Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honour. An individual may use several different sets of post-nominal letters. The order in which these are listed after a name is based on the order of precedence and category of the order. Post-nominal letters are one of the main types of name suffix.
The order in which post-nominal letters are listed after a person's name is dictated by standard practice which may vary by region.
In the United States, standard protocol is:
- Religious institutes
- Theological degrees
- Academic degrees
- Honorary degrees, honors, decorations
- Professional licenses, certifications and affiliations
- Retired uniformed service (active duty service brackets the name – e.g., Firefighter John Doe, CFD – and active duty armed services do not display postnominals other than branch of service)1
In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Justice recommends the following ordering:2
- Bt/Bart or Esq
- Decorations and honours (in descending order of precedence)
- Appointments (for example, QC for Queen's Counsel, MP for member of parliament)
- Higher educational qualifications, e.g. Certificates or Diplomas of Higher Education or University degrees (in ascending order starting from undergraduate)
- Religious institutes (for example, SSF) and medical qualifications
- Fellowship or membership of learned societies, academies or professional institutions (for example, RA, FRCP, FRSA)
- Membership of the Armed Forces (for example, RAF, RN, RMP)
According to both the University of Oxford3 and the Chicago Manual of Style,4 university degrees should be listed in ascending order: bachelor's degrees first, followed by master's degrees, then doctorates irrespective of the order in which one obtained them. However, in the UK, this will not apply in the case of undergraduate master's degrees followed by postgraduate bachelor's degrees (e.g. a Scottish MA followed by a BPhil).
In the US, common practice is to name only the highest degree in a particular discipline (e.g., if one had earned one's BS, MS, and PhD in Biology – even from different schools – as well as an MBA in Management, then the preferred listing would be John Doe, MBA, PhD).
Practice in the UK varies from that in the US partly because it is designed to draw attention to the fact that not everybody who possesses a higher ranking award possesses lower ones as well. For example, it is perfectly possible to obtain a PhD without getting a master's degree first. It is also possible for somebody who has never received a formal university education to be awarded an honorary degree. Therefore it is customary to list all higher educational awards post-nominally although one should not list step qualifications. In other words, lower awards that are wholly incorporated into higher-ranking awards should not be listed (for example, in the case of an MA from Oxford or Cambridge University, "John Smith, MA" rather than "John Smith, BA MA") - to do so would give the impression that one possesses two discrete academic qualifications.
Following the same principle, when the lower qualification is a passport to the higher qualification (e.g. where a bachelor's degree is a requirement for doing a master's degree) or the credit for a lower award (such as a Certificate or Diploma of Higher Education) is not wholly incorporated into a higher award, lower qualifications may be included. For example, credit for a Certificate of Higher Education can be used to exempt the holder from some of the requirements of a bachelor's degree and in such a case it would be wrong to list one's qualification as "Jane Smith, CertHE BSc". However, if one did not apply some of the credit for one's CertHE to obtaining one's bachelor's degree, it would be acceptable to list both qualifications.
Where two discrete qualifications with the same name have been obtained (for example an Oxbridge MA and a postgraduate MA from another university), this is usually indicated by using the abbreviations of the awarding body, e.g. "Jane Smith MA (Oxf & Lond)".
Examples of post-nominal letters:
- A King or Queen of the United Kingdom is entitled to use the post-nominal R.
- A Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire is authorised to use the post-nominal KBE.
- A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts is authorised to use the post-nominal FRSA.
- A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects is authorised to use the post-nominal FAIA.
- An elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh is authorised to use the post-nominal FRSE.
- A Doctor of Philosophy is authorised to use the post-nominal PhD (or, in some cases, DPhil).
- A Franciscan friar (the Order of Friars Minor) uses the post-nominal OFM and a Jesuit (Society of Jesus) uses SJ; a Dominican uses OP (from Order of Preachers); most other Catholic religious institutes have specific post-nominal letters.
- A professional municipal manager or administrator who has been designated as a "Credentialed Manager" by the International City/County Management Association is authorised to use the post-nominal ICMA-CM.
- A Member of the British Association of Social Workers uses the post-nominal MBASW.
- Graduates from British universities may add post-nominal letters, usually in parentheses, after those indicating their degree to show which university granted the degree. For example, a graduate of the Open University can use (Open), University of St Andrews (St And), Queen's University (SQ), Durham University (Dunelm), University of Exeter (Exon), University of Newcastle upon Tyne (N'cle), University of Aberdeen (Aberd), Cranfield University (Cran), University of London (Lond), University of Winchester (Winton), University of Cambridge (Cantab), Royal Agricultural College (MRAC), and University of Oxford (Oxon), University of Dublin (U. Dubl.) For example, John Smith BA (Cantab) or Peter Pan BSc (Open). In the United States, one may indicate one's major field in parentheses (e.g., PhD (Astrophysics)), but this is rarely seen except on resumes or applications for employment.
- List of post-nominal letters
- Orders, decorations, and medals of the United Kingdom
- Pre-nominal letters
- Privy Council of the United Kingdom
- Hickey, Robert. "Forms of Address". Honor & Respect. The Protocol School of Washington. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
- "Honours and Decorations". Ministry of Justice (UK). 2009-03-14. Archived from the original
|url=(help) on 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
- "Oxford University Calendar: Notes on style". University of Oxford Gazette. 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
- University of Chicago Press Staff (2010). The Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-10420-6.