How to Write a Name on an Award, Certificate, Diploma or Plaque

How to  Write the Name?
—–How would I engrave a name on a plaque for someone who was a governor?
—–We are honoring a retired ambassador.  How should we would write his name on the certificate?
—–A judge will be the speaker at our graduation ceremony and we will present him with an award. How do I write it?

The Answer: Just to list their full name:  (Full Name)

—–#1) It can be their formal name if it’s a formal award, a nick-name or go-by name for an informal award. If they are a ‘Jr.’ or a ‘III’ etc., the sequence post-nominal is part of their name, so include it.

—–#2) Include nothing before their name: no rank, no honorific, no courtesy title.

—–#3) Include nothing after their name: no academic or any other kind of post-nominals abbreviation for an honor or professional membership.

—–#4) Inscribing a plaque, award or certificate with just their name emphasizes the award is for the individual without reference to any office or position they might hold or have held. The honor is to them without regard to how their name might be written at a particular time in their life.

—–#5) An exception I’ll include is sometimes they will include academic post-nominals when the degree is required for the person to qualified to receive the award, be a member of the organization or to have been recognised in this particular way.   E.g., They’ll include MD on the certificate for a doctor when he or she receives some prestigious medical commendation. Or with a lawyer they’ll include JD after the name when he or she has to be an attorney to become a member of some lofty legal organization.

Note: For how to write a name on a grave marker, headstone or memorial – see the post Tombstone, Name on a.


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Name on an Award, Certificate, Diploma or Plaque
Should I Include An Official’s Office On a Plaque?

I sit on the board of a local community organization and am preparing appreciation plaques for several Virginia state senators and members of the Virginia House of Delegates. Is it appropriate to just use their names (without titles) on the plaques, or should we use the name of their office as well?

If we should use the names of their offices if they hold more than one, which one(s) is/are appropriate?

We have always used some sort of title/office in the past.

– Karen Snell, M.D.

Dear Dr. Snell:

If an award is given to them personally, you should just list their name without mentioning their job: (Full Name)

If you are honoring them for actions taken as an official … exercising the powers or privileges granted to the office they hold  …. then you could list them as:
—–(Full Name)
—–(Name of Office)

If they hold two offices – include only the office or offices pertinent to the award.  But once you start referring to more than one role/office, my preference would be just to the person, by name.

– Robert Hickey   Name on an Award Certificate Diploma Plaque

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Write the Name of a Deceased Person On a Plaque?

Our parish is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. We are giving certificates of recognition to honor our founding Parishioners.  My question is how to list a couple when one person is deceased?  The committee recommends putting the living person’s name first, following by the deceased spouse.

We were thinking:
—–If the husband is deceased: Mary & Joseph Smith
—–If the wife is deceased: Joseph & Mary Smith

Should it be:
—–If the husband is deceased: Mary & the late Joseph Smith
—–If the wife is deceased: The late Mary & Joseph Smith

Or can it be:
—–If the husband is deceased: Mary & Joseph (cross) Smith
—–If the wife is deceased: Mary (cross) & Joseph Smith

It is common in our parish to designate someone is deceased by placing a small cross after their name.
—-—-—-—-—-– Powell Dean

Dear Mr. Dean:

The committee’s suggested style is something I have never heard of, and don’t think makes much sense.

If you are honoring the founding parishioners – I would list their names without reference to whether they are alive or dead: they were alive when it counted – when they were founding to the parish!
—–Thomas James Smith and Mary Wilson Smith
—–Mary W. and Thomas J. Smith
—–Mary and Thomas Smith

One question is – why it is necessary to note who is living and who is dead?  How is this pertinent? Does the committee want historians to be able to look back and know who was alive at the 50th Anniversary Celebration? Why would that matter?

– Robert Hickey Name on an Award Certificate Diploma Plaque


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Write a Couple’s Name in a List?

We are working on formalizing our donor wall at the museum at which I work.  I wish to list couples with (first name), (middle initial, (last name) and (suffix) assuming they have all of these.  We typically list the man first, unless the woman has a different last name in which case she goes first.  I am struggling with how to address a couple with the same last name, but the man has a suffix.  Would it write:
—–John M. and Jane L. Smith, Jr.
—–Jane L. and John M. Smith, Jr.’
—–—–or something else?
—-—-—-—-– SB

Dear SB,

The problem with those two options is – she is not ‘Jane L. Smith, Jr.’

I note at the New York City museums,  where I have looked to see what they do, they use three forms. The first two are formal, the third one informal:
———-Mr. and Mrs. John M. Smith, Jr.
———-John M. Smith, Jr. and Jane L. Smith
———-Jane and John Smith

—–#1) The top on is the tradition form for a couple that uses the same surname. It does not include the woman’s given name, but many couples are  O.K. with that.

—–#2) The middle one retains the ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ order,

—–#3) This last one is usually explained as ‘keeping his name as a unit’.  It is also less formal.

Back to the New York museums:  I am looking at the wall, trying to figure out their rules, and right there in the middle of the list is something completely different! When I see this wild card, I think they used what the donor put on the pledge form. If I have to choose between making the editor/committee happy — and the donor happy … I would vote for making the donor happy. It’s the donor’s name, it is their donation, and they should have their name as they want it to appear.

Another form you see when couples have equal precedence but use different names –  man & woman or single sex couple – is:  ‘Jane L. Apple and Susan M. Zappa’  … alphabetical by surname.

– Robert Hickey   Name on an Award Certificate Diploma Plaque


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”