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to address a woman in a formal letter as "Ms"?

(290 Posts)
twattock Thu 28-Feb-13 13:37:16

Here's the problem; as a solicitor the formal way to address correspondence is "Dear sirs/your faithfully" or "Dear (insert as appropriate)/yours sincerely". But I often have to write to a woman without knowing what title she has given herself-so do I use Ms? I dont want to assume anything obviously, so I can't use Miss or Mrs, so what would people prefer?

StuntGirl Thu 28-Feb-13 14:50:40

x-post grin

PessaryPam Thu 28-Feb-13 14:50:40

Actually I think I can style myself as Lady PessaryPam due to buying DH one of those cheapo titles for a laugh a few years back. I shall insist on this from now on and be mightily offended if it is omitted.

ElliesWellies Thu 28-Feb-13 14:51:21

Really like the idea of Miss/Master until 18 and then Mrs/Mr from 18 onwards, as banjo says.

Cuts out a lot of complication.

ouryve Thu 28-Feb-13 14:51:43

I'm a Mrs, but I'm fine with Ms if you have no reason to know otherwise.

yy to not wanting to have a letter addressed to me "Dear Sirs"

countrykitten Thu 28-Feb-13 14:52:13

Bugsylugs why on earth do you find Ms offensive?! Your post did make me laugh.

countrykitten Thu 28-Feb-13 14:53:31

Why use Mrs when it is associated with being married? What is wrong with Mr/Ms?

MarinaIvy Thu 28-Feb-13 14:54:11

It should be Ms unless they've indicated a preference, which should then be respected. Hey, you never know, some women are Dr or Prof or Dame or Rev!

The historical meaning is simply that Ms was created to give women the same right to privacy that men complacently enjoy - is "Mr Smith" married? Who can tell? Not relevant. And so it was thought to be for women, when Ms was envisaged. This clearly hasn't worked as well as it should have if people still have misconceptions about it 40-50 years later.

But, honestly, it should be more relevant than ever - we're so far away from the nuclear family unit where Miss and Mrs were the only options (apart from the Widder Jones or Granny Weatherwax): single/never married, married, separated, divorced, co-habiting, same-sex civil partnership. Ms covers all of these possibilities with elegance.

And if it's not value-neutral it's really because a woman's identity is yet another thing that society reckons it has the right to control. Daily papers are forever refusing to call a woman by her stated title (and name, even) and call her "Mrs Husbandname". It may be just an image thing, but it's a very important image thing.

As you can probably guess I'm Ms, and I also prefer dealing with Mses in general business context. Besides handier, I feel it's more seriously minded. In the workplace, it's none of anybody's damned business if I'm "available" or not, and I feel Ms says this.

Miss or Mrs "based on age" is actually mirroring what the French and German speakers do. It's a widely-held principle so, even though I personally think it's crap, I reasonably sanguine if somebody from those ethnicities does it.

As to you, Mrs Fox, grin and anybody else who expects a big corporation to remember her title, I have expressed a preference, to a great many companies (including the Mail Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service) not to get a lot of crapping sales calls and junk mail. Guess how successful that's been!... Grrr

MarinaIvy Thu 28-Feb-13 14:55:13

Lady Pessary - it may help you get table reservations... I sometimes use "Rev" (did an online ordination a few years ago, just for a larf).

LadyPessaryPam Thu 28-Feb-13 14:56:57

I shall bear that in mind Marina grin

countrykitten Thu 28-Feb-13 14:58:29

What MarinaIvy said. Top post.

EuroShaggleton Thu 28-Feb-13 14:59:04

I'm a lawyer. Ms is the standard form of address if you don't know of any other preferred title.

I detest the "Dear Sirs" thing (the way law firms address one another - because of course the partners must all be male. Grrr).

MarinaIvy Thu 28-Feb-13 14:59:30

Reverend Marina! wink

Definitely use Ms unless the person is known to use another title. I don't like Dear Sirs (I'm not a man) and I don't particularly like Dear Firstname Lastname, but both are preferable to Miss or Mrs.

BubblegumPie Thu 28-Feb-13 15:00:32

I was Ms before I got married and I'm Ms now. I also register DD (2) as Ms, as I think it's bizarre that Master is no longer used but Miss is, people seem to assume I have made a mistake and register her as miss anyway which fucks me off.

