Clergy honorifics (not titles)

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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 rules

  1. The word “Reverend” must be preceded by a definite article (‘the’): The Reverend
  2. “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”.)
  3. “The Reverend” (or suitable abbreviation) must be written before either
    1. Any temporal titles (e.g. the Hon, the Earl of Somewhere, etc.), then
    2. An ordinary title (e.g. Mr, Mrs, Miss, Professor, Dr, etc.), or
    3. The first name (e.g. Gareth), or
    4. 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)

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

4 thoughts on “Clergy honorifics (not titles)”

  1. In checking how to correctly address a letter to an Anglican priest I came across your website which was very helpful.


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