I would like to ask how to address a former president on a letter. Should I write "Dear Mr. Obama" or "Dear Former President Obama"? I found this information:

Begin the letter. Although style guides vary, when addressing letters to former presidents, it is appropriate to use “Mr.” and his last name. Therefore, the greeting to the letter would be “Dear Mr.” and his last name. For example, "Dear Mr. Clinton" or "Dear Mr. Bush." How to Address a Letter to a Former President

But I would like to double check it. Thank you.

  • 1
    Another option would be a formal letterhead or simply a line above "Dear" - To The Honorable Barrack Obama, 44th President of the United States. "Dear Mr. Obama" ... (could probably leave off the Honorable) . With that combo you'd honor his service while communicating with him in his non official current role. If you were shaking his hand though, I'd say "I am honored to meet you President Obama"
    – Tom22
    Apr 4, 2018 at 5:33
  • I wrote an answer to a different question from yours but I think you should find it useful
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 4, 2018 at 8:43
  • 3
    I should note that it is quite common in US media to refer to former presidents as 'President {lastname}', and to address them as 'Mr. President' when there is no actual possibility of confusion. Apr 4, 2018 at 10:25
  • This is "the source": formsofaddress.info/FOA_president_US_former.html
    – Lambie
    May 4, 2018 at 14:02
  • Possible duplicate of Addressing a former office-holder by that office's title
    – choster
    May 4, 2018 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


protocol source Is a Former President Addressed as President(Name)?

 I have been directing people to refer to former presidents as President (last name). Is that correct?
         --- Anna McDonald, Stafford, Virginia

Dear Ms. McDonald: This issue is complicated since we hear former Presidents referred to as President Clinton and President Bush on the media all the time; Here's what is the correct formula as it appears in my book (assuming they didn't have an honorific other than Mr./Ms. to go back to ... as General Dwight D. Eisenhower did, who went back to "General Eisenhower" or Barack Obama did, who went back to "Senator Obama".): Former President of the United States Envelope, official: The Honorable (Full name) (Address) Letter salutation: Dear Mr./Ms. (surname): Conversation: Mr./Ms. (surname)

Here's the WHY behind the correct form. This is the traditional approach for any office of which there is only one office-holder at a

time. So, with officials such as mayors, governors or presidents ... only the current office holder is addressed as Mr. Mayor, Governor, or Mr. President ... formers are not addressed that way. That's not to say some reporter might not call a former mayor Mayor Smith or a former president President (Surname). But doing so is incorrect and confusing to the public. The former office holder is no longer due the precedence and courtesies we extend to the current office holder. He or she speaks with the authority of a private citizen. We honor former office holder's service, but the 'form of address' -- which acknowledges the responsibilities and duties of office -- belongs only to current office holder. With offices of which are many office-holders at a time ... senators, admirals, judges, etc. addressing 'formers' with their former honorific not disrespectful to a singular current office holder.
To explain the correct form I would say "using the title of a former position is flattering to the former official and he or she may not correct you, but is not respectful to the current office holder. There's only one "(name of the office)" at a time." -- Robert Hickey

I found this helpful. I hope it is of use to you.

  • Sorry, but this is not the right bit of that page. Because there are various circumstances; in person versus in writing.
    – Lambie
    May 4, 2018 at 14:03

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