Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Former Speaker?

There’s a question lingering around the Capitol: What should people call a former Speaker of the House? Is Mr./Madam Speaker still correct? Do we use Speaker (Last Name)?
—-—-—-—-—-– TB

Dear TB:

— Former speakers are not addresses as if they are still the Speaker. There is only one Speaker.
— Only the current Speaker is addressed orally on in a salutation as: Mr./Madam Speaker
—-Or less formally addressed as: Speaker (Surname)

—-Former Speakers are not addressed with forms of address reserved for the current Speaker. They either go back to the form of address to which they were entitled before being the Speaker. or if they have a new position, then address them by their current position. E.g., perhaps they’ve become the Leader of the Minority party. If so, address them as such. When appropriate, identify as ‘the 115th Speaker of the House’ or mention the span of years in office.

Here are the rules:


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

—-#1) For offices of which there is only one office holder at a time (e.g., Prime Minister, President, Vice President, Speaker, Chief Justice of the highest court, Governor, Mayor, etc.) only the current office holder is officially addressed with the forms of address of the office. Forms of address are ‘courtesies of office’ just like the big corner office, great parking space and preferential seating at events. The courtesies stay with the office, and don’t become the property of former office holders.

Former office holders have to go back to Mr./Ms. (Surname), Congresswoman (Name), Representative (Name) … whattever was the form of address they had before taking the ‘singular’ office ….. whatever is pertinent to the office they now hold.

—-#2) Offices that are held by more than one person at the same time are different. In those cases, (e.g., Admirals, Senators, Judges, Professors, Ambassadors, etc.). former and retired individuals DO continue to use their former honorific. Having more than one ambassadors or senators always happens. They were never a singular one-and-only-of-their-type official.

—-#3) The individual is flattered by the honorific inflation. But when you ask them directly, they say ‘It’s not formally correct.’ Having been the singular office holder they know what it’s like to have all the formers clinging to the courtesies of office.

– Robert Hickey

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Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

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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”