How To Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations

When Can I Start Using My Degree with My Name?

Once your degree is noted on your transcript you officially have the degree. That happens sometime after the faculty decides you have it and the graduation ceremony. You won’t know exactly when.  Best policy is to wait to include your degree’s post-nominal abbreviations as part of your name until the ceremony and you have the diploma in hand.  Until then you are a candidate for the degree.

— Robert Hickey How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Punctuate Post Nominals

In American English, abbreviations get a periods: Mr., Dr., Ave., St., etc.  U.S. style books suggest periods in post-nominal abbreviations: Ph.D., M.D., M.S.W., or M.B.A.

In British English, abbreviations do not get periods: Mr, Dr, Ave, St, etc.   British style books suggest post-nominals abbreviations without periods: PhD, MD, MSW, MBA.

So how do you write abbreviations: with periods or without periods?  The quick answer is to match the style of punctuation you already follow.

If you want more comprehensive information on abbreviations with names, refer to one of the established manuals of style.  I have a chapter on abbreviations and post nominals in names in my book, but manuals such as The Chicago Manual of Style covers the topic in a much broader way.

— Robert Hickey How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

What is the Right Order?


What is The Order of Professional Post-Nominals?

I am doing a presentation on what the many post nominals in the medical and nursing fields are and what they stand for. There are many and for our nursing convention I am conducting a focus session on the correct order to present post nominals.
——Would you happen to have that information?
—-—-—-– Monica, RN, BSN

Dear Monica,
There is a standard sequence for all types of post nominals (academic degrees, decorations, honorary degrees, professional associations & affiliations, religious orders, theological degrees, etc., etc., etc.). In your case here’s the pertinent sequence that I often see with nurses:

——–Academic Degrees
—-—-Professional Licenses – R.N. is a professional license.
—-—-Professional Certifications
—-—-Professional Associations & Affiliations

If you have more than one in a category, place them:
—-#1) high to low How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations
—-#2) if they are of equal precedence –in alphabetical – order within the category

And finally, I like ‘the rule’ not to include more than three post nominals after your name. More than that? Delineate them in your biography/CV/Resume. We love our honors, degrees, and memberships, but others don’t care so much. Focus on what is directly pertinent to others to support the service you are offering & those that are widely recognized.
————– Robert Hickey How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations



Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

What is the Order of Different Types of Post-Nominals?

I have recently earned my Doctorate in Divinity. I already have a PhD, a MS in engineering, and an engineering registration (license) PE.
What is the correct order?  What circumstances do I use them?
————– Kevin, PE, PhD, DD, MS

Dear Kevin:

The standard order for post-nominals is:
—-—-#1) Religious orders
—-—-#2) Theological degrees
—-—-#3) Academic degrees, arts before professions
—-—-#4) Honorary degrees, honors, decorations
—-—-#5) Professional licenses
—-—-#6) Professional certifications
—-—-#7) Professional associations & affiliations

So for you that would be: DD, PhD, MS, PE

If you have multiple post-nominals in one category, list most important/highest first and then in descending precedence order. If you think two are equal, put them in alphabetical order.

Some guidelines on use of post-nominals are:
—-—-A) Post nominals are only used with a full name
—-—-B) Use just the post nominals pertinent to the situation. Religious where relevant, engineering where relevant
—-—-C) Post-nominals are not used socially

– Robert Hickey   How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Which Should I Use?

which to use

Which of My Post Nominals Should I Use?

I have a Doctor of Medicine degree, Master of Science in Technical Management, Master of Science in Chemistry, and B.S. in Biochemistry. I have only ever used MY NAME, M.D.. I see other physicians using THEIR NAME, M.D., M.S. to include the fact that they have other degrees. What is correct?
————– KTW

I am a holistic health practitioner (H.H.P.), certified aromatherapist (cert aroma), registered aromatherapist (R.A.), master herbalist (M.H.), licensed massage therapist (L.M.T.) and esthetician (L.E.).    Should my name be
——-(Full Name), H.H.P., cert aroma, M.H., L.M.T., L.E., R.A.
————– HHP

Dear KTW & HHP:
Two issues here:

#1) What is pertinent to your clients / the public?
Use the highest and most pertinent post nominals when presenting your name to clients, peers, licensing agencies, etc. Make only those which support the services you offer –  to be part of the name .

