How to Address a Man or Woman | Social Address

How to Address a Man or Woman: Social Forms

Use of Ms. (Name), Mrs. (Name), or Miss (Name) is at the preference of the individual.

In the United States Ms. is the default honorific for women in business if you do not know their preference. And their preference can vary. An individual may prefer Ms. (Name) professionally and Mrs. (Name) socially.

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

Use of Miss (Name) has declined. It is rarely used outside of conservative circles but it’s not dead yet. Some women prefer it and it is still used when addressing young girls.

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

—-Envelope or address block on letter or email for a Man: How to Address a Man or Woman
—-—-Mr. (Full Name)

—-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 Mr./Ms./Mrs./Miss (Surname):


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

—-Related Posts:
—-—-Couples: Private Citizens
—-—-Couples: Armed Services – USA, USMC, USN, USAF, USCG
—-—-Couples: One or both ‘the Honorable’ – U.S. Official(s)
—-—-Couples: Same Sex

man woman

Which is the Right Honorific for a Married Woman?

Follow this link to a post on use of honorifics – Mrs. vs. Ms.   How to Address a Man or Woman

man woman

Whose Name is First? His? or Hers?

When you write the names of both people in a married couple …. whose name is first?  His?  Or hers?  ‘Dear Anne and Steve’ or ‘Dear Steve and Anne’?
—————–– Anne R.  How to Address a Man or Woman

On a wedding program we are using all first names. No Mr. & Mrs. (Family Name). Should I list my parents as:
—–#1) Michael and Linda Swaggerty
—–#2) Linda and Michael Swaggerty
—————–– Linda S.

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. What is the proper way to do it?
—————–– Laura T.  How to Address a Man or Woman


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

Dear Anne, Linda, and Laura:
When writing two names, and the people are of equal precedence (one is not a judge or an elected official) there are two ways: ‘Traditional Etiquette’ & ‘Other’

—-1) Traditional Etiquette
—-Different Surnames:
—-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 Baker
—-—-Laura Thompson and Henry Baker
—-—-Laura and Henry

—-Same Surname:
—-Social etiquette says if 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

—-2) Other: When Those don’t work
—-The two options above work for husband-wife couples, but what about husband-husband or wife-wife couples? If both halves of the couple are of equal precedence, list them alphabetically by surname:
—-—-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

– Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How Do I Address A Widow?

For a post on the names of widows, follow this link for Widow.

How to Address a Man or Woman

Whose Name Is First When inviting a Couple?

Whose name is first if I am inviting a couple who use different surnames? She is the one we are really inviting. He’s being invited as a courtesy to her. Alphabetically he is first, but it seems funny to list him first since he is coming as a date?
——————– Mary Harrison

We have a couple coming to our event. She’s a judge and she will bring her husband. How do we address the invitation?
——————– Karen Rasmussen

Dear Ms. Rasmussen and Ms. Harrison:

—-#1) If ‘Mary Harrison’ is THE guest and he is attending as HER guest … her name goes first.

—-—-Ms. Mary Harrison
—-—-and the Honorable Albert Baker

—-—-Ms. Mary Harrison
—-—-and The Reverend Albert Baker

—-—-Ms. Mary Harrison
—-—-and His Excellency Albert Baker

—-—-Major Mary Harrison
—-—-and General Albert Baker

—-—-Ms. Mary Harrison
—-—-and Major Albert Baker

—-—-Ms. Mary Harrison
—-—-and Dr. Albert Baker

—-#2) If they are both invited, the person with higher precedence is listed first regardless of gender:

—-—-The Honorable Albert Baker
—-—-and Ms. Mary Harrison

—-—-The Reverend Albert Baker
—-—-and Ms. Mary Harrison

—-—-His Excellency Albert Baker
—-—-and Ms. Mary Harrison

—-—-General Albert Baker
—-—-and Major Mary Harrison

—-—-Major Albert Baker
—-—-and Ms. Mary Harrison

—-—-Dr. Albert Baker
—-—-and Ms. Mary Harrison

I cover all this and more in the chapters in my book on Joint Forms of Address and Precedence if you need more examples and variations.

– Robert Hickey How to Address a Man or Woman


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”