to write to the NHS using just my initials and to expect them not to assume I'm a Mr.

(120 Posts)
RedToothBrush Tue 22-Jan-13 08:04:17

I have made five FOI requests in the last month, using my initial and no title.

Two of the responses (so far) I've had have been addressed to Mr.

AIBU to think that I should be allowed not to state my gender and marital status when making formal and official enquiries and to simply be addressed as I have titled myself.

Is this really too much to ask or expect?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 22-Jan-13 08:09:51

What were the other three - Dear J Smith?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 22-Jan-13 08:10:12


EmmelineGoulden Tue 22-Jan-13 08:13:45

YANBU - They are being lazy and inflexible in their thinking (possibly in their computer systems which may require a title, not that that's an excuse).

What information were you after? <nosey>

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 22-Jan-13 08:14:13

YABU. It's courtesy in formal communications to address people by a title. In the absence of a title most organisations will default to 'Mr'.

LifeofPo Tue 22-Jan-13 08:17:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CheCazzo Tue 22-Jan-13 08:19:10

Exactly what Po said. Get a grip. If you want such precise clarity on the issue make sure you provide all the relevant information. Maybe you shouldn't exactly have to but ffs - is this really the medium in which to make whatever point it is you have to make?


RuleBritannia Tue 22-Jan-13 08:23:53

I started my bank account more than 30 years ago and my cheques were printed with R Britannia. When I rang up with a query (can't remember what), I was told that they could not help because the account was held by a man. I argued because I'd put Mrs on the application form and they just had to look at that. Also, in the application form, I had the choice of what was going to be printed on the cheques (Rule Britannia, Mrs Rule Britannia, R Britannia, Mrs R Britannia). I got nowehere and my cheques are now Mrs R Britannia. <sulks>

bigkidsdidit Tue 22-Jan-13 08:23:57


women are 50% of he population - why is he default something that would be wrong 50% of the time?

Default should be either dear j smith or dear mr/ms

coraltoes Tue 22-Jan-13 08:31:31

Seriously?! Seeeeeeriously?! Get a fucking grip

mrsjay Tue 22-Jan-13 08:35:26

well what were they supposed to put I guess it is a default thing maybe use a title then they will just put what you are, the NHS hasn't time to work out who is who, FWIW my dh has what is seen as a 'girls name' try getting official letters through the post for years with MRS or MISS on it, even though he has written MR hundreds of times

SkinnybitchWannabe Tue 22-Jan-13 08:35:38

Yabu..does it really matter?
Get a grip

BarredfromhavingStella Tue 22-Jan-13 08:38:30

5 FOI requests??? You have a lot of time on your hands.....
If you're that bothered then you should make clear what title you wish to be used & stop trying to be awkward for the sake of it, the NHS have limited resources which can be better spent than pandering to people like you.

NewFerry Tue 22-Jan-13 08:39:02

I was taught at school that in the absence of a title, you should use Mr as a default, and if you need to refer to someone in the 3rd person, then the default is 'he'
I think yabu, sorry.

fourfingerkitkat Tue 22-Jan-13 08:39:15

YABU. Unless your treatment/appointment made it obvious that you are a woman then I think the NHS has more important things to worry about than guessing people's genders by their initials.

Is this another wind up ? If so I'm getting reaaaaaallly bored with them now.

bigkidsdidit Tue 22-Jan-13 08:41:55

Why do people get so angry about this? I'm sure the OP does have other things to worry about and this is not her main concern on life! She didn't rant in the OP. why the replies telling her to get a grip, and the rudeness?

Just because something is tradition doesn't mean it's always right.
I don't see why titles need be used at all

mrsjay Tue 22-Jan-13 08:47:39

<whispers> what is FOI ?

EmmelineGoulden Tue 22-Jan-13 08:48:04

The OP hasn't said the NHS should waste any time at all thinking about what gender or title to use. The OP has said the NHS should use the name supplied to them and not alter it.

EmmelineGoulden Tue 22-Jan-13 08:49:33

mrsjay FOI is Freedom of Information.

CelticPromise Tue 22-Jan-13 08:50:05

YANBU. That is all.

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 08:57:11

YABU and crotchety. You can put Ms and nobody needs to know if you're married or single or whatever.

My DH's initials are D.R Slag and he sometimes gets post addressed to Dr Slag. Do I get all huffy because they have incorrectly guessed details about him? Nope.

If you're not supplying the gender bit, you can't blame them for guessing it wrong.