E.g., Physicians include M.D./D.O./etc. and the post nominals for their professional affiliations – to define their type of schooling and specialty. They might include another less-directly related degree/certification such as a MS – Masters in Science in Chemistry – if they choose. But a Masters in Art History might not be a useful qualification to those looking for a physician. All the degrees/certifications earned would appear on their CV/resume.

#2) Which post nominals will the public recognize?
When they are your post nominals you are proud of each one. But a business card or Email signature is not your CV/resume/bio.

When deciding which post nominals to include, ask yourself: is what the post nominal stands for common knowledge? It doesn’t have to be instantly recognizable to everyone on the planet. But it should be common knowledge to the people who see this version of your name.

If they are not well-known abbreviations, it may be better just to list the services you offer. Include ‘Holistic Health Practitioner’ ‘Certified HVAC Repair Specialist’ or ‘Licensed Massage Therapist’ with your name. The details can be on your CV/resume/bio.

– Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

What is the Correct Post-Nominal?


What is the Correct Post-Nominal for My Degree?

I have searched without success as to how to abbreviate: Doctorate in Education Administration which I have just recently completed.
————– JEB, Kensington, Maryland

I completed an Executive M.B.A. in Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing.  Should it be abbreviated as E.M.B.A. or just M.B.A.?
—-—-—-– Tim M.

Dear Jeb and Tim:
——Academic post nominals vary with the name of the degree and tradition of the granting institution. For example, if certain institution offers both M.B.A. and Executive M.B.A. they might make the distinction between the degrees by using M.B.A. and E.M.B.A. But another institution might have a different naming pattern.
——Call the Dean’s office and ask. Someone there will know what most graduates use. Ultimately your fellow grads will be the ones most critical of what you use.
————– Robert Hickey


How to Use Esquire or Esq.?

For detailed information, see the post: Esquire.
—— – Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

List of All Post-Nominals


Is There a Comprehensive List of Post-Nominals?

Where can I find a comprehensive list of all official post-nominal letters for the U.S.?
—–I am working on behalf of data governance of an amusement park and want to make sure we present a comprehensive and accurate list for our guests making reservations online.  This would include anything anyone puts behind their name.
—————-– William Maryse

Dear Mr. Maryse:

It is impossible to develop such a list and keep it current.

—-#1) I started such a list for my book. I found universities, societies, and certifying organizations vary on the post-nominals they use for (what looked like to me to be identical…) degrees, honors, and certificates. There is no recognizing agency to decide who can invent a new post-nominal and who gets to use it.

—-#2) You say this is for guests making on-line reservations to an amusement park? I think you should consider limiting it only to Jr., Sr. and  III.  All the other post-nominals (academic, honors, licenses, affiliations) are used only in official situations. Getting tickets to your venue sounds particularly social to me.

– Robert Hickey

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

How to Use My Post-Nominal?

How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations

I Have Two Degrees With The Same Post-Nominal. Can I Use Both?

I will have two master’s degrees, both MS. When I create a business card, do I just write MS once after my name? Do I indicate both?
—-—-—-– Dan

I have two Bachelor of Arts Degrees. What post-nominals would be appropriate on her card? Would you use simply a B.A. once, or would you use B.A., B.A.?
—-—-—-– Justin

Dear Dan & Justin,


—-#1) In academia and research …. list every degree and honor you have earned. All your degrees are pertinent to the academic environment.

—-#2) Outside academia include only degrees directly pertinent to the service you offer / job you hold.

MS, MS would not be wrong – and you might get some questions. If they ask it’s an opportunity to tell them about your education.
Regarding B.A., B.A.: In an academic journal it would be pertinent. Outside of academia It is rare to see B.A. included with a person’s name at all.


Whether you include academic post-nominals on your business card depends on several things.

—-#1) A business card is not a resume/CV. A card is to facilitate keeping in contact with another person. What’s important are addresses and numbers.

—-#2) Always include your job title. It defines your role, functions and services.

—-#3) Include pertinent post-nominals [degrees, licenses, certifications] for the professional service you are rendering. This type of post-nominal is included to establish the professional certifications required to provide the service. E.g., a CPA might list only ‘CPA’ after his name since it’s pertinent to his/her professional practice … even though he/she might have a B.A. and a M.A. as well. A business consultant with an M.B.A. might only list his M.B.A. … not less pertinent or lower degrees.

