FORMS OF ADDRESS, LETTERS AFTER THE NAME.
The use of letters after an individual’s name (post-nominal letters) follows a prescribed order. The abbreviation ‘Bt’ (for a baronet) and ‘Esq’, if applicable, precede all other letters.
The series of other letters are grouped, and ordered, either by regulations or by custom as follows:
ORDER OF LETTERS 1. Orders and decorations conferred by the Crown (Crown honours).
2. Crown appointments in the following order: Privy Counsellor, Aide de Camp to HM, Honorary Physician to HM, Honorary Surgeon to HM, Honorary Dental Surgeon to HM, Honorary Nursing Sister to HM, and Honorary Chaplain to HM (PC, ADC, QHP, QHS, QHDS, QHNS and QHC).
3. Queen’s Counsel, Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant: thus QC, JP and DL.
4. University degrees.
5. (a) Religious orders (b) medical qualifications.
6. (a) Fellowships of learned societies, (b) Royal Academicians and associates, (c) fellowships, memberships, etc, of professional institutions, associations, etc, and (d) Writers to the Signet
7. Member of Parliament.
8. Membership of one of the armed forces, such as RN or RAF.
The nature of the correspondence determines which series of letters normally should be included under groups 4, 5 and 6. For instance, when writing a professional letter to a doctor of medicine, one would normally add more medical qualifications than in a social letter.
On a formal list, those who have letters signifying Crown honours and awards are usually given only the principal letters in groups 4, 5 and 6 (for example MD, FRCS, FRS).
A peer who is a junior officer in the armed forces is not usually addressed by his service rank in social correspondence, unless he so wishes.
CROWN HONOURS Crown honours follow immediately after the abbreviations ‘Bt’ (baronet) and ‘Esq’ (if applicable). If an individual has more than one set of letters after their name, the letters should appear in this order:
VC : Victoria Cross
GC : George Cross
KG/LG : Knight of the Garter; Lady of the Garter
KT/LT : Knight of the Thistle; Lady of the Thistle
GCB : Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
OM : Order of Merit
GCMG : Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
GCVO : Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
GBE : Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
CH : Companion of Honour
KCB/DCB : Knight/Dame Commander of the Bath
KCMG/DCMG : Knight/Dame Commander of St Michael and St George
KCVO/DCVO : Knight/Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
KBE/DBE : Knight/Dame Commander of the British Empire
CB : Companion of the Order of the Bath
CMG : Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
CVO : Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
CBE : Commander of the Order of the British Empire
DSO : Distinguished Service Order
LVO : Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order
OBE : Officer of the Order of the British Empire
ISO : Imperial Service Order
MVO : Member of the Royal Victorian Order
MBE : Member of the Order of the British Empire
RRC : Royal Red Cross
DSC : Distinguished Service Cross
MC : Military Cross
DFC : Distinguished Flying Cross
AFC : Air Force Cross
ARRC : Associate Royal Red Cross
DCM : Distinguished Conduct Medal
CGM : Conspicuous Gallantry Medal
GM : George Medal
DSM : Distinguished Service Medal
MM : Military Medal
DFM : Distinguished Flying Medal
AFM : Air Force Medal
SGM : Medal for Saving Life at Sea (Sea Gallantry medal)
QGM : Queen’s Gallantry Medal
BEM : British Empire Medal
QPM : Queen’s Police Medal
QFSM : Queen’s Fire Service Medal
CPM : Colonial Police Medal for Meritorious Service
ERD: Army Emergency Reserve Decoration
VD : Volunteer Officer’s Decoration
TD : Territorial Decoration
ED : Efficiency Decoration
RD : Decoration for Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve
VRD : Decoration for Officers of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
The Order of Victoria and Albert, the Colonial Police Medal for Gallantry, the King’s Police and King’s Police and Fire Service Medals are no longer conferred.
The Elizabeth Cross was created in 2009 to provide national recognition for the families of forces personnel who have died on operations or as a result of terrorism. It has no place in the order of precedence.
COMMONWEALTH ORDERS Some Commonwealth countries have their own orders, which are indicated in the same way as the British system.