Why won't you let them know your gender? Is it a secret? Is it private? or are you passively aggressively withholding information so that you can be annoyed when a computer or overstretched admin person didn't have time to play detective with your request?

mrsjay Tue 22-Jan-13 08:57:18

oh ok thanks, the OP should probably take her complaint to the NHS records department if she is miffed, it is common sense that people who type letters are trained to put mr mrs or whatever,

PessaryPam Tue 22-Jan-13 09:01:24

Rule, I absolutely refused to be Mrs PessaryPam to our bank, I still use my maiden name. I remember my Mum getting upset that she had to get all OKed from her husband on their joint Mr & Mrs account and vowed I would never let that happen to me. You get much more respect if you have a different surname.

PessaryPam Tue 22-Jan-13 09:01:55

And I'm a Ms to the bank too, why should they know my marital status?

mrsjay Tue 22-Jan-13 09:04:01

they dont need to know your maritial status but to deny people knowing your gender is a little strange imo, people are not genderless so the use of ms as a title is fine

complexnumber Tue 22-Jan-13 09:05:13

< also whispering> So what sort of information do you request for in a FOI request

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 09:06:11

*You get much more respect if you have a different surname.*- really??? you get much more respect if you keep your maiden name??? I think respect is earned, not dependent on your surname.

Emmeline, I take your point, but its generally accepted business use to use titles rather than initials. The OP can't blame the NHS for doing it when all businesses use titles as the default address system.

Dear J Smith sounds awful
Dear Ms Smith sounds better.

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 09:09:43

exactly mrs jay. Why so cagey about gender?

Its a bit PA really to refuse to supply information and then be annoyed when it is guessed wrong.

I'm still rattled by PessaryPam saying you get much more respect if you have a different surname- what rot. Respect is earned. Having the same surname as your husband does not make people have less respect or more respect for you.

SelfRighteousPrissyPants Tue 22-Jan-13 09:13:04

2 out of 5 responses are to Mr so that's less than half, sounds about right as guesses based on the proportion of men in the population!

wonkylegs Tue 22-Jan-13 09:16:10

I've never found that you get more respect for having different surnames, I have had less problems since I got married as my current surname is easier to pronounce and spell correctly.
I have always had issues with getting the correct title - I am a woman in a predominately male profession - it doesn't annoy me I just laugh off the ridiculousness of mail addressed to Mr Obviouslygirlsname. Once I am willing to forgive but if I get it repeatedly once it's been corrected or from someone I've actually met then I take it as rude.

ILikeBirds Tue 22-Jan-13 09:16:34

People ask all sorts of weird and wonderful questions via FOI. Public bodies then waste spend thousands answering important questions like "What's on your work canteen menu?"

Fakebook Tue 22-Jan-13 09:16:41

We're all MR by default. Sad but true. Laugh it off.

mrsjay Tue 22-Jan-13 09:17:18

So what sort of information do you request for in a FOI request

medical records or treatment records

PessaryPam Tue 22-Jan-13 09:17:44

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 09:06:11 'You get much more respect if you have a different surname.'- really??? you get much more respect if you keep your maiden name??? I think respect is earned, not dependent on your surname.

When it's your bank holding your money I would have thought you have already earned their respect! I have never had to get my husband to authorise spending in the way my mother was forced to. That is why I do this.

But you definitely get an award for missing the point.

SorrelForbes Tue 22-Jan-13 09:21:29

FOI request are requests for Corporate information, e.g. How much did your business spend on staples last year or how
much do you pay your executive board.

Requests for personal information (e.g. Medical records) can be made by the individual in question under the Data Protection Act.

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 09:26:04

I didn't miss the point you clearly said "you get much more respect for having a different surname". That sounds pretty clear.

I have a joint account BTW. I use it however I want. I don't need anyone's permission.

Hegsy Tue 22-Jan-13 09:30:35

pessarypam I changed my surname with the bank, my wages go into ny husbands account and I don't need my husband to authorise any spending as we're a partnership......I think what your talking about is more to do with the relationship than the name

OP yabu and 5 foi requests? Are you a journalist or on some kind of mission?

mrsjay Tue 22-Jan-13 09:34:53

OH i got it wrong OP what is it you need to know are you worried about staples grin

Morloth Tue 22-Jan-13 09:35:36

'R' comes before 'S', so in a drop down menu where you have to choose one, 'Mr' is ahead of the others.

EmmelineGoulden Tue 22-Jan-13 09:36:49

"but its generally accepted business use to use titles rather than initials."

