Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Listing former Presidents in programs


I understand that the proper manner of listing a former president in a program is, "The Honorable (first and last name).  However, what if he  wishes to be listed in a more informal manner?  And, if another President, who is also to be listed, chooses yet a different manner of listing, what do you do?  Is it appropriate to have the two different forms, as this is their preference, or do you go with protocol?  It looks very odd to see these inconsistent listings as the President with the least formal listing looks disrespected.  The listing will be in an invitation to a black tie event.

Dear Karen:
Thank you for your question.  The protocol for addressing former Presidents is to use their last elected honorific (Governor if appropriate as for Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Ambassador for George H.W. Bush) or Mr. Last Name. None of them are allowed to use President as their honorific after leaving office.  The Honorable is appropriate for all when addressing envelopes to them.
The interesting thing about protocol is that you use it as a guide and it is always correct.  However, if a person has specifically told you they would rather use Mr. instead of Governor or Ambassador, then you respect their wish and use their preferred honorific.  Remember, under no circumstance can you use President once they leave office, even if they want you to. I say that again because there is one former President who has been trying to do that on occasion.

If you would like to share the specifics of your dilemma, I would be happy to give you the specific wording to use.  If not, please go with the guide I just outlined.

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

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World Bank, United Nations,US Dept. of State, US. Dept. of the Army, Pentagon, Barclays Global Investors,Accenture,Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, The White House, Dept. of State, AT&T,Bank of America,American Association of Clinical Pharmacies,Ritz Carlton Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels,Starwood Hotels,and many more.

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