How to use Sir
How to use Ma’am

How to Address a ‘Sir’ (Knight)

‘Sir’ is not a rank or office. But it is an honorific used in oral and written address of a British knight: Sir Paul (Paul McCartney), Sir Elton (Elton John).

Follow the link to Knight for the forms of address and use of Sir.  How to use Maam


How to Use Sir and Ma’am

Oral use of Sir and Ma’am elevates the formality of the conversation.

In hierarchical organizations/environments Sir and Ma’am are signs of respect. For example, in the Armed Services it’s standard to address anyone of higher in rank (e.g. officers by enlisted personnel) by (Rank)+(Name) first, then as Sir/Ma’am thereafter.

In formal households children might be taught to address their elders as Sir or Ma’am. Thus, to many it is appropriate to use these when addressing someone older.

I take a spin class every Saturday — the instructor always calls me Sir … Because (I think it is his reasoning) he has noticed that I am by far the oldest person in class.  I think it’s funny, but I bet not everyone would.

If someone reacts negatively to being addressed as Sir or Ma’am, they are probably very egalitarian and don’t like what they see as your implication of a lower/higher relationship.  Or they think you are suggesting they are old.  In either case, try Good Morning rather than Good Morning, Sir or Good Morning Ma’am..

– Robert Hickey   How to use Maam


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”