It use to be generally accepted to pay women less than men for the same job. Didn't make it right, or polite, or sensible. It use to be generally accepted that men were the default actors (as in people with agency, not pople on the stage - though that too) in our world and in that scenario there is a bit of logic behind defaulting to a male title(*). But it isn't the case any longer and institutions ought to wake up to that fact.

(*) I think the real reason behind defaulting to male is not because of the logic of it, but because really as a society we still think it's a bit insulting to call a man Miss or Mrs. But we think women should at best not be bothered and possibly even be a little bit flattered that someone thought they could possibly be as good as a man.

TheCraicDealer Tue 22-Jan-13 09:51:40

When I worked for a large bank one of my jobs was to get the standard letters sent out to customers. You know, "we can't credit this to your account/your card has arrived in the branch", etc. There was a drop down box, you had to select a title, otherwise it was a case of computer-says-no.

Maybe "Mr" was at the top of the drop box? Maybe most FOI requests are made by men and they made an educated guess? Maybe they didn't want to send a letter out with every variation of every title to keep the OP happy?

fascicle Tue 22-Jan-13 10:05:08

RedToothBrush Do you supply initials only for all letters you write, or have you specifically done this for your FOI requests? I think if you just give initials, there's a fair chance someone will guess your title incorrectly.

Have you had any luck with your FOI requests?

PessaryPam Tue 22-Jan-13 10:07:18

Hegsy I think what your talking about is more to do with the relationship than the name

Nope, my Dad was very cross that they behaved like that. They had a very equal relationship.

It may be that bank behaviour has changed now though, this was many years ago. I just remembered how it was for my Mum and decided not to take the chance. Plus I had built my career as Ms X and it would have been confusing to then become Mrs Y.

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 10:07:20

But Emmeline, it's not a sexist issue, you can use Ms now. It's not about marital status.

I agree it's wrong to default to male, they should come up with an alternative, but I don't know why you think it's up there with unequal pay and other stuff.

The point I am making is that businesses use Mr/Mrs/Miss or Ms, rather just Dear J Smith. That's a fact not a political statement.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 22-Jan-13 10:07:57

Other organisations, of course, default to 'Dear Sir or Madam'. Then a whole other set of conventions applies. Dear Mr J Smith letters end 'yours sincerely'. Dear Sir or Madam letters end 'yours faithfully'. Why we have to be sincere or faithful is never clear. Think the OP is reading far too much into something that could be easily averted.

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 10:15:09

The OP can't refuse to give her gender and then get annoyed when its guessed wrong. If you want information, then its just petty to refuse to give your gender

DolomitesDonkey Tue 22-Jan-13 10:20:55

YABU. Would you rather they called you "thing" or "it"?

If you wish to be addressed in a particular manner, make it your priority to tell people - we're not all mind-readers. hmm

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 10:25:30

Think the OP is reading far too much into something that could be easily averted. exactly cogito

LessMissAbs Tue 22-Jan-13 10:27:41

The default setting is "Dear Sir/Madam". Not "Mr". The NHS risks being accused of sex discrimination.

That said, YABU a bit for making 5 FOI requests using public time and money in a month!

mrsjay Tue 22-Jan-13 10:28:16

OP what did you want the letter to say just your initials most letters wont come like that especially official letters, TBH it sounds like you have far to much time on your hands that you exclude your gender and are trying to make a point that is making you look a bit pretentious

Parly Tue 22-Jan-13 10:38:51

Not indicating a title / gender and just signing off with initials is such an arsey thing to do.

cocoachannel Tue 22-Jan-13 10:38:57

Are these requests for different pieces of information? I hope it is very, very important - do you have any idea how much resource is wasted on FOI? Especially when idiots people don't take the time to understand the Act and enter requests which still have to be processed even though the information is exempt.

Grr. Pet peeve of mine having seen the cost working with a few public bodies!

EmmelineGoulden Tue 22-Jan-13 10:41:27

YouOld I didn't say it was sexist to use a title, though I think defaulting to male is. I'm saying that the fact that something is traditional or a custom does not make it good or right or sensible. Insisting on using a title when none has been given seems rude to me as well as a bit foolish. As a custom it seems inevitably to lead to either having lots of "/" or "or"s (which is tiresome to read), or guessing incorrectly.

Why is it petty to not give your gender? Is there other personal information are you required to divulge that is of no practical use to the organization you're writing to?

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 22-Jan-13 10:58:40

"Why is it petty to not give your gender? "

It's petty - and rather confrontational - not to give your gender five times in a row, knowing that the organisation defaults to Mr, and then feigning indignance. Like dressing a baby head to foot in blue and making a big song and dance when everyone assumes it's a boy...

