Societies & Professions
Sixth in the order of precedence of letters after the name come the following (in order):
(a) Fellowships of learned societies
(b) Royal Academicians and associates
(c) Fellowships, memberships, etc, of professional institutions, associations, etc.
(d) Writers to the Signet
Fellowships fall into two categories:
(a) Honorific, ie nomination by election
(b) Nomination by subscription
Normally only honorific fellowships are used in social correspondence, such as FRS or FBA.
Fellowships by subscription are generally restricted to correspondence concerning the same field of interest, for example a writer to a Fellow of the Zoological Society on the subject of zoology will include FZS after the name.
There is no recognised order for placing these letters. In practice, where one society is indisputably of greater importance than another the letters are usually placed in that order. Alternatively, the fellowship of the junior society may be omitted, letters may be placed in order of conferment, or even in alphabetical order.
Where a fellow is pre-eminent in a particular subject, the fellowship of a society connected with this interest may either be placed first, or his other fellowships omitted.
Principal Learned Societies and Dates of Incorporation
|Fellow of the Royal Society||FRS||1662|
|Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries||FSA||1707|
|Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh||FRSE||1783|
|Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature||FRSL||1823|
|Fellow of the British Academy||FBA||1901|
Some presidents use letters signifying their appointment, eg the President of the Royal Society has ‘PRS’ after his name, but these letters are used only within the particular society.
The Royal Society of Literature bestows an award limited to ten recipients, the Companion of Literature. The letters ‘CLit’ are placed before the fellowship (CLit, FRSL).
Although Royal Academicians come second in this list, it is not suggested that they yield in precedence to fellows of learned societies. In practice the two lists do not coincide.
The president and past presidents are indicated as follows:
|President of the Royal Academy||PRA|
|Past President of the Royal Academy||PPRA|
|President of the Royal Scottish Academy||PRSA|
|Past President of the Royal Scottish Academy||PPRSA|
Royal Academicians and Associates are indicated as follows:
|Royal Scottish Academician||RSA|
|Associate of the Royal Academy||ARA|
|Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy||ARSA|
Similarly with other academies, for example President of the Royal Hibernian Academy (PRHA) and academicians (RHA).
Professional Institutions and Associations
Letters denoting fellowships and memberships of professional institutions are usually restricted to correspondence concerning the particular profession.
As there is no recognised order for placing qualifications awarded by different bodies, a recipient usually places these letters on headed paper, business cards, etc, in order of importance to his particular profession.
Those whose fellowships are by subscription generally only use letters after the name in the particular field of interest. For example, if John Smith is a chartered engineer and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he would normally be described professionally as ‘John Smith, Esq, CEng’.
When corresponding on historical subjects, however, he would normally be described as ‘John Smith, Esq, FRHistS’. If both series of letters are placed after his name, it is usual to place first those appropriate to the particular function or subject that is being addressed.
Writers to the Signet
The Writers to the Signet is an ancient society of solicitors in Scotland that dates back to 1594. Its members originally held special privileges in relation to the drawing up of legal documents. The society is now an independent association of solicitors, using the post-nominal letters ‘WS’.
It is customary for the letters ‘WS’ to follow the name after university degrees and those that signify fellowship or membership of a society or institution, despite the fact that the WS Society is considerably older than many institutions. This is simply a way of indicating the profession. It is not customary for the letters ‘WS’ to be used socially.
Members of Parliament
In formal address, the letters ‘MP’ are always shown for a member of parliament. They are shown seventh in the order of precedence of letters after the name.
Letters denoting membership of one of the armed forces come last in the order of precedence of letters after the name.
The letters RN (or Royal Navy, which this service prefers) are placed after the names of serving officers of the rank of captain and below. They are also placed after the names of retired captains, commanders and lieutenant-commanders. The letters RNR are likewise used by officers of the Royal Naval Reserve.
The appropriate letters that signify a regiment or corps may be placed after the name for officers on the active list of and below the rank of lieutenant-colonel, but are often omitted in social correspondence. These letters are not used for retired officers. Corps have letter abbreviations (for example RE for Royal Engineers, RAMC for Royal Army Medical Corps, RAOC for Royal Army Ordnance Corps, REME for Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). Most regiments are written in full.
The letters RAF are placed after serving and retired officers, except for marshals of the Royal Air Force. Officers above the rank of group captain do not often use these letters. The same rules apply to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR).
The letters RM (or Royal Marines, which some officers prefer) are placed after the names of serving and retired officers of the rank of lieutenant-colonel and below. The same rules apply to the Royal Marines Reserve (RMR).