How to Address an Acting Official

How to Address an Acting Official

99% of acting officials are not addressed in writing with the same forms of address of an elected and inaugurated or an appointed and installed official.

(See the 1% exception in the first post: Which Acting Officials …)

Address an acting official with the forms of address to which he or she is entitled and identify as the acting (name of office). For example:

For an elected and inaugurated mayor of a city:
—-—-The Honorable L. Christopher Young
—-—-Fitzgerald, Georgia   

—-—-Dear Mayor: or
—-—-Dear Mayor Young: 

For an acting mayor:
—-—-Mr. L. Christopher Young
—-—-Acting Mayor
—-—-Fitzgerald, Georgia

—-—-Dear Mr. Young:

One note. Acting officials are more likely to be addressed orally as (Title+Name, e.g., Mayor Young) in a meeting or other situation when it’s useful to identify the role of the person at that moment.   But formally in writing, it’s not the traditional way to do it.

Related Posts:
—-Candidate for Office
—-The Honorable, Use of
—-The Late, Use of
—-Pro Tempore


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Which Acting Officials are The Honorable (Full Name)?

Some very high officials (E.g., appointed by the President of the United States) are addressed as ‘the Honorable’ even though they were not elected. How low does that go?
— Anup

Dear Anup,

Unconfirmed cabinet-level officials … acting secretary, secretary ad-interim, and secretary designates (and corresponding attorneys general, too) … are addressed as ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’.  I base this on Mary Jane McCaffree & Pauline Innis’s book Protocol.   For office holders below cabinet level I know of no source that says any are “the Honorable (Full Name)’ too.

So, acting officials in the President’s cabinet – Yes

Acting officials below cabinet level who will be ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’ once confirmed, are not ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’ until their appointment and confirmation is complete.

—-Until then he or she is simply:
——–Mr./Ms./etc. (Full Name) + Acting (Name of Office Held)

If an appointee had been elected to office in a general election or in some way was entitled to be addressed as ‘the Honorable’ already … he or she would not have to wait.

— Robert Hickey   acting


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address an Acting Official If the Actual Official is Addressed as ‘the Honorable’?

Would it be appropriate to address an acting mayor of a U.S. city as ‘the Honorable’? Do you call him ‘Mayor (Name)’ in conversation’?
—-—-—-—-—-—-— Cheryl

Dear Cheryl,

‘The Honorable’ is reserved for U.S. officials elected in a general election -or- those very high officials appointed by the President of the United States (POTUS) and individually approved by the U.S. Senate.

Likely he/she is serving as acting mayor through a succession plan or a temporary appointment. If so he/she would not be ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’.    I say that with one exception: he or she might be ‘the Honorable’ due to some prior elected service. But we won’t get into that here.

An ‘acting’ mayor of a city, governor of a state, or president of a college isn’t really the office holder — he or she is only  ‘acting’.  Thus, do not address in conversation as if he or she were an ‘elected and inaugurated official’.

In a salutation or conversation use ‘Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name)’ and identify as the acting official. In some circumstances he or she might be orally addressed or referred to as ‘Acting (Office) (Name)’‘Acting Mayor (Name)’ … informally – when clarification is desired depending on who else is present. But in formal correspondence use:

—-—-Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Full Name)
—-—-Acting (Office)

—-—-Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname)

— Robert Hickey



Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”