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Do you know what makes pedantic priests like me happy? Yeah, apart from people loving the Lord Jesus with all their hearts. I’ll tell you: it’s people who get clergy titles right and include the preceding definite article. That’s a ‘the’ to you and me.
What do you mean you didn’t know there was a ‘the’ before Reverend?! Here’s how I understand it (with a little help from Mr Debrett).
You see, “The Reverend” isn’t actually a clergyman, or clergywoman’s title: it’s a courtesy title, an ‘honorific’. An honorific may only qualify a full name, that is it cannot be part of a name.
So, for example I may be properly addressed as:
- Mr Saunders
- Mr G Saunders
- Mr Gareth Saunders
- The Reverend Mr Saunders
- The Reverend G Saunders
- The Reverend Gareth Saunders
BUT NOT, under any circumstances:
- The Reverend Saunders
- Reverend Saunders
- Reverend Mr Saunders
- Reverend G Saunders
- Reverend Gareth Saunders
In other words, my proper title is ‘Mr’ not ‘The Reverend’.
- The word “Reverend” must be preceded by a definite article (‘the’): The Reverend
- “The Reverend” may be abbreviated to “The Revd” or “The Rev.” (The full-stop after ‘Rev’ is optional, but should never appear after “The Revd”.)
- “The Reverend” (or suitable abbreviation) must be written before either
- Any temporal titles (e.g. the Hon, the Earl of Somewhere, etc.), then
- An ordinary title (e.g. Mr, Mrs, Miss, Professor, Dr, etc.), or
- The first name (e.g. Gareth), or
- The first initial (e.g. G)
And that’s it. Simple, huh!
That said, I prefer to be known simply as “Gareth” — that’s my proper Christian name.
For more information on the wonderful world of pedantry with regards the standard styles of address, I thoroughly recommend Debrett’s Correct Form (Debrett’s Ltd; New Ed edition, 30 Oct 2006)