I am writing a formal letter to three committee members, that I would like to address by name. Instinctively, I chose to address them in order of importance/pertinence, but I am also considering ordering them alphabetically.

For anonymity's sake, let's say I'm writing to Drs. Bob (important), Karl (more important) and Whale (less important).

Should my header be ordered by importance...

Dear Drs. Karl, Bob and Whale,

...or alphabetically?

Dear Drs. Bob, Karl and Whale,

  • 6
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about diplomatic protocols, not about the English language.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 19:01
  • Whatever you do, please don’t forget the comma before the and.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 19:01
  • Would academia.stackexchange.com be more suitable? If so, I'd prefer the question be migrated. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 19:33
  • Or workplace.stackexchange.com ?
    – Martin F
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:36
  • 1
    And i think tchrist is wrong -- that last comma is optional in simple lists.
    – Martin F
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


While this seems off topic for this site (as already mentioned by tchrist) the simple answer is that etiquette would have you list them by order of importance.

Their names in alphabetical order is of no significance whatsoever and when formally addressing a crowd and introducing, guests of honor, or formally addressing a cabinet you should address them in their order of importance.

It may seem offensive to be a high ranking official and bet the last person mentioned in an address to your cabinet as though the speaker has no idea who you are.

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