StuntGirl Tue 22-Jan-13 11:00:42

YANBU to want to be addressed as you have sent your letters.

However, depending on whether these were different departments their system may not allow them not to put a title, and Mr is usually the first in a drop down menu. Although on our system the first option is Lady grin

Scholes34 Tue 22-Jan-13 11:01:17

If you're from the old school, properly trained in secretarial work (RSA exams, etc), rather than someone just with keyboard skills, you'll always use a title in a letter and in an address because this is the correct this to do and in the absence of knowing the gender of the person you're writing to, the default setting is Mr.

I truly hope the FOI requests are worthy of the amount of time someone has had to put into finding out the information and that it will be put to good, relevant use.

EmmelineGoulden Tue 22-Jan-13 11:01:45

How has the OP been confrontational? I just don't see how using your initials rather than a title and initials is confrontational or petty. It's how the OP signs off. Why does the organization have to do it differently? Three out of the five requests have been responded to just fine without making assumptions about gender.

TheCraicDealer Tue 22-Jan-13 11:03:19

Unfortunately StuntGirl this simple explanation prevents the OP and others from taking offence, so it's been largely ignored.

Thewhingingdefective Tue 22-Jan-13 11:05:19

OP YANBU, however some other people getting worked up on here are.

CaptainVonTrapp Tue 22-Jan-13 11:25:16

PessaryPam this is a choice when you set up your bank account. (certainly now perhaps not then) That either person can do anything without the others say so or one must ask the other.

Why the fuck shouldn't the OP make 5 FOI requests? She may have a perfectly legitimate reason.

cocoachannel Tue 22-Jan-13 11:30:14

She might have perfectly legitimate reasons for them. Sadly many people use FOI for sport.

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 11:32:05

OP, did you refuse to give them your DOB as well in case they might be ageist? Did you refuse to give your address as it was none of their business? If you want them to locate a file for you, you have to help them out a bit.

I have no idea why you withheld your gender. It's not exactly none of their business if they are trying to pinpoint your details and snure they have teh right file. You are just being difficult.

I'd rather be addressed as Ms Doe rather than Dear J.Doe.

Dear J.Doe sounds like a clumsy school pupil's mistake in an English lesson.

LessMissAbs Tue 22-Jan-13 11:32:25

Theres no reason to give a gender when writing a letter. I quite often come across emails and letters in my work from people who have not given a gender - I have no idea which sex they are, and rather than assume they are a man, I go with "Sir/Madam" or similar. I often wonder if some women in positions of power do this deliberately, in order to gauge the response. Or perhaps because they think by admitting to female, there may be some negative response/less attention paid?

If drop-down menus are designed to default to "Mr" then they should be re-designed. It certainly wouldn't be acceptable to assume everyone was British, or under 65, for example, so why it should be considered acceptable to assume someone is a male unless they notify you otherwise, is illogical.

I actually think there are statistically more women in the UK than men, so even more illogical to assume the writer of a letter is male if no gender is given in the title.

YouOldSlag Tue 22-Jan-13 11:38:11

LessMissAbs, I actually agree that the dropdown menu should revert to Dear Sir/Madam, and your point is well put.

However if the OP refused to give a title or clue, she can hardly get all huffy when 2 out of 5 requests address her as Mr.

Even if you have an androgynous name such as Alex or Sam, its not hard to write Ms Sam Bloggs or Ms Alex Bloggs.

It's madness to withhold gender when someone will be sending you an entire medical file with all your personal details in, yet you don't want them to know if you are male or female. It's just being awkward for the sake of it.

SorrelForbes Tue 22-Jan-13 12:14:01

It's madness to withhold gender when someone will be sending you an entire medical file with all your personal details in, yet you don't want them to know if you are male or female. It's just being awkward for the sake of it.

A request under FOI would not be for personal details.

BitOutOfPractice Tue 22-Jan-13 12:20:40

Are you trying to make a point? Test them? I don't understand why you would purposely make it hard for them to get it right, then complain when they get it wrong. Are you determined to be all indignant and affronted?

What are your reasons for them not wanting to not let them know your gender? I'm curious

EmmelineGoulden Tue 22-Jan-13 13:00:24

It isn't the OP that is making it hard - it's the organization that has made it hard for themselves by insisting on using a title. Plenty of people must write to them without using a title. There will be quite a few situations where they won't know what gender the writer is - ambiguous forenames, names from cultures they aren't familiar with. A default assignment of a gendered title is rude, even when it's forced by a computer system (computer systems don't just write themselves - in those cases people will have spent a lot of time designing it and others a lot of time evaluating it).

projectbabyweight Tue 22-Jan-13 13:06:01

Agreed Emmeline.

