used, both in writing and in conversation.

There is no special form of address for a Deputy Lieutenant, although the letters DL may be added after the name on an envelope.

How do I finish off a letter to an Ambassador when I have started it as 'His Excellency'? 

A letter that opens 'Your Excellency' should close 'I have the honour to be, with the highest consideration, [new line] Your Excellency's obedient servant'.

A letter that opens 'Dear Ambassador' should close 'Believe me [new line] My dear Ambassadsor [new line] Yours sincerely'.

Would you be good enough to let me know the correct way to address a letter to a retired Air Commodore CBE DFC? 

Your letter should be addressed to Air Commodore XYZ Smith, CBE, DFC, RAF, and you should open your letter 'Dear Air Commodore Smith'. The abbreviation 'Retd' may be added, but this is optional.

I need to write a letter to the London Staines Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Is there any special form of address for this religious sect? I believe they have Brethern and Elders and the contents of my letter will need to be viewed by the Elders. I hope you will be able to assist me. 

Thank you for your enquiry. A representative of the British Isles Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses recommends that you should address your letter to The Body of Elders, and open your letter 'Dear Brethren', although he was not sure that this would be appropriate if you are not a Jehovah's Witness yourself.

Perhaps a call to Watch Tower House, The Ridgeway, London NW7 1RN (0208-906-2211) would be advisable.

Can you please advise what would be the correct way to address a clergyman who was all of the following: 1. Reverend; 2. Canon; 3. Doctor of Divinity NC
Debrett's Correct Form tells us that 'The Reverend Canon Professor Edward Jones' is never used, as it is far too cumbersome. On this premise, therefore, I suggest that 'The Reverend Canon John Smith, DD', would be an appropriate way to address the clergyman in question, as this would seem to cover his ecclesiastical and academic qualifications.

I am having a wedding soon and one of my relatives is a Lay Canon (i.e. not ordained yet) of an English Cathedral. Do I address her on the invitation as Canon 'X' please and when writing do I refer to her as Canon in the address part? Thank you.

I suggest the correct form of address is simply Mrs/Miss/Ms, i.e. you should ignore 'Canon' altogether.

When preparing invitations for an Ambassador's dinner, if the guests are husband and wife, is it correct to write on the invitation "Mr & Mrs Stephen Smith" or "Mr Stephen Smith & Mrs Gillian Smith" ie should the names be written separately on the invitation card? 

Traditionally a social invitation to a married couple would use the style 'Mr and Mrs Stephen Smith', as you have suggested. If the Ambassador prefers a more informal approach I suggest that 'Stephen and Gillian Smith' would be an acceptable alternative, although some may consider this too informal.

Please can you tell me if there is a correct form of address when writing to a High Sheriff in their official capacity? 

There is no special form of address or salutation when writing to a High Sheriff, but as you are writing to him/her in his/her official capacity you may certainly write 'High Sheriff of XYZ' under his/her name on the envelope.

What salutation do I use in a letter for someone who is an Admiral Sir firstname surname? 

You could address your correspondent either as 'Dear Admiral Smith' or as 'Dear Sir John'. Both are correct, but on balance I would suggest you use the latter salutation.

Could you very kindly advise me, please, of the correct order to write on the envelope of a letter addressed to an Andrew Hardy,  who is a professor, doctor of theology (or possibly of philosopy) and an ordained minister of religion?  I am not sure of the academic qualifications but I know that he has an B.A., two MAs and I would guess that his doctorate is more likely to be in theology than philosopy. I wonder whether it could be: Professor, the Rev Dr Andrew Hardy, B.A., M.A., Th D, ? 

According to Debrett's Correct Form when a Professor is in Holy Orders the ecclesiastical rank precedes the academic (ie The Reverend Professor Andrew Hardy). Correct Form also suggests that where there is a third style or title, in this case Doctor, it is usually omitted. However, this is perhaps a matter to be decided by the individual in question. He may prefer to be styled The Reverend Doctor Andrew Hardy.