– Robert Hickey How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Can I Use My Post-Nominals on E-Mail Address Block?

Is it considered correct to use one´s post nominals in one’s e-mail address block?
————– L-M-N-V

Dear L-M-N-V:

Post-nominals are used in official situations … especially in academia …. on business correspondence. They are not used on social correspondence.

A signature block is an official presentation of your name, so you can include them with some caveats:

—-#1) Include only post-nominals pertinent to the interaction.

—-#2) In academia, more post nominals are included. Outside academia & research B.A. and MA are not included unless they are directly pertinent to the job is one is performing. A therapist/counselor would include a masters in counseling after their name… a business consultant would include M.B.A. Whereas a person with an M.F.A. working in administration at city hall would not include their masters. Even doctorates are omitted if not related to the professional service being rendered: A person with an Ph.D. in a European history should not present him or herself as a ‘Dr. (Name)’ when teaching yoga.

– Robert Hickey   How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations

How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations

How Many Post Nominals To Use on My E-mail Signature?

I currently have two certifications I include on my e-mail signature block. I will be adding a number of additional certifications over the coming months, and eventually a Masters Degree in Homeland Security as well. Do I use them all in professional email?
—-—-—-– Justin Dwight, CHLS, PCP

Dear Mr. Dwight:

A signature block is not your resume where you can list everything.  I like the ‘rule’ not to include more than three post nominals after your name. If you have more than that, delineate them in your biography/CV/Resume.  We love our honors, degrees, and memberships, but others don’t care so much. Focus on what is pertinent to others to support professional the service you are offering.

And finally, your peers are the ones who will have an opinion on whether you have too much alphabet soup after your name – or if you are appropriate.

– Robert Hickey How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations



Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

May I Use a Post-Nominal with My Name If the Degree is from a Free & On-Line School?

A couple of years ago I completed a course in lateral thinking. I found it very thought provoking and useful. Recently that site has advertised a Masters and a Doctorate in Lateral Thinking. It’s an on-line free training. It’s a lot of work, probably similar to the amount required in a university-level Masters.
They state that graduates would be able to use the post nominals MLT or DLT, for Master of Lateral Thinking and Doctor of Lateral Thinking.

Bear in mind that this is not an accredited college or a university. I realize that there is no post-nominal police hunting people down, but what is the accepted practice for Masters and Doctorates? Does an organization like that have the ‘right’ to offer such post nominals, given they are usually bestowed upon graduates of universities?

—-—-—-– Ross Robinson

Dear Mr. Robinson:

—-#1) Can you use it? People can present their name as they wish to present their name. So, yes, you could use MLT or DLT.

—-#2) When can you use it? Degrees are credentials pertinent to providing a service. Post nominals are included in the official/professional form of your name – not the social form. If you are including them on your resume the question is: For what job or service are these degrees pertinent? What field recognizes these degrees to be of value?

—-#3) Where can you use it? Degrees have the most value in the domain in which they are issued – places which recognize the certification. E.g., medical degrees granted by a foreign school of medicine are not automatically recognized in the USA. Some are. Some aren’t. Accredited institutions of higher learning pretty much accept one another’s credits, but for anyone who has tried to have credits transferred knows it is not automatic.

So, an on-line, free degree may be valuable for personal growth and of the most pertinence in cyberspace. Its post nominal might not find itself as part of your name all the time.

– Robert Hickey



Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When to Use a Bachelors or Associates Degree?

I will be receiving my Associates Degree in Applied Science and intend to receive a bachelors degree in the same field. I am unsure if I can use A.A.S. in a professional context. I realize an associate’s degree is thought to be a minor accomplishment by some, but I have worked hard for it and I would like to incorporate it into my name.
————– M.H.

Dear M.H.,

In academia, a bachelors or associates degree might be part of the officials form of one’s name.

In business/corporate it’s exceeding rare to see it as part of a name. I am hedging on ‘never’ but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it where it seemed appropriate.

Absolutely include your degrees on your resume … but don’t include the post-nominals for bachelors and associates degrees on a business card or e-mail signature block. Masters and doctorates with their professional focus are what you see.

– Robert Hickey   How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Use Sequence Post-Nominals
How to Use Sr., Jr., II, III,  etc.