Pigsmummy Tue 22-Jan-13 13:18:39

If you wrote tothem with just initials then YABU. Surely your title isn't a secret is it? ...............(gets excited thinking maybe that you are Royalty?)

Scholes34 Tue 22-Jan-13 13:21:14

I really don't know why the OP is getting huffy about this. I'd much rather have a letter addressed to Mr Scholes34 than Scholes34 and if the computer is set to default to Dear Sir or Madam instead if no title is available, I hope it will also default to Yours faithfully at the end of the letter too.

It's correct to use a title. Unfortunately, OP didn't give one with the FOI request.

I get the impression that the OP has lots of time with not a lot to fill it.

PaellaUmbrella Tue 22-Jan-13 13:44:02


Having worked in various customer service roles using various computer systems, I'm willing to bet that they have to select a title from a drop down list in order to issue you a reply.

Whatever they select, they run the risk of getting it wrong if you haven't specified your own title.

Until somebody invents a genderless title for addressing people, there's not a lot that can be done. other than you being a bit more reasonable and signing off the way you wish to be addressed

PessaryPam Tue 22-Jan-13 14:26:50

Dear Citizen XYZ would do it maybe.

houseelfdobby Tue 22-Jan-13 14:34:09


In the UK, there are 31.029m men and 32.153m women.

As there are more women than men, the female title "Ms" should logically be the default option.

But really let's get rid of those titles. Ideally, they should have put Dear J Smith.

AChickenCalledKorma Tue 22-Jan-13 14:35:37

I did a mail merge for my employer (local council) yesterday. I went through it very carefully, checking addresses were formatted correctly, names looked sensible etc. I did this because I am conscientious and, thankfully, it was a manageable number of letters.

There were two people who had only given their initials. There was no indication whatsoever of their gender. My choice was either to write "Mr/Ms" - in which case they would probably have got cross because they would undoubtedly have turned out to be best friends with their local Councillor and expect a more personal service. Or I could write "Mr" (which I was also taught was the default in case of uncertainty). Or nothing, which would also have been wrong.

I went for "Mr". So shoot me.

CelticPromise Tue 22-Jan-13 14:36:52

They could just write e.g. Dear C Promise, no need for a title. It's not the OP making things difficult.

CelticPromise Tue 22-Jan-13 14:38:09

Korma I would have put nothing. Why would it be wrong, in the absence of the information?

AChickenCalledKorma Tue 22-Jan-13 19:17:36

I don't know. "Dear E H P Taylor" just looked wrong.

I work for the NHS and this would just be another thing in all of the PC bullshit that would add a few minutes to my overloaded day! Do you think we don't have more to do than bother about you whilst battling all the bureaucratic shit and waiting with baited breath for the bloody CQC to rick up and tell us what a shit job we are all doing???

Why not write your bloody title FGS. What is the big issue.

ThePinkOcelot Tue 22-Jan-13 19:29:04

Well you should have used more than just your initials shouldn't you?! People not wanting others to know their marital status etc - I mean really, what is wrong with these people! Get a grip, and while you're at it, a life!

AllYoursBabooshka Tue 22-Jan-13 19:38:09

Most of this stuff is done by computer now Celtic, whoever is dealing with it maybe required to give a title to complete the letter for printing on the program they are using.

As others have said, they don't have time to umm and ahh about this. They are far too busy.

Some people are just looking for a fight IMHO.

Floggingmolly Tue 22-Jan-13 19:39:16

Bit ironic, really. Someone so happy to use the Freedom of Information Act to excess; so loathe to disclose such a hugely personal detail as her gender...

MrsBW Tue 22-Jan-13 20:04:51

I didn't understand what a 'first world problem' was before reading this.

YANBU to want to be addressed as you refer to yourself.

But honestly - are there not bigger battles to be fought in the sexism war??

BackforGood Tue 22-Jan-13 20:28:28

YABU - manners dictate we don't write 'Dear B.F.Good', we write the title. If there is no title, then historically people default to Mr. If this bothers you, then put what you would like to be called, in your correspondence, when you make the initial contact.