Most Universities adopt the 'ascending order' of placing degrees (ie in the order by which they are taken), but you might note that Correct Form suggests that the degree of a Bachelor or Master is not accorded to those who have proceeded to the corresponding second or final degree (eg one does not include BA and MA), and the degree of MA is not accorded to a doctor of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge where a doctor's degree is considered to include the MA degree.

You might have to contact the gentleman himself to get this right.

See Forms of Address: Professions/Academics

Please could you tell me how a letter to Tony Blair should be addressed now he has left office? 

Tony Blair remains a privy counsellor for life, so you should address your envelope to The Rt Hon Tony Blair.

How do I address a General in the British Army? Many thanks. 

You should open your letter 'Dear General'. It would, perhaps, be wise to check whether he has any other title or has letters after his name, which should be given on the envelope.

I am writing a personal letter in response to one we have received from The Most Reverend Desmond M. Tutu OMSG DD FKC. How do I address him by letter and also on the envelope please? 

Thank you for your enquiry. As Desmond Tutu is a Doctor of Divinity, I think you might open your letter, 'Dear Dr Tutu'. The envelope would read exactly as you have cited in your e-mail.

I would appreciate learning how to address a member of the Scottish  Parliament, both in second and third person  in writing, and face to face. 

I think in speech one would address a Member of the Scottish Parliament simply as Mr/Ms Smith (or Sir Andrew, if applicable). In writing one would put the initials MSP after his/her name on the envelope, and one would open the letter Dear Mr/Ms Smith. When referring to an MSP in the third person I don't think there is any special form of wording, although one could of course add the said initials, if that is thought helpful and appropriate.

I would be very grateful if you could advise me on how to address a Mother Abbess.  Do I simply write Dear Mother Abbess and then write the letter? Also do you know how to end the letter as well? 

You should open your letter to a Mother Abbess, 'Dear Mother Abbess'. There seems to be no special form of valediction, so I suggest 'Yours sincerely' would be appropriate. Your envelope should be addressed to 'The Mother Abbess'.

What is the correct way to address a letter to the Mayor of a Borough Council when writing to thank for a donation from the Mayor's Charity Fund? eg 'Councillor ABC, XYZ Borough Council' or 'The Worshipful the Mayor of XYZ, XYZ Borough Council'. If I am on first name terms with the Mayor is it correct to begin the letter 'Dear Firstname'? Thank you. RP
Your envelope to a letter addressed to the Mayor of a Borough Council should be read 'The Worshipful the Mayor of XYZ Borough Council'. If desired, the name (preceded by Councillor) may follow the office.  As you are on first name terms with the Mayor, I should begin the letter 'Dear Forename'.

How do I address the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, in a letter? 

Thank you for your enquiry. A letter to the Rt Hon Hilary Benn would start 'Dear Mr Benn'.

How would a British General address the Secretary of State for War in 1915?  The relevant man was Lord Kitchener at the time, so would one call him 'My Lord', 'Sir' or something else?  I presume the form of address 'Mr Secretary' to be purely American.  Can you help please? 

Thank you for your enquiry. I presume your question refers to a spoken form of address between a British General and Lord Kitchener in 1915? If so, as Lord Kitchener was then a Field Marshal as well as a peer, I think it quite possible that a General would address him as 'Field Marshal', rather than 'My Lord', although both salutations would be equally correct. Certainly 'Mr Secretary' seems most unlikely.

I am writing a personal letter to a Circuit Judge and his wife.  How do I address the envelope, please? 

A personal letter to a circuit judge and his wife would be addressed to His Honour Judge Smith and Mrs Smith. If, however, the judge has been knighted, you should amend this to His Honour Judge Sir John Smith and Lady Smith.

What would be the correct form of wording on a memorial  stone in a churchyard for a deceased C of E clergyman who was a canon? Would one write: 1. The Rev Canon + first names, surname; 2. Canon+ first names, surname; 3. first names, surname (without canon). Any information you can supply would be much appreciated. 

I would suggest that the memorial stone should be inscribed The Rev Canon + forenames and surname. This would give your late clergyman his correct style of address. The full name is normally given, by tradition, but if there is not room on the stone for the full name it would be perfectly acceptable simply to inscribe the Christian name by which he was generally known.

