I turned to the Protocol School of Washington’s Honor & Respect to answer a specific question: If I am ever introduced to a former vice president of the United States, how should I address him? The question is not purely hypothetical for me; one former vice president does appear now and again where I work. But if you are neither one of my colleagues here in Walter F. Mondale Hall nor a librarian at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, you might not expect to run into former vice presidents in the line of duty. In that case, would Honor & Respect be a useful addition to your library?
It could be a useful addition to well-stocked academic law libraries or libraries that serve patrons who frequently conduct business with government officials, especially from abroad. For most law libraries, however, it would be hard to argue that Honor & Respect is an essential addition. Its information is more detailed and specialized than most law libraries’ clientele would need. This lukewarm endorsement is not due to any failing on the part of the author or publisher. The book succeeds at the goal implied by its subtitle: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address.
It is, in fact, an excellent guide to names, titles, and forms of address for all kinds of officials: not only government, military, and diplomatic officials, but also religious, academic, and business officials. This guide is the most complete and up-to-date one I was able to find, especially concerning foreign and international officials.
Hickey includes a chapter on each of the following: Canadian officials; Australian officials; British officials, royalty, and nobility; international officials; and tribal officials. A section titled “Country Names & Officials” lists every country on earth and includes information on its high officials and how they should be addressed. Other useful features of the book include an extensive glossary, a chapter on performing introductions, and a detailed table to help determine the relative precedence of a wide array of officials. Former vice presidents rank just above members of the House of Representatives, for example.
By what standards can Honor & Respect be considered “official”? Hickey, in the “Author’s Note,” claims that the book is descriptive rather than prescriptive. “It is not an arbiter of what is correct: It is a resource bringing together the most formal forms of address,” he writes. The book does not read as detached description, however, and it is doubtful whether any potential readers will use it as such, especially given the “official” in the subtitle. But even if “official,” in this context, simply indicates that the guide is the official one used by its publisher, the Protocol School of Washington, this is important. While there are many protocol and etiquette schools, the Protocol School of Washington is one of the most established and is well respected, and Robert Hickey is the school’s deputy director.
One thing Honor & Respect is not—and does not claim to be—is a detailed guide to etiquette or protocol. If you are looking for a book that will give your law students or young associates a strong foundation in business etiquette, this is not the book for you. If what your patrons need is not more information on protocol, but less—say they only need occasional help with simple questions like the correct form of address for a former vice president—Honor & Respect can help, but it might be overkill. For basic, U.S.-centric information, more readily available sources exist, such as general etiquette books or the appendices at the ends of larger dictionaries.
However, if you want a detailed, comprehensive, and up-to-date guide to names, titles, and forms of address—one that does not begin and end with the standard U.S. officials—there is no better source than Honor & Respect.
Oh, and the living former vice presidents of the United States should be addressed as Mr. Mondale, Mr. Bush, Mr. Quayle, Mr. Gore, and—soon—Mr. Cheney.
Reviewed by Sarah Yates, foreign law and rare book cataloger at the University of Minnesota Law Library.