BF Good (Mrs)
BF Good (Lord)
BF Good (Dr)
BF Good (Rev)
BF Good (Ms)

or whatever title it is you want to be used. Hardly rocket science.

deleted203 Tue 22-Jan-13 20:31:48

YABU. The correct grammatical way to sign a letter if you are using initials is to put your title in brackets afterwords UNLESS you are a man. So if you don't want them to assume you are male then you need to sign it J Smith (Ms).

amicissimma Tue 22-Jan-13 20:36:43

I am female. I know I am female. If someone addresses me as Mr my femininity is in no way compromised.

If being given your correct title is important to you it is up to you to make it clear: 'J Smith (Mr), J Smith (Ms)' or whatever. If you don't specify, it's reasonable for your correspondent to assume you're not particularly bothered.

I'd prefer the world not to change to the clumsy 'Dear J Smith' just to satisfy your preference to make people guess your gender.

CabbageLeaves Tue 22-Jan-13 20:39:22

We have patients who insist on being called Brigadier Smith, Capt Smith, Lord Lieutenant Smith etc etc and tbh where possible we comply with this but I always wonder about someone who identifies their self worth through a title. It seems such a pedantic thing hen there are more importnant issues but for some people it's THE thing they will pass judgement on....

CaptainVonTrapp Tue 22-Jan-13 20:42:52

Pedantic? To provide someone with your correct title and expect them to use it?

AnyoneforTurps Tue 22-Jan-13 20:55:28

Every FOI request costs an organisation time & money. Some are entirely justified but I hope the OP has a damn good reason for submitting 5 in a month to an NHS organisation. And I hope she doesn't then complain when more and more money is spent on administration, rather than patient care.

CelticPromise Tue 22-Jan-13 21:17:27

I don't understand why all the posters concerned with old fashioned manners think it's ok to default to Mr. You are likely to be wrong 50% of the time. I think that's rude. Just use an initial, then you can't be wrong.

CabbageLeaves Tue 22-Jan-13 21:27:52

To provide someone with your correct title and expect them to use it?

Well OP didn't provide it. As I said we try to comply but it's not always provided and if it isn't and we don't use Brigadier to call in and he has a wobbly about says more about him tbh

I would not default to Mr ever.

HazleNutt Tue 22-Jan-13 21:28:08

Has anybody saying "default is Mr" ever thought about why and if it's a rule worth following? Considering that there are actually more women in the UK, why should it be a default? Why assume that the person whose gender you don't know is a man?

Montybojangles Tue 22-Jan-13 21:37:37

If you can't even be arsed to identify yourself fully, why on earth should people busy working in the nhs with better things to do be arsed to worry about offending you with an incorrect guess as to your title??

CelticPromise Tue 22-Jan-13 22:23:29

If the harried NHS employee is so busy, why waste time guessing when you can just leave it out?

deleted203 Tue 22-Jan-13 22:37:35

I don't understand why all the posters concerned with old fashioned manners think it's ok to default to Mr. You are likely to be wrong 50% of the time. I think that's rude. Just use an initial, then you can't be wrong.

Because this is the grammatical rule. It isn't rude. It is using the correct English. It is considered rude to write Dear J Smith.....however. It doesn't matter whether you agree with it or not - it is simply that if you are going to write a letter using formal English then this is the rule, and people who do NOT wish to be addressed as 'Mr' need to provide their correct title. It is a little like using 'Yours faithfully' and 'Yours sincerely' - you don't just pick whichever one you like better - you should be aware of which one is correct to use.

mrsmalcolmreynolds Tue 22-Jan-13 22:37:56

sowornout it is not an issue of grammar (which is the constuction of sentences in a formally approved manner in order to aid common understanding). The approach you describe is a (in my view rather outdated) matter of letter-writing etiquette. The reason I distinguish between them is that (IMO) grammar is extremely important, letter-writing etiquette much less so.

Not sure OP is BU, although at least they did not assume that a woman must be Miss or Mrs. On a tangential note, I do get driven nuts by the number of my relatives who automatically send stuff addressed to me as "Mrs DH's surname" having never bothered to check whether I kept my original name when we got married (I did!). Don't mind the grannies (now in their late eighties) but am quite peeved at those our age (mid-thirties).

CelticPromise Wed 23-Jan-13 07:22:47

It is also, in ye olde letter writing rules, appropriate to address a married woman as Mrs Husband'sName Husband'sSurname. I would never do this either, because it may be ' correct' etiquette but it's flipping rude!

Meglet Wed 23-Jan-13 07:27:47


I have to send out letters via a database and have to default it to 'Mr' when the sex is unknown. I hate it and grind my teeth each time it crops up.

