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Robert Hickey
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Dear Lynn: Really enjoy your postings! Regarding Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Jill Jones: As the instructor on names, titles and forms of address at The Protocol School of Washington (, I get lots of questions in the same vein, and here's how I have come to think about it. There are formal forms of address that provide "a default form" when you don't know the preference of the individual. The traditional forms are useful to protocol officers and event planners when the requirement is to use the most formal forms of address for invitations, place cards and programs. These people are the ones who love the rules! They love consistency as the scan a table of place cards or a list of donors in a program. For people not in those positions, they have the option to be more creative since they are just 'crafting" one name at a time. These are more casual forms .. useful in less formal and informal situations. I don't see the first group as better ... but the two groups are definitely different! The "protocol approach" when drafting joint forms of address for couples being issued a formal invitation ... is to write the name of the most important person (or the intended guest, who might actually have a lower rank, but at the event, they are #1) on the first line, then the name of their spouse/companion/whatever on the second line. That means the most formal, traditional form is .... Lt. Colonel William Smith and Mrs. Smith or if it's her preference Lt. Colonel William Smith and Mrs. Nancy Smith or if it's her preference Lt. Colonel William Smith and Ms. Nancy Smith or if the woman his the higher office Lt. Colonel Nancy Smith and Mr. William Smith So, since that's a normal pattern this is how we teach to address the couple you write about: Mr. Robert Jones and Mrs. Jill Jones This form is better to me .... with the benefit that both people get their names as a complete unit ... which is very respectful! Also what is great about this approach is that it works well for any couple that presents themselves as a couple: Mr. Robert Jones and Mr. Tom Wilson Ms. Jill Jones and Ms. Ann Thomas The approach I recommend in my book "Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address" is when creating a form of address first find the traditional form of address so you can know what 'usually works" then confirm the preference of the individual. Ultimately one's name belongs to them, and others should address them as they want to be addressed. Sincerely, Robert Robert Hickey Deputy Director, The Protocol School of Washington® The Protocol School: My Book: My Blog: Facebook:
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Jan 6, 2011