How do I address letters to the secretary of state?

Updated April 17, 2017

Founded in 1789, the Department of State is charged with making and executing U.S. foreign policy. Heading the department is the secretary of state, who is appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. There are protocols for sending a letter to the secretary of state--who in August 2010 was Hillary Rodham Clinton--including how to greet her in writing.

Open your word processor and type in the date of your letter in the upper left corner of a standard page. Add a white space between the date and the addressee information.

Type "The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton" and go to the next line. According to the U.S. Department of State, you should then type "Secretary of State" and go to the next line. Type "Washington, DC 20520." Add an additional line between the addressee line and the salutation.

Type "Dear Madam Secretary" as the formal greeting of your letter. If the secretary of state is a man, type "Dear Mr. Secretary." Add a line to separate the greeting from the body of your letter.

Add the content of your letter. Government officials receive a lot of mail, so keep your letter brief, original and to the point, recommends the University of California-Berkeley. Let the secretary know who you are and why you are writing. Personalise your letter by stating clearly how a situation, decision or change affects you or your community. Be respectful. Even though you may not agree with the secretary, the easiest way to have your letter dismissed is to use offensive language. Finish the content section by making a recommendation for action.

End your letter by thanking the secretary for her time. Add a line of space and type a formal closing such as "Sincerely" or "Yours truly." Add several lines of space for your signature, and then type your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Print your letter and mail it. Use the same address on the envelope as you typed at the beginning of the letter.


You can also use the same tips for writing an e-mail, according to the Community Toolbox. This has the advantage of reaching the secretary more quickly, but e-mail can also be deleted just as quickly.


According to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, it is important to pick your issues and not write about everything that concerns you. Chronic letter writers tend to be dismissed.

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About the Author

Translating technical jargon into everyday English is one of Anni Martin’s specialties. She is an educator and writer who spent over 13 years teaching and creating documentation at the University of Missouri. She holds a Master’s Degree in educational technology as well as Bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Missouri.