How to Address a Former Member of the US House of Representatives?
I am meeting one of our former congressional Representatives next week, and I am wondering if it is still appropriate to address them as ‘Congressman’ or ‘Representative’, even though they have been voted out of office?
——————–– Peter Michaels
Dear Mr. Michaels,
The short answer is: Former members continue to be in writing ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’ but in conversation or a salutation go back to the honorific to which they were entitled prior to taking office. Typically Mr./Ms./Dr./etc.
More detail includes:
——#1) In writing they continue to be ‘the Honorable’. The rule is – once an honorable, always an honorable – unless removed from office something ugly or resigning in disgrace.
——#2) Formally in official situations they are orally addressed in a salutation and conversation as ‘Mr./Ms./etc. (Name)’. However, in practice, in social situations many will informally, casually, continue to use the honorifics ‘Congressman’ ‘Congresswoman’ or ‘Representative’. As long as there’s no possibility anyone present might be led to believe they were the current office holder it does not cause much problem.
——#3) Former members are addressed with neither ‘the Honorable’ nor ‘Congressman’ ‘Congresswoman’ or ‘Representative’ when in new role such as legal counsel, lobbyist or agent for a private enterprise. In those situations, addressing as a private citizen is appropriate: ‘Mr./Ms./etc. (Name)’. Much like retired military officers – if former officials are in a new job, they should be addressed in a way supported by their new job – and not with the forms they enjoyed when they were a government official.
– Robert Hickey How to Address a Congressman Congresswoman How to Address a Congressman Congresswoman