If I had it my way Master/Miss/Mrs wouldn't exist, I'd even go as far as suggesting in an ideal world we'd either get rid of titles altogether or use the gender neutral Mx except I don't know how to pronounce that but maybe I am 'aggressively feminist' grin

iirc with french (not sure about german) there is no age-differentiation for men, though

there are campaigns in france at least to stop the mademoiselle/madame thing, as it is perceived as patronising (particularly for those who appear younger than their actual age) and discriminatory as men are always 'monsieur'

MarinaIvy Thu 28-Feb-13 15:01:40

Euro - I used to address letters to lawyers as "Messrs" - my fee-earner was very patient with my feminism, and one day, threw me a frickin' bone:

"This firm here, is nothing but female partners" he said

I look up with eagerness.

"The correct form for this is 'Dear Mesdames' "

Happiest day I worked there. I am a geek.

Corygal Thu 28-Feb-13 15:04:41

The Art of Letter Writing, wh I have just checked, says Ms is fine given you don't know how she refers to herself.

I'm Ms.

Have been since I was 18

Even if/when dp and I marry I won't switch toMrs. as it sounds so antiquated and ridiculous to title a woman differently based on marital status.

I'm Ms, but would be more annoyed at being addressed 'Dear Sir' and 'Dear Mrs/Miss'. I do think 'Ms' is the default one though, sorry. Obviously if you know what they prefer, it's different, but you don't.

MrsBW Thu 28-Feb-13 15:39:31

I prefer Mrs and would correct someone that calls me Ms - but I wouldn't get offended by it.

As others have said, being married is irrelevant to many many things and I would expect other people to respect that.

Therefore it makes absolutely no difference to me that people can tell I'm married by my title. It matters not a jot and I would pull anyone up that treated me differently because of it (and would have done when I was referred to as 'Miss')

I feel like by referring to myself as Ms, I'd be assuming the other person can't treat me as equal to a man, if that makes sense?

But, each to their own.

twattock Thu 28-Feb-13 15:52:04

So a majority in favour of Ms then-thank you! Unfortunately the dear sirs/yours faithfully thing is one we are stuck with unless someone can come up with a gender-neutral alternative that sounds professional. Anyone? And another thing-it would help me avoid offending people if they indicated their gender when signing letters- replying to a "yours sincerely A. Nonymous" makes life unnecessarily complex. Many some people these days are sensitive to politeness I think even in the legal profession-a bit of help would be appreciated!

sarahtigh Thu 28-Feb-13 16:04:26

I am ok enough with Ms Tigh if you do not know so OP YANBU

but professionally i use Dr Tigh and generally elsewhere Mrs Tigh, I do get annoyed if after I have introduced myself and/or filled in form which has no doubt being entered into computer if it is still wrong

however, offended would be too strong an emotion unless someone was deliberately making some sort of point

SmilingHappyBeaver Thu 28-Feb-13 16:07:43

Unfortunately the dear sirs/yours faithfully thing is one we are stuck with unless someone can come up with a gender-neutral alternative that sounds professional

... not "hey Peeps" then?! wink

I'm a Ms, was before I was married and I am still a Ms now. When I see "Mrs" as my assumed title, it's like nails down a blackboard to me. I am amazed how many women of my age (still 29) think it's OK to allow themselves to communicate marital status by way of changing their title, while men carry on as before. Each to their own though. IMHO, the only time "Mrs" is vaguely tolerable is when I am addressed alongside my husband as "Mr and Mrs Beaver". But even then i still prefer "Mr and Ms".

MoreBeta Thu 28-Feb-13 16:09:44

I had to write a formal letter to a woman last week. I knew she was in her 50s and divorced.

I thought about it for quite a while and plumped for 'Ms' as the least likely to offend. I later found out from someone else she still calls herself by her married Mrs ExHusbandsName.

Its impossible to get it right in all cases.

I'd usually google and find out a name rather than use 'Dear Sirs', and if I really don't know, I will put 'To whom it may concern' - but that only works because I'm usually emailing either a library or academics whose names and titles are quite easy to find out. I can see why 'Dear sirs' persists - though would you put 'Dears Sir/Madam' if it were one person whose gender you didn't know, or is that considered clunky?

Maybe we should all take a leaf out of those wonderful flowery spam emails you get - 'Honoured lady' is one I had recently! grin

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