Heebiejeebie Wed 23-Jan-13 07:50:24

I'm really surprised by the responses on here
If someone doesn't put a title, don't make one up, much simpler.
If the computer system is poorly written and doesn't allow that, it should be changed
Putting a (as likely to be wrong as right) title in a letter is not a law of the land or grammatically helpful. The default to Mr is a sexist hangover. Even the laws of succession are changing.
It's perfectly reasonable to make 5 or 500 foi requests in a month, esp if you are surveying different organisations (eg asking GP Surgeries if they have access to adequate translation facilities or baby changing areas)

curiousuze Wed 23-Jan-13 07:55:52

I used to work in customer services and if I wasn't sure I'd put 'dear sir/madam' and not bother with a title on the address. That said, OP, I wish I had your problems.

houseelfdobby Wed 23-Jan-13 10:46:14

In the first big privatisations in the 80's, the lawyers decided to give the payouts to the first named on each account. By convention, most joint accounts are called "Mr and Mrs" Smith so MOST of the time that decision caused the windfall to go to the man only. The lawyers decided it wasn't they who were being sexist but rather those who went along with the convention "Mr and Mrs" .

So sometimes titles and conventions have real world impacts. Let's get rid of them. I dislike putting Mrs or Miss because I don't feel my marital status is any business contact's concern. Nor do I like putting Ms as most people take that as code for "divorced" and I am not divorced (and if I was, it would still be none of their business - I don't routinely ask men I deal with what their marital status is, and they would think it odd if I did.

I just want to be called H.E. Dobby. I also make FOI requests with no title and have always been written back to as "Mr". I don't really care BUT once I added a further question which happened to indicate I was female. At that point they refused to answer further as they said they had reason to believe I was using a false identity, so convinced were they that I was male as "Mr" is what they had decided to call me. I had to provide evidence that I had all along used my real name and it was only them who assumed I was a man.

CecilyP Wed 23-Jan-13 11:02:08

It is no longer thought appropriate to put Dear Sir/Madam if someone has supplied at least a name. As a reply to an FOI request will be an individual letter, it will be up to the person replying as to what they put. It is usual to address the recipient as Dear Mr Smith or Dear Ms Smith, rather than Dear R T B Smith, although the latter is always a possibilty. The sender did not choose to do this, so had to make a guess - so only a 50% chance of being right, so yes, OP, YABU. Perhaps they assumed that a man would be more likely to sign with initials and a woman more likely to give her full name.

On a computerised database, you would only have a limited number of options, so the inputer could use a drop-down menu for ease of input. It would not give the option of an unlimited number of combinations of initials. The only other possibility would be to leave a blank, so correspondence would be addressed to Dear Smith. Not really considered good form and, no doubt, something else the OP would find time to complain about.

madoldbird Wed 23-Jan-13 11:58:48

I started out thinking Y were BU, then re-read what you wrote, and saw you just wanted to be addressed as you had ended your letter, which actually does seem reasonable, even if to others Dear Initial Surname seems awkward. You have indicated how you wish to be addressed, so why can't this be used? I tend to end letters Firstname Surname, so responses come back Dear Ms Surname, which is fine, as i don't see why people need to know if i'm married or not.

Floggingmolly Wed 23-Jan-13 13:45:46

I don't see why people need to know if I'm married or not
What is this mindset?? It's for the convenience of being able to address your correspondence correctly; nobody actually cares, you know? hmm

madoldbird Wed 23-Jan-13 14:38:13

My correspondence can simply be addressed with "Ms" (as any man's can be addressed "Mr". 'Tis not a problem smile

givemeaname Wed 23-Jan-13 15:35:16

I work in customer service and its frustrating when i receive communications which are signed M. Givemeaname which i then have to follow up with a telephone call - have you ever called & asked to speak to a M.givemeaname?
YABU. I never understand why people have such a hang up about giving their gender or marital status, are you ashamed or something? No one actually cares if you are Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Master, male, female or transgender so why hide the fact? Anyway, only 2 out the 5 replied Mr so the odds are in your favour. You need to lighten up.

houseelfdobby Wed 23-Jan-13 17:06:00

Of course nobody cares whether you are married or not which is why it is SO odd that many of you are not questioning the convention where women are asked for their marital status every time they write a letter or an email but men are not. We need a new convention. Initials Surname seems good enough. Sure, if you are the poor operative and have a drop down list then that's tough but really the people WRITING the drop down menus should be more imaginative and at least have a Mr/Ms option instead of having to choose between Mr or Ms.