Sequence How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations

Do You Use Jr., II, III, etc. Forever?

My son is Walter C. Wentz IV. His father and grandfather are deceased. What is the proper designation for him now? What is the proper sequence post-nominal designation for the son he is expecting next month?
——————––- Audrey Parker How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations

Dear Ms. Parker:

Continued use of sequence post nominals is a matter of clarity.

First it is useful to define two types of names:

—-A) Your legal name – which is what on your birth certificate and likely your most important legal documents. Your legal names doesn’t change unless you have it legally changed.

—-B) Your ‘Go-by Name’ – which is what you use in less formal circumstances. This would be what your known by most people.

Here are some situations which arise:

—-#1) Some keep the sequence post-nominals in the ‘Go-By Names’ if their father was well-known … or if they work together … they socialize in the same circles …. or they think the friends/clients/customers will find the post nominals useful.

—-#2) Some never include their sequence post nominals in their ‘Go-by name’. They use a nick name or a simplified version nearly everywhere.

—-#3) Some drop the sequence post-nominals from their ‘Go-by name’ … Jr., II, or III … when their father dies.

—-#4) One might keep the sequence post-nominals because it matters within the family. E.g., his mother is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz III and his wife is Mrs. Walter C. Wentz IV.

An example is Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who is really William H. Gates, Jr., but never used the ‘Jr.‘   His father, born William H. Gates uses William H. Gates, Sr.  He added the Sr. to his ‘Go-by Name’ to clarify that he is not his much more famous son. He probably did not change his legal name in court. The change is informal and unofficial.

So, if your son names his son Walter C. Wentz V, he’s clearly interested in tradition. He will probably keep using Walter C. Wentz IV as his ‘go-by name’.

If he gives his son a different name …. E.g., Zachery … there is no need for the sequence post nominals.

– Robert Hickey—- How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Is a Second Son Named After a ‘Senior’ – the ‘III’?

I have a son named him after his Dad. The Dad already has an older son and he named ‘Jr.’. So, we named my son ‘lll’ and Dad now uses ‘Sr.’ Did we do this right?
——————– RR

Dear RR:

The key thing is to give each son a unique legal name.  You gave your son a unique name and that’s a good thing!

I understand that heavy-weight boxing champion George Foreman named five his sons:
——–George Foreman, Jr.
——–George Foreman III
——–George Foreman IV
——–George Foreman V
——–George Foreman VI

Typically, III, IV, V, etc./ are used in subsequent generations, but the way you did makes sense to me.  Some might say that II is better, but I see a conflict with Junior.  Note that with “Jr.”there is a comma after the name.  Style books suggest that with II, III, IV  …. no comma after the name.

– Robert Hickey  sequence


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When the Husband is a Jr., II, III, IV or V – How Do You Address His Wife?

If the husband is Mr. William Terry, Jr. when does the Junior go with a wife’s name?
————-– Donna Terry

Dear Ms. Terry:

—-A wife using Mrs. and his full name would use his sequence post nominal:
—-—-Mrs. (Husband’s Full Name)
——-—-Mrs. William Terry, Jr.

—-A wife who uses does not use his full name does not use his sequence post nominal:
—-Mrs. (Woman’s Name)
——–—-Mrs. Donna Terry

—-Mrs. (Surname only)
—-——–Mrs. Terry

—-Never use:
—-—-Mrs. Donna Terry, Jr.
—-—-Mrs. Terry, Jr.

– Robert Hickey


When He’s a Jr. II, III, etc. How to Write a Couple’s Name?

What is the proper way our name when he is a ‘II’?
We are Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames

How do I write their names?
Wesley P. II and Patricia D. Ames
Wesley P. and Patricia D. Ames II
Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames
– PDA.

Dear PDA,

He’s the only one who is a ‘II’ … so the ‘II’ only appears when his name is written alone as a unit.

When the names are formally presented …. He’s first. It’s called the ‘Mr. & Mrs. Order’.
(His Name) and (Her Name)
Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames
Mr. and Mrs. (His Full Name)
Mr. and Mrs. Wesley P. Ames II

These formulas work all the time … for couples who are and who are not juniors, II, III etc.

