Greeting etiquette for a government official letter

Updated April 17, 2017

When you send a letter to a government official, you should always be conscious of etiquette. Letters to government officials usually deal with serious matters, and you will get the best response if you take the time to show the proper respect--by using the proper greeting and title--to the intended recipient. Greetings in letters to government officials should always use professional language.and acknowledge formal titles.


Your first statement of greeting in your letter to a government official should be in the first sentence. In this sentence, you say "hello" (or some variant thereof) and address the official by title and name. For example, if you are writing a Senator named "Wilson," you might write an opening sentence like "Greetings Senator Wilson." Use a word that is appropriate to the context. If you are writing a letter of concern, for example, use "Dear Senator," not "delighted to see you."


Always remember to use the correct title when addressing the government official. Refer to elected legislators by their title (e.g. senator or representative). For example, if you are addressing a senator named Steven Smith, refer to him as "Senator Smith." If you are writing an elected legislator in a parliamentary system, simply refer to the individual as "Mr." or "Ms." followed by his or her name. For example, when greeting a British MP named Smith in a letter, simply refer to him as Mr. Smith, unless he also holds a cabinet position, in which case he is "Minister Smith."


Executives are top ranking officials who are responsible for entire departments. Traditionally, the executive consists of the leader and their cabinet. If you are greeting a president, use "Mr./Madam President." If you are addressing a governor use the oficials name, for example "Governor Smith." (You may also refer to presidents by name; for example, "President Bush.") If you are addressing a cabinet member in the United States, you would refer to cabinet member Steven Smith as "Secretary Smith." If you are writing a cabinet member in a country that follows a parliamentary system of government, refer to the official Steven Smith as "Minister Smith."


If the official is a judge, he may be greeted as "Judge," "Your honor" or "Mr./Madam Justice." The appropriate title here is determined by rank. For lower circuit judges (e.g. traffic court judges) use either "Your honor" or the word "Judge" followed by the person's last name. For higher circuit judges, use the word "Justice," as in "Justice Ginsburg" of the United States Supreme Court. If you are unsure as to which title to use, check the judge's biography page on the court circuit website. If the page refers to him as "Justice," follow suit.

Non-Political Officials

If you are greeting an official whose job is not political, simply refer to him by his personal or professional title. If the individual has no academic, military or professional title, refer to him as "Mr." (or "Ms." for a woman). If the individual has a doctorate (PhD), refer to him as "Dr." If the individual is in the military, refer to him by his ranking. For example, if the person is a General named Steven Smith, refer to him as "Gen. Smith."

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About the Author

Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.