How to address the president of the United States? [in a letter / petition]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by word_up, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. word_up

    word_up Senior Member

    << Topic phrase: President of the United States of America Barack Obama >>


    when writing a letter to a president (e.g. the president of USA) does the proper title of the addressee same as the title of this post?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 12, 2011
  2. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English
    I would address him as President (Barack) Obama. The brackets are to indicate that you could include Barack or not, not that you would write it with the brackets.

    This website, on the other hand, suggests you write "Dear Mr. President". That sounds trite to me, but perhaps not to Americans.

    On reflection, I'm not actually sure whether you're asking how you should address him (Dear X) or just how you should write his title (for example on the envelope). If it's the latter, that site I quoted suggests "The President of the United States".
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  3. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    The Web site is right. "Mr. President" is the only correct way to address a U.S. president, either in writing or in person. This title was adopted by George Washington in a reaction to the overblown titles preferred by European monarchs of the time. Its intent was, in part, to stress the egalitarian nature of the new country.
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Gwan's advice is in error; addressing the President as "President Barack Obama" is incorrect. The name is not used in addition to the title; after all, just how many other Presidents are there supposed to be in Washington at one time?

    The customs for writing to, and addressing, the President are well established in the United States, and they are no more "trite" than any other official etiquette. If you are writing to Barack Obama, or to anyone else in the future who holds the office of President, the address on the the envelope would read:
    The President of the United States
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    An alternative to writing "The President of the United States" is to write simply "The President"; there is only one "President" in the White House, and there would be no question at all whom you were addressing. Mr. Obama's name is neither needed, nor most correctly used, on the envelope address.

    The letter inside begins with "Sir:" if it is a very formal letter, or with "Dear Mr. President" if it is less formal. "Dear President Obama" is not used; if you do insist on using it, know that you are being less than fully polite. If you are speaking to the man in conversation, you call him "Mr. President", as in "Mr. President, would you like another cup of coffee?" To address him as "President Obama", as in "Presdent Obama, you have a telephone call" is so clearly not the custom that it verges on being rude, whether intentionally or not.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  5. word_up

    word_up Senior Member

    Thank you all for answers

    To narrow the context: I mean a formal heading of a petition signed by many people (who may or may not know who holds the office (US is only an example ;-) at the time they sign).

    Is then the wording I proposed in the title of this thread wrong or acceptable?

    The President of the United States is of course clear enough, but then if I would like to indicate his name, should it go after The President... and a comma, or like in the thread's title?

    PS. Thanks for manifold remarks, GWB, may come in handy in future.
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    After GWB's excellent post, I'm surprised you ask.
    No name...
    especially if you expect your letter to be taken seriously.;)
  7. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    This is completely different from the original request. You originally asked how to address a letter. A petition is a different animal altogether.

    I think "To the President of the United States of America:" would be a valid opening line of a petition that you plan to send to the White House. I don't see any reason to add the name itself. You are addressing the petition to the office, not the person.
  8. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Here is a link to an image of a petition sent to President Harry Truman. It may interest you. CLICK.

    It begins with the centered heading:
    A Petition to the President of the United States.

    The substance of the petitioners argument and position follows.

    In the concluding paragraph they explain what they want him to do:
    In view of the foregoing, we the undersigned respectfully petition: First .....

    Their signatures follow.

    This is from 60 years ago, and perhaps the language is a bit more formal than you would wish to use. However, it is an acceptable format for a petition.

    (Each president handles these things differently. Under President Obama, every letter sent to the White House is actually read by someone. Of these, 10 are selected each day and passed on to President Obama to read himself. A book about this was published recently.)
  9. word_up

    word_up Senior Member

    Thank you for all the info.

    Indeed, my mistake, I should write "petition" instead of "letter" in the first post.
    I understand that the thread title version is not acceptable.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2011

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