See Church of England: Cannon

What is the proper way to address the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory? On their government website he is listed as follows: Representative of the Queen, His Excellency the Governor,  Mr. Gordon Wetherall, Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Government House , Grand Turk .

So, should the address be: Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Government  House, Grand Turk? Ahould the salutation be 'Dear Governor  Wetherall' OR 'Your  Excellency'? And If I  address him in the body of the letter, do I say 'Governor Wetherall', or 'Your Honor' or 'Your Excellency'? 

A Governor of a British Overseas Territory is styled 'His Excellency' while administering a Government and within the territory administered. In writing, therefore, a formal letter to Mr Wetherall, one would open the letter 'Sir', and close it 'I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency's obedient servant' (this is on three lines), and the envelope would be addressed to His Excellency Mr Gordon Wetherall, Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands (this should be on two lines).

A more social (or informal) letter would start 'Dear Mr Wetherall' and would close 'Yours sincerely'. The envelope remains the same. In speech the formal address is 'Your Excellency', and less formally, 'Mr Wetherall'.

There is no need for any special form of address within the body of the letter (ie 'you' is perfectly correct). See Diplomatic Service

Next Friday Anne-Marie Nelson is receiving a doctorate from the University of Greenwich.  Can you please help us with the order of her relevant honours and degrees. She is titled Lady Nelson as her husband is a High Court judge. She has:  CBE, D.L. (of Kent), M.A. (Cantab), and will from next Friday be Dr. (Greenwich Univ). 

The position of Lady Nelson's letters after her name, in theory, would be: CBE, DL, MA, DUniv (I assume Lady Nelson is to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Greenwich.) You might feel it wise to check with the University directorate that 'DUniv' is the correct post-nominal.

According to Debrett's Correct Form, the degrees MA and BA are never used in social correspondence, but are generally included in a formal list. See Academics

One of my professional institutes is currently drafting new bye-laws in conjunction with a petition for a Royal Charter.  Several new clauses will determine the institute's rules for the use of its post-nominal qualifications (requisite initials for fellowship or membership of the institute).

It is my understanding that, where an individual is a member/fellow of more than one institute, such post-nominal designations are ranked in order of the foundation of each institute (oldest first) regardless of the grade of membership of each institute.  For example, Mr. Smith ACA FSI FEI or Mr Jones FCA MSI FEI.  This has been reflected in the draft bye-laws.

The draft bye-laws also contain a clause to the effect that where an honorary fellowship of the institute is conferred, the post-nominal designation for it should precede all other designations (i.e. that the above rule should not apply in the case of the honorary distinction). Is this, strictly speaking, correct? I have enquired about this at a number of other institutes of which I am a fellow but most of them seem unaware of the first convention let alone the subtleties of the second.  Your advice would therefore be of great interest.

According to the original edition of Debrett's Correct Form (1970) 'There is no recognized order for placing these letters. Strictly speaking, they should be arranged according to the date of foundation or incorporation of the societies concerned, but some hold that those with a Royal Charter should precede others.' This would seem to agree with your understanding.

There is no separate reference to honorary fellowships, except to say 'Normally only honorific fellowships are used in social correspondence (eg FRS, FBA). Fellowships by subscription are generally restricted to correspondence concerning the same field of interest.'  This would appear to imply that honorary fellowships taking precedence over all other designations.

See Professional Fellowships

I am required to write a letter to a gentleman who has signed his name M. Callan, but written that the letter is from: Major General M. Callan CB. How would I start the letter? Dear Sir, Dear Major General, Dear Major General Callan.  Your help would be appreciated as one would not wish to get this quite wrong and offend the poor man. 

As your correspondent has kindly indicated that he is a Major General, I think you must respect this in your reply. Address your envelope, therefore, to Major General M. Callan, CB, and start your letter 'Dear General Callan', and close it 'Yours sincerely'. See Armed Forces


Forms Of Address

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's new publication encompassing correct form, modern manners and everyday behaviour

search now
Debrett's Stationery

Debrett's Stationery

Debrett's Courses

Debrett's Courses

Training & Classes

Training & Classes

Providing the skills and confidence to be welcome and at ease in any professional or social situation.

search now