Also on this page:
———Secretary and Spouse
———Former SecretarySecretary

How to Address a Secretary
U.S. Cabinet Member
Federal Executive Department

How to Address a Secretary of a Department:
A Member of the U.S. President’s Cabinet

—-Envelope or address block on letter or email:
—-—-The Honorable
—-—-(Full name)
—-—-Secretary of (department)

————Or less formal, on one line:
—————-The Honorable (Full name)
—————-Secretary of (department)

—-Letter salutation:
—-—-Dear Mr./Madam Secretary: How to Address a Secretary


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Secretary and Spouse?

I need to send a wedding invitation to the US Secretary of Defense & his wife. What’s the right form?
—-—-—-—-—-– T. J. M.

Dear T. J. M.:
Most (Offices/Jobs) are not mentioned on social correspondence. But the highest ones are – and the office holder’s name is not used. Thus, members of the Cabinet are so high invitations are sent to the (Office) without mention the name.

Here is the formula:

—-Social envelope:
——–The Secretary of (Department)
—-—-and Mrs. (Shared Surname)

—-—-The Secretary of (Department)
—-—-and Ms./Dr. (Her Full Name)

—-—-The Secretary of (Department)
—-—-and Mr. ( Full Name)

—-Inside envelope:
—-—-The Secretary of (Department) and Mrs. (Surname)
—-—-The Secretary of (Department) and Ms./Dr. (Her Full Name)
—-—-The Secretary of (Department) and Mr. (Full Name)

– Robert Hickey How to Address a Secretary

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

How to Address a Former Secretary?

I am writing a message to former United States Secretary of Transportation, who now works for a DC consulting/lobbying group. How do I address him in on the envelope and in the salutation.? Is still Secretary (Name).
—-—-—-– Kathy J. Young

Dear Ms. Young:

Three-part answer:

—-#1A) Such high former officials appointed by the President and approved by the Senate continue to be in writing:
————The Honorable (Full Name)

—-#1B) In conversation, former secretaries are no longer addressed as Mr./Madam Secretary or referred to as The Secretary as they were when they were while in office. They typically go back to a form of address to which they were entitled before becoming a Secretary: Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.

—-In the media former secretaries will be addressed, and referred to, as Secretary (Name) sometimes.  You hear this mostly in oral conversation.  Aware reporters are quick to note the ‘former’ status – so no one mistakenly thinks they are referring to / speaking to a current office holder.

—-#2) If you are addressing a former secretary as Secretary (Name) who is acting as something else …. e.g., as a paid lobbyist promoting the points of view of his client — that could be a problem.  Best practice is to use a form of address supported by their role in the specific conversation.  A current Senator or member of the House would likely know he/she is speaking to a former secretary, but should not address him in the style of a secretary during a lobbying interaction.

—-Envelope and in the letter’s address:
—-—-Mr./Ms./Dr. (Full Name)
—-—-(Name of new affiliation)

—-—-Dear Mr. (Surname):

– Robert Hickey

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

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Couples: U.S. Officials
Couples: Same Sex


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”