Use of Mrs. vs. Ms.

Use of Mrs. vs. Ms.: How to Address a Woman

—-Envelope or address block on letter or email for a Woman:
——–Woman, undefined marital status
——–—-Ms. (Full Name)

—-Woman, married or widow, traditional
——–—-Mrs. (husband’s full name)

—-Woman, divorced, traditional
——–—-Mrs. (woman’s first name) (Surname)

—-Woman, unmarried, traditional
——–—-Miss (Full Name)

—-Letter salutation:
——–Dear Ms./Mrs./Miss (Surname):


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Men have it easy: Mr. works for nearly everyone who isn’t a Dr., General, Judge, Ambassador, or has a military rank.

Use of Ms., Mrs., or Miss is at the preference of the bearer (the individual).  In the United States, Ms. is now the accepted/default form for women in business, but an individual may be concurrently using both Ms. and Mrs.: ‘Ms.’ professionally and ‘Mrs.’ socially.

Sometimes those who use the traditional form for a married woman, ‘Mrs. (Husband’s first name + Surname)’, are offended to be addressed as ‘Mrs. (Woman’s first name + Surname)’ – the traditional form for a divorced woman.

Others say that ‘Mrs. (Woman’s first name + Surname)’ is more useful because it acknowledges their marital status and provides their first name.

In every case the only advice can be: Check for the preference of the bearer.

– Robert Hickey   Use of Mrs. vs. Ms.


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Use of Mrs. vs. Ms.: Honorific for a Married Woman?

I am married and took my husband’s family name. At work I use ‘Ms. Ann Wells’, but some of my married coworkers want to be ‘Mrs. (Woman’s Given Name)+(Family Name)’.

I like Ms. at work because I think it’s odd to state my marital status – since when they use Mr. the men don’t state their marital status.  But I do admit that sometimes, like when I am speaking to my kids’ teachers, it seems odd to be Ms. Wells.
—-—-—-—-– Ms./Mrs. Ann Wells

Dear Ms./Mrs. Wells:   Use of Mrs. vs.Ms.

I observe married women use various honorifics depending on the situation.

—-#1) ‘Ms. (Her Given Name)+(Family Name)’ … where their marital status is not pertinent but they want to specify an honorific. Using Ms. implies they are not to be automatically on a first-name basis and prefer to be formally addressed in conversation as ‘Ms. (Surname)’. Many women (both married and single) use this form at work. I observe more younger women use Ms. all the time – perhaps since they’ve grown up with Ms. – than do older women.

—-#2) ‘Mrs. (Husband’s first name) (Family Name)’ …. in formal situations or when you are involved as a spouse/part of a couple. This definitely implies that others will call you Mrs. Surname. Widows are formally addressed as ‘Mrs. (husband’s first name) (Family Name)’ (unless they remarry) for the rest of their lives if they choose to be.

—-#3) ‘Mrs. (Her Given Name)+(Family Name)’ …is often the choice of women in the context of being a Mom – dealing with schoolteachers (as you do), pediatricians, etc. This form provides the given name for those with whom they would be on a first-name basis. Part of presenting your name is giving guidance to the other person as what you want to be called in conversation.

[Another note about ‘Mrs. (Her Given Name)+(Family Name)’: Traditional etiquette references state that using ‘Mrs. + (Woman’s Given name) + (Family name)’ is the form used by a divorced woman. She wants to keep using her former husband’s family name, but can no longer use ‘Mrs. (Husband’s Given Name) (Family Name)’ because her former husband might have remarried and there would be a new ‘Mrs. (Husband’s Given Name) (Family Name)’. Thus, she uses her given name with Mrs. But some still married women don’t care what was ‘traditional’ in etiquette books and like to use Mrs. … thus stating their marital status and including their given name.]

—-#4) (Woman’s Given Name)+(Family Name) …. is casual. Not every situation is formal and there is nothing wrong with casual. You also use this form when signing your own name: One never gives oneself an honorific in a signature.

To me – you are all of those names at different times. You choose the one that’s right for the circumstance, and if someone addressed you incorrectly just correct them. It’s that easy.

One of the basics of forms of address is that your name belongs to you …. and EVERYONE is entitled to be addressed as they prefer!

– Robert Hickey   Use of Mrs. vs.Ms.

Related Forms of Address:
—-Couples: Military
—-Couples: Private Citizens
—-Couples: U.S. Officials
—-Couple, Same Sex
—-First Names
—-Gender-Neutral Honorifics
Man or Woman, Social
—-Woman, Married
Mrs. vs. Ms.
Spouse of an Official

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

Name Order: Whose Name is First? His? or Hers?

In a salutation for a married couple using just first names …. whose name is first?  His?  Or hers?
—-—-Dear Anne and Steve
—-—-—-or Use of Mrs. vs. Ms.
—-Dear Steve and Anne
—-—-—-– Anne Robinson

On a wedding program should I list my parents as:
—-—-Michael and Linda Swaggerty
—-—-Linda and Michael Swaggerty
We didn’t use Mr. and Mrs. – we prefer all the guests know the parent’s first names.
—-—-—-– Linda Swaggerty

On shared stationery – how should we list our names? His name first? My name first? We will be married soon and I have chosen to retain my maiden name.  My fiancé honestly doesn’t care whose name is first. I think it seems like I am secondary to him if his name comes first on everything (which I agree is rather ridiculous but I cannot seem to get past the feeling). What is the ‘proper’ way to do it?
—-—-—-– Laura T Use of Mrs. vs. Ms.

Dear Anne, Linda, and Laura:

When writing two names (typically when addressing invitations, but the rules work for other situations, too), there are two ways.

—-#1) Social etiquette says, when the guests are a couple with different surnames, women are listed first, men are listed second:

—-—-Ms. Laura Thompson and Mr. Henry Smith
—-—-Laura Thompson and Henry Smith
—-—-Laura and Henry

—-It is this way in ‘social etiquette’ because gender is a consideration in traditional social forms of address.

—-#2) Social etiquette says, when the guests are a couple with the same surname, women are listed first, men are listed second. I’ve seen this described as ‘ladies first’ or ‘keeping his name as a unit.’ Either way the result is the same:

—-—-Laura and Henry Smith
—-—-Laura and Henry


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

—-#3) This contrasts with business and official etiquette (and the rules of protocol), in which gender is not a consideration.
In the business and official arenas, if both halves of the couple are of equal precedence, they always are listed alphabetically by surname:

——–Mr. Henry Adams and Ms. Laura Wagner
——–Henry Adams and Laura Wagner
——–Henry and Laura Use of Mrs. vs. Ms.

—-This rule is the one you follow for same sex couples:

—-—-Mr. Frank Baker and Mr. Thomas Wilson
—-—-Frank Baker and Thomas Wilson
—-—-Frank and Thomas

—-—-Ms. Amy Clifton and Ms. Maria Yeonas
—-—-Amy Clifton and Maria Yeonas
—-—-Amy and Maria

—-#4) One more note – the guest is first: When a one person is invited to an official event and their spouse is invited too, the name of the invited guest is listed first, their guest is listed second. This is true even if the guest of the invitee has higher precedence in some other way. For example, if two military officers are invited, typically the higher ranking would be listed first. But if the lower ranking person is the invitee, then they are first and their higher ranking spouse is listed second.

– Robert Hickey Use of Mrs. vs. Ms.


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”