Ex-president terminology

This may be a BBC-ism, but I’ve noticed many references on TV reports to ‘president Reagan’, not ‘ex-president…’ Is this standard practice, and if so why? Or if it’s a BBC decision, again I ask why? (They certainly don’t refer to “Prime Minister Thatcher”)

Here in the US, the common usage in discussing a past president is “former President Reagan,” rather than just “President Reagan,” otherwise the implication would be that George W. is sharing the White House with someone else. Using the term “ex-President” sounds rather… improper to me, somehow. Sort of like an “ex-parrot.” :wink: But maybe that’s just me.

Here is a page summarizing the proper form of address for various US officials and others.

I’ve heard former presidents referred to as “President XYZ.” Everyone (in the US, anyway) is presumed to know the present President, so there is no confusion. It’s like a title that once acquired is never lost. Just a matter of respect.

Protocol states that all Presidents, past and president, are formally addressed as “The Honorable …”

If I were talking to Jimmy Carter, I would likely address him as “Mr. Carter”

But we don’t talk much anymore. :slight_smile:

The term ex-President, I have noticed, is usually used by someone of the opposite political party. Just my observation. I think the term former, or even leaving out the term all together and just saying President, is the more honorable way to go.

When I was in college, the MLA stylebook says that using “ex-President” was expressly forbidden. It’s always “former President”. I even call him “former President Clinton” even though I can’t stand the man.

LOL - so can we have an “ex-Thatcher”, please? Pretty please?

Slight hijack here, but since the OP has been answered…

Growing up, I remember the (current) President always being referred to as “President [Name]”. On news broadcasts, in newspapers, in general conversation, it was always “President Carter”, President Reagan", etc.

Somewhere during President Clinton’s tenure, it seems that everyone started referring to him simply as “Mister Clinton”. The change appears to have stuck, as I now hear many references to “Mr. Bush”. I’ve always thought it showed a lack of respect. I was never a fan of Bill Clinton, but he *was * the President, after all. I could at least show him the respect that his position dictated.

Am I right? Have things changed in the last 10 years or so, or is my memory just playing tricks on me?

[Homer Simpson]

I dunno. It’s your screwy country.

[/Homer Simpson]


I’ve just searched the BBC website - “ex-president” and “ex-prime minster” are outnumbered by “former …” in both cases, although there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut decision

I find that a slightly disconcerting concept. Rather like the British habit of sending former PMs into the House of Lords to continue their influence. If it can never be lost, did even Nixon retain the prestige of the title, in your eyes?

Two WAGs - firstly that Clinton requested this, either directly or indirectly. Tony Blair definatly had the same issue, trying (and failing) to get his civil servants to refer to him as anything other than “Prime Minister” (no ‘Mr’, no ‘Blair’). It became a bit of a joke, the “Call-me-Tony policy”.

Second WAG - more and more news reports are aimed at an international broadcast. We aren’t always accustomed to hearing leaders of other countries introduced by the titles that are famliar to their home audience - maybe this is the case with the POTUS, too.

The NY Times, America’s stuffiest paper when it comes to title, refers to the current president as President Bush on first reference and Mr. Bush thereafter.

Anyone who was out of office was called “Former”, although sometimes it would be in lower case depending upon how the sentence was constructed.

For example, “Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher …” and on second reference “Lady Thatcher”, but “Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader …”

His own website calls him that, too! That one’s complicated both by the true title needing a translation, and by the role (Pres. of the USSR) no longer existing.

This is the second time this week I’ve linked this cite.

So our currently-living former presidents would be properly referred to as “Governor Clinton,” “Representative Bush,” “Governor Carter” and “Representative Ford.” Or we could just call them each “Mister” and be done with it.

Otto has it right.

The proper style in a news story would be to refer to “former President Ronald Reagan” on first reference and in later references as Governor (to reflect the highest title he held other than President) or simply Mr.

A former President is never referred to as “ex-” Not even Richard Nixon, who resigned.

When you have a former President like George H.W. Bush, who was director of the CIA, ambassador to China and a U.S. representative, the person himself chooses the title he prefers. Bush prefers “Ambassador.” Adlai Stevenson, who was governor of Illinois and ambassador to the United Nations, preferred “Governor.”

I have in front of me Mrs. Kunilou’s secretarial handbook. It says that it is proper to address a sitting President as “Mr. President” or “Mr. Bush” but a former President as “Mr. Clinton” (or other title). We also have a handbook that also lists “Excellency” as a correct title, but I notice it was written in 1958.

‘A news story’ needs clarification. Much of the UK press refer to prime minister Tony Blair (note lack of caps). Therefore, capitalising ‘president’ (for any president of any country) would not be appropriate. Llikewise, only some newspapers still refer to ‘Mr Blair’., and yes, those are the ones which also talk of Mr Bush.

On a slight tangent, ‘Mr Reagan’ seems to jar with a report of a death, and I don’t recall reading it - is there an protocol, presidential or otherwise, on this?

Okay, now you’ve made me crack open my Chicago Manual of Style. (Boy, I’m having a happening Friday evening, aren’t I? :rolleyes: )

According to the CMS, the title “president” is properly capitalized when used as part of someone’s name, e.g., President Bush, Mr. President. When used as a descriptor, it would not be, e.g., president of the United States George H.W. Bush (or prime minister Tony Blair, for that matter). Now, this isn’t the only style guide floating around in the world, so certain publications may employ a different style. British usage may also simply be different in this case (as with the abbreviation for mister, which Americans punctuate but the British do not).

AFAIK, there is no protocol for calling Ronald Reagan by anything other than “Mr.” for the purposes of a death report.

Using the highest title other than president for former presidents may well be stylistically correct, but I can count on one hand the number of instances in which I’ve heard or seen it done in the media. The use of “Mr.” is always correct and seems to be the current de facto standard. (“Excellency”? Wow.)

You’re right that the CMS is one opinion amog many - and it’s on the conservative end of the spectrum. The other end is demonstrated here:

Also, what I notice is that this guide differentiates with ‘prime minister’ as a job and ‘President’ as a title:

GorillaMan, I don’t think there is really much difference in this case between the CMS and The Guardian’s style - a given term used as part of someone’s name (a title) and is thus capitalized, and the same term used as a descriptor (job description) is not. We’re left with

President Bush
US president George Bush
prime minister Tony Blair

with either style guide. Other capitalization rules may well vary between the two, but I admittedly haven’t looked at that closely (not enough coffee in me yet :slight_smile: ).

When you’re caffeined up, could you look if Chicago says anything specific about ‘prime minister’? What I’m intrigued by is that neither guide regards it as a title.

Oh hang on, thinking as I type, the title for the PM is “Right Honourable”… :smack:

Still, is PM considered a title in other countries?