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The rule for the salutation in a letter to a senator is:

Dear Senator (Surname)

Should the Surname include their suffix, specifically "III" as in 'the third'.

For a Senator Rober Smith III, should it be:

Dear Senator Smith:

Dear Senator Smith III:

I'm looking for a reliable source that I can cite for the rule.

2 Answers 2

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The sole purpose of the suffix is to distinguish the individual from others with the same name. However, there is usually no need to distinguish Senator Smith in the salutation, since he would typically be fully identified in the preceding "inside address" block. Therefore, the normal salutation would simply be "Dear Senator Smith".

Speaking of "the abbreviations Jr., Sr., II, III and so forth after a person's name", The Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed.) says (section 14.8):

Note that these abbreviations are used only with the full name—never, for example, Mr. Kelly Jr.

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The use of numerals like "III" only applies when you include a person's first name, so if you're just saying "Senator Smith", then "III" would be incorrect.

If you said, "Senator Robert Smith III", that would be technically correct, though still somewhat confusing, since we also use those numerals with titles like "King" and "Emperor", so its use with the title "Senator" makes it sound like he might be the third Senator named Robert Smith. Nobody actually talks about Senators like that, but it's less clear than just omitting "III". It's only necessary if there's confusion as to which Senator Robert Smith we're talking about.

Bill Gates, for instance, is actually William Gates III, but nobody uses "III" because we all know who we're talking about.

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    I am irresistibly reminded of a Cockney song of my youth: I'm 'Enery the eighth, I am I am [...] I got married to the widder next door; she's been married seven times before, and every one was an 'Enery, never a Willy or a Sam... The American practice of sporting a Roman number after one's name hasn't really caught on here in the UK, except at Buckingham Palace. Apr 27, 2023 at 19:55
  • Or sometimes in family histories where several generations had the same name - but that's for the convenience of the reader, not what they would have called themselves. Apr 28, 2023 at 7:49

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