The Order of Australia The Order of Australia was established in 1975. The Order, of which The Queen is Sovereign, consists of a General Division and a Military Division, and is divided into the following classes:
AK : Knight of the Order of Australia; precedence after OM AD : Dame of the Order of Australia; precedence after OM AC : Companion of the Order of Australia; precedence after GBE AO : Officer of the Order of Australia; precedence after Knight Bachelor AM : Member of the Order of Australia; precedence after DSO OAM : Medal of the Order of Australia; precedence after RRC (2nd class)
The Order of New Zealand : The Order of New Zealand (ONZ) was established in 1987. The Order, of which the Queen is Sovereign, confers no title and ordinary membership is limited to 20. New Zealand Order of Merit : Next in precedence is the New Zealand Order of Merit, which was instituted by Royal Warrant dated 30 May 1996.
GNZM, KNZM, DNZM : On 8 March 2009 it was announced that The Queen had given approval for the reinstatement of the titles of Knight and Dame Grand Companion (GNZM) and Knight and Dame Companion (KNZM and DNZM). QSO : The Queen’s Service Order (QSO) and The Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) were instituted by Royal Warrant in 1975: Companion of The Queen’s Service Order; precedence after OBE QSM : The Queen’s Service Medal; precedence after QGM and before BEM
The Order of Canada : The Order of Canada, of which The Queen is Sovereign, was established in 1967. It is divided into the following grades: CC : Companion of the Order of Canada; precedence after VC and GC before all other letters OC : Officer of the Order of Canada; precedence after CC CM : Member of the Order of Canada, precedence after OC
APPOINTMENTS Letters after the name denoting privy counsellors and Crown appointments follow immediately after orders and decorations conferred by the Crown.
They are arranged in the following order:
Privy Counsellor (PC) Aide de Camp to HM (ADC) Honorary Physician to HM (QHP) Honorary Surgeon to HM (QHS) Honorary Dental Surgeon to HM (QHDS) Honorary Nursing Sister to HM (QHNS) Honorary Chaplain to HM (QHC)
In a social style of address for a peer who is a privy counsellor it is advisable that the letters PC should follow the name. For all other members of the Privy Council the prefix ‘Rt Hon’ before the name is sufficient identification.
As the other appointments to the Crown (QHP, QHS, etc) are held for a limited period only, they are not always used by recipients.
Other Appointments In the order of precedence of letters after the name, these letters follow the abbreviation ‘Bt’ (Baronet) and ‘Esq’ (Esquire), orders and decorations conferred by the Crown and Royal appointments. They appear in the following order:
Queen’s Counsel (QC) Justice of the Peace (JP) Deputy Lieutenant (DL)
The letters QC are always shown for a Queen’s Counsel, including a County Court judge, but not a High Court judge.
The letters JP for justice of the peace, and DL for a deputy lieutenant may be included in that order. They may be omitted for a peer, or for someone with several honours and decorations.
Note: there is no official abbreviation for a lord-lieutenant or a vice lord-lieutenant.
ACADEMIA & RELIGION University Degrees Letters denoting university degrees are fourth in the order of precedence of letters after the name.
Doctorates in the faculties of Divinity and Medicine (DD, MD) and masters degrees in the latter (eg MS) are given in all correspondence. Other divinity degrees (eg BD) are sometimes included.
Other degrees in medicine (eg MB BS) are sometimes included, especially in professional correspondence, but if one progresses in the same degree only the higher is given.
Doctorates in other faculties are sometimes given, especially if the correspondence concerns the particular profession or subject (eg LLD, DSC). Alternatively, except for surgeons, the envelope may simply be addressed as ‘Dr’ before the name.
Fifth in the order of precedence are letters denoting membership of religious orders and medical qualifications.
Religious Orders Letters for members of religious communities, when used, should be included, for example ‘SJ’ (Society of Jesus). Members of the Order of St Benedict may choose not to use the letters ‘OSB’, preferring the prefix ‘Dom’ or for a nun, ‘Dame’.
Medical Qualifications Medical fellowships are given in all correspondence, for example FRCP and FRCS. Other qualifications are sometimes given, especially those that are the highest held. They are usually given when writing professionally.
When all letters signifying qualifications are included they should appear in the following order: Medicine Surgery (except MRCS) Obstetrics Gynaecology and other specialities Qualifying diplomas (for example MRCS, LRCP) Other diplomas (for example DPH, DObst, RCOG)
In practice a maximum of three series of letters, including MD, is usually sufficient in ordinary correspondence (for example MD, MS, FRCS).