Incidentally Ms has never really taken off because it is hard to pronounce and has been appropriated as shorthand for separated/ "it's complicated" which is a whole message of its own. I wouldn't mind so much if men had to do the same but cannot stand the casual sexism that dictates the continuance of this convention of marital status declaration by only women, for no apparent purpose.

houseelfdobby Wed 23-Jan-13 17:07:49

Of course nobody cares whether you are married or not which is why it is SO odd that many of you are not questioning the convention where women are asked for their marital status every time they write a letter or an email but men are not. We need a new convention. Initials Surname seems good enough. Sure, if you are the poor operative and have a drop down list then that's tough but really the people WRITING the drop down menus should be more imaginative and at least have a Mr/Ms option instead of having to choose between Mr or Ms.

Incidentally Ms has never really taken off because it is hard to pronounce and has been appropriated as shorthand for separated/ "it's complicated" which is a whole message of its own. I wouldn't mind so much if men had to do the same but cannot stand the casual sexism that dictates the continuance of this convention of marital status declaration by only women, for no apparent purpose.

houseelfdobby Wed 23-Jan-13 17:08:14

sorry about the double post blush

ClareMarriott Wed 23-Jan-13 17:15:59


In the space of one day your query over using just initials has generated 108 responses. If I require information from a formal body I provide them with my full name , address, date of birth, NI number or anything else I think may be relevant and then send off for what I want. This way there should be no confusion over who I am . Now can we all get on with our lives please ?

madoldbird Wed 23-Jan-13 17:33:36

I got fed up with people assuming that because i used Mrs, I had a husband, and that my children had a father around. I was a widow. Those assumptions (frequent) hurt. Using Ms helped stopped people making those assumptions

EmmelineGoulden Wed 23-Jan-13 20:33:31

You could just use Dr. - it doesn't give away your gender or marital staus and it's not protected as a title by law. Just don't go trying to make people think you're medically qualified or an expert in any particular area.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 23-Jan-13 20:42:47

See, I would say Ms has taken off. It's a pretty standard choice, at least.

ivykaty44 Wed 23-Jan-13 20:44:53

So what sort of information do you request for in a FOI request

You may wish to see a deceased relatives medical records

or coroners record

or you may want to know about general numbers of patients being seen in a&e

To put 5 request in though could be deemed as harrasment so it would be wise to be careful

FOI can be charged for if there is a certain amount of work involved so that the work doesn't impact on the service

CecilyP Wed 23-Jan-13 20:46:42

Agreed, Ms seems to be an option on just about every form.

ClippedPhoenix Wed 23-Jan-13 20:47:30

Well put your correct before's in then!


tigerdriverII Wed 23-Jan-13 20:53:22

In my experience FOI requests are often made by journalists. Not always of course, and there are legitimate reasons for making them, but they are often fishing expeditions.

ivykaty44 Wed 23-Jan-13 20:56:38

I probably look at around 4-5 FOI a week and never see them from jornalists, a lot from OAP's though

Floggingmolly Wed 23-Jan-13 21:27:30

Just how daft / paranoid would you have to be to call yourself Dr.
Emmeline, just to avoid disclosing your marital status to anyone??? NOBODY CARES

EmmelineGoulden Wed 23-Jan-13 21:58:58

You don't have to be paranoid flogging, just bored. I have tried many different titles in my time. Oddly it turns out quite a lot of people do care a very little bit, so it can be quite amusing. I've used Mr. a few times but that mainly confuses people.

notcitrus Sun 27-Jan-13 18:59:00

I get loads of NHS letters, and most are addressed to Dear Not Citrus, with about equal numbers to Mr, Mrs, Ms and Dr Citrus (either of the last two would be correct - I'm not an MD so don't use Dr in medical settings by default, but my PhD is in biomedical stuff so I do sometimes pull it out if being patronised...). Plus lots to Parent/Carer of Mini Citrus or Micro Citrus, as well as Master and Miss Citrus.

The audiotypists and admin staff should know better, yes, and like OP I get annoyed by the Mr or Mrs assumptions, but standards of letters seem to have plummeted in the last couple years, so badly that I can't understand the last one - I think it's meant to say 'hyper' a lot or possibly 'hypo' but says 'hipo' mostly instead, with lots of other typos. If I have to choose I'd prefer the medical terminology to be correct over a title, but I suspect someone who could do the former would manage the latter anyway.

And FOI requests shouldn't be a burden on any organised body - most of the time people are asking the same questions they did before the Act, but ensuring they are taken seriously. And I've been on the receiving end of shedloads of them. The public should have the right to know what is done with their money and in their name!

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