Never use:
Patricia D. and Wesley P. Ames II

Because she is not:
Patricia D. Ames II

When names are combined:
#1) His given and family name are last and are kept as a unit.
#2) Since it’s not his full name all by itself, the Jr., II, III etc. is left off.
(Her Given Name) and (His Given and Family Name)
Patricia and Wesley Ames

But one more thing about writing names – especially if you are including names in a program on in a donor list: When I look at donor/contributor lists, in programs or carved on founder’s walls in museums — 90% are: Patricia and Wesley Ames. The other 10% are Wesley and Patricia Ames. I recommend the 90% option.

The final determination is — to write their name the way the persons submits their name to be presented. In the end, savvy organizations present names the way the listed person says they want their name presented. It matters less that the editor doesn’t like the style …. It matters more if the contributor likes the style. It’s their name and it’s their money!

– Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Use Junior, II, III, IV etc.

How to Use Junior II III IV

Does a Junior or II Have to be a Direct Descent?

Does a numeric post nominal need to be direct descent, as it would with Junior?
– Adrienne in Hawaii    How to Use Junior II III IV

Dear Adrienne: How to Use Junior II III IV
Here’s how these post nominals typically work:

—-#1) Your legal name (what’s on your birth certificate) does not change unless you go to court and have a judge change it. People change their ‘Go-By Name’ names … and as long as you pay your bills no one really cares.

—-#2) A son who is given the same name as his father is (Full Name), Jr.  ‘Jr.’ implies that the person he is a ‘junior’ of – was his father.

—-#3) A boy who is given the same name as a relative (in memory of or to honor that relative, say, an uncle, grandfather, etc. ) is named at birth (Full Name), II. ‘II’ implies that the person he was named for was not his father.

—-#4) Any boy named after a ‘Jr.’ or a ‘II’ is a ‘III’. Any boy named after a ‘III’ is a ‘IV’. etc.

—-#5) If the person you were named for dies … e.g., if you are born a ‘III’. and your father who was a ‘Jr.’ dies … you legally keep being the name you were given at birth. Many men stop using the Jr. as part of their ‘Go-By Name’ when their father dies. My brother did that  But if a father was famous … a son may keep using Jr. for clarity: Frank Sinatra, Jr.; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Al Gore, Jr.

E.g., if you work in the same business as your father and everyone knew him, it may be useful to keep using the ‘Jr.’ with your name so people who knew your dad – will be clear who you are. While some Juniors use the ‘Jr.’ as part of their ‘Go-By Name’ all the time – many don’t.

– Robert Hickey   How postnominals 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Use Junior II III IV How to Use Post-Nominal Abbreviations

How are Sr., Jr., I, II, & III Assigned If the Name Changes Just a Tiny Bit?

My husband’s father’s name is William O’Shea Baxter.

My husband’s name William O’Shea Baxter, Jr.

Our son is William O’Shea Baxter 3rd. He had a son he named him William Shea Baxter, leaving off the ‘O’. Is this child the 4th?

—-—-—-– MAB

Dear MAB,

When name changes, the starting point of sequence post nominals starts again.

When the legal name passes down exactly, adding the sequence post nominals … Jr., 2nd, 3rd, … makes clear who is who – to banks, government tax collectors, recorders of deeds, borrowers & debtors.

If the legal name changes from father to son in any way … there’s no need to use the sequence post nominals. Each has a unique name.

Of course, there is no Naming Police out there to enforce tradition or review the logic of the way anyone names their children!

– Robert Hickey


Is a Second Son Named After a Father – the ‘III’?

I have a son named him after his Dad.  The Dad already has an older son and he named ‘Jr.’.  So, we named my son ‘lll’ and Dad now uses ‘Sr.’  Did we do this right?
—-—-—-—-– RR How to Use Junior II III IV

Dear RR:

The key thing is to give each son a unique legal name.  You gave your son a unique name and that’s a good thing!

I understand that heavy-weight boxing champion George Foreman named five his sons:
—-—-George Foreman, Jr.
—-—-George Foreman III
—-—-George Foreman IV
—-—-George Foreman V
—-—-George Foreman VI

Typically, III, IV, V, etc.  are used in subsequent generations, but the way you did makes sense to me. Style books show ‘Jr.” gets a comma after the name before the “Jr.” ––  II, III, IV don’t the comma.

– Robert Hickey   How to Use Junior II III IV



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”