SOCIETIES & PROFESSIONS Sixth in the order of precedence of letters after the name come the following (in order):
(a) Fellowships of learned societies (b) Royal Academicians and associates (c) Fellowships, memberships, etc, of professional institutions, associations, etc. (d) Writers to the Signet
FELLOWSHIPS: Fellowships fall into two categories: (a) Honorific, ie nomination by election (b) Nomination by subscription Normally only honorific fellowships are used in social correspondence, such as FRS or FBA.
Fellowships by subscription are generally restricted to correspondence concerning the same field of interest, for example a writer to a Fellow of the Zoological Society on the subject of zoology will include FZS after the name.
There is no recognised order for placing these letters. In practice, where one society is indisputably of greater importance than another the letters are usually placed in that order. Alternatively, the fellowship of the junior society may be omitted, letters may be placed in order of conferment, or even in alphabetical order.
Where a fellow is pre-eminent in a particular subject, the fellowship of a society connected with this interest may either be placed first, or his other fellowships omitted.
Principal Learned Societies and Dates of Incorporation
Fellow of the Royal Society FRS 1662
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries FSA 1707
Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh FRSE 1783
Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature FRSL 1823
Fellow of the British Academy FBA 1901
Some presidents use letters signifying their appointment, eg the President of the Royal Society has ‘PRS’ after his name, but these letters are used only within the particular society.
The Royal Society of Literature bestows an award limited to ten recipients, the Companion of Literature. The letters ‘CLit’ are placed before the fellowship (CLit, FRSL).
Royal Academicians Although Royal Academicians come second in this list, it is not suggested that they yield in precedence to fellows of learned societies. In practice the two lists do not coincide.
The president and past presidents are indicated as follows:
President of the Royal Academy PRA Past President of the Royal Academy PPRA President of the Royal Scottish Academy PRSA Past President of the Royal Scottish Academy PPRSA
Royal Academicians and Associates are indicated as follows:
Royal Academician RA Royal Scottish Academician RSA Associate of the Royal Academy ARA Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy ARSA Similarly with other academies, for example President of the Royal Hibernian Academy (PRHA) and academicians (RHA).
Professional Institutions and Associations Letters denoting fellowships and memberships of professional institutions are usually restricted to correspondence concerning the particular profession.
As there is no recognised order for placing qualifications awarded by different bodies, a recipient usually places these letters on headed paper, business cards, etc, in order of importance to his particular profession.
Those whose fellowships are by subscription generally only use letters after the name in the particular field of interest. For example, if John Smith is a chartered engineer and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he would normally be described professionally as ‘John Smith, Esq, CEng’.
When corresponding on historical subjects, however, he would normally be described as ‘John Smith, Esq, FRHistS’. If both series of letters are placed after his name, it is usual to place first those appropriate to the particular function or subject that is being addressed.
Writers to the Signet The Writers to the Signet is an ancient society of solicitors in Scotland that dates back to 1594. Its members originally held special privileges in relation to the drawing up of legal documents. The society is now an independent association of solicitors, using the post-nominal letters ‘WS’.
It is customary for the letters ‘WS’ to follow the name after university degrees and those that signify fellowship or membership of a society or institution, despite the fact that the WS Society is considerably older than many institutions. This is simply a way of indicating the profession. It is not customary for the letters ‘WS’ to be used socially.
Members of Parliament In formal address, the letters ‘MP’ are always shown for a member of parliament. They are shown seventh in the order of precedence of letters after the name.
Armed Forces Letters denoting membership of one of the armed forces come last in the order of precedence of letters after the name.
Royal Navy The letters RN (or Royal Navy, which this service prefers) are placed after the names of serving officers of the rank of captain and below. They are also placed after the names of retired captains, commanders and lieutenant-commanders. The letters RNR are likewise used by officers of the Royal Naval Reserve.
Army The appropriate letters that signify a regiment or corps may be placed after the name for officers on the active list of and below the rank of lieutenant-colonel, but are often omitted in social correspondence. These letters are not used for retired officers. Corps have letter abbreviations (for example RE for Royal Engineers, RAMC for Royal Army Medical Corps, RAOC for Royal Army Ordnance Corps, REME for Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). Most regiments are written in full.
RAF The letters RAF are placed after serving and retired officers, except for marshals of the Royal Air Force. Officers above the rank of group captain do not often use these letters. The same rules apply to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR).
Royal Marines The letters RM (or Royal Marines, which some officers prefer) are placed after the names of serving and retired officers of the rank of lieutenant-colonel and below. The same rules apply to the Royal Marines Reserve (RMR).