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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?

SPBInDisguise Thu 28-Feb-13 14:19:19

Agree ellies. If you've specifically asked to be called Mrs (or Dr or rev or prof) then yes, its rude to continue addressing otherwise.

CockyFox Thu 28-Feb-13 14:20:12

I don't think there is an elevation in status associated with marriage, I just prefer to be addressed by the correct title it is just the same as the time Mr Cocky Fox got a letter from a company addressed to Mr Crafty Fox. He signed a letter to them with just an initial and they guessed his first name.

WillieWaggledagger Thu 28-Feb-13 14:21:24

it feels weird if you get Mrs with your unmarried surname though - i do notice that particularly, because my first thought is that it's my mum's name

MammaTJ Thu 28-Feb-13 14:25:15

I am Ms. Most definitely. I was married, I kept my married name and am now divorced from him and living with someone else.

Ms is my correct title but it took me ages to convince the bank of this.

edam Thu 28-Feb-13 14:25:58

UseHerName - what historical meaning does Ms have? It hasn't been around long enough to acquire one IMO. Some people mistakenly fall for a bizarre myth that it denotes divorce but it does not - the whole purpose was to create a neutral title. The fact that some people are so keen to label women by their relationships they can't stand a neutral title is interesting but not really a reason for abandoning Ms.

drjohnsonscat Thu 28-Feb-13 14:26:00

There really is an elevation of status. Like I say, it's very subtle and nobody thinks there is but Miss means either a child or a spinster. The words say it all. Married women tend not to use Miss for a reason. If it was neutral, like Mr, then we could all just be Miss.

My mum, who is divorced, still uses Mrs for a reason.

drjohnsonscat Thu 28-Feb-13 14:27:01

sorry, meant to say, she would be happy to use Ms but she wouldn't go back to being Miss.

PessaryPam Thu 28-Feb-13 14:30:43

I'm married but I prefer Ms. I don't see why my title should denote my marriage status when men's ones don't.

StuntGirl Thu 28-Feb-13 14:34:41

The OP has quite clearly stated she is asking what to do when she doesn't know the preferred title. Continued correspondence that gets the recipients name wrong is just lazy and rude, but that's not what the OP is asking.

Use Ms. Anyone who gets their knickers in a twist over it obviously has too much time on their hands. Given that there are multiple options for women you are not to be blamed for not being a mind reader over which name they prefer, whether they'll take offence and clasp their pearls or whether they simply won't care.

seeker Thu 28-Feb-13 14:35:48

I agree about the elevation of status thing. Not long ago, the default position for a adult woman was Mrs- on the assumption that no woman would mind if people thought she was married when she wasn't but would mind the other way round. That's I think why some people object to Ms- they can't get their heads round the fact that a married woman might use it, so assume that it means divorced (shameful) or old maid (even more shameful)!

PeppermintPasty Thu 28-Feb-13 14:38:26

I'm not married. I don't like being called Ms, as to me it sounds so daft when it is said out loud. I'm not that won over by Miss either, but sometimes I take delight in being called Miss precisely because it is/was used for spinsters - I love that word and all it conjures up.

It makes me feel weirdly subversive somehow <reminds self to get a life> and cat food

BanjoPlayingTiger Thu 28-Feb-13 14:39:47

If you don't know I would use Ms. Then from there use whatever is given as a preference.

I think we should be Miss/Master until 18 and then Mrs/Mr following that. So it would signify a coming of age thing rather than marital status for women. It would take a generation or so to settle down as people insisted that Mrs meant you were married but it would become the norm pretty soon afterwards.

StuntGirl Thu 28-Feb-13 14:41:19

I've come to the same conclusion banjo.

tomverlaine Thu 28-Feb-13 14:43:36

I was with Seeker - I thought that the more formal way was to use Mrs- but i guess this is oldfashioned.
I like Ms. It is non judgemental. It also works if you are marreid but retained your own name.

UseHerName Thu 28-Feb-13 14:43:45

Andro it's unprofessional to use the wrong title - and anyway, i'm not convinced that not using a title is unprofessional

edam 'Ms' rightly or wrongly has historical associations with both divorce, and of re-appropriation by feminists - no word in our society exists without a history of etymology - and you've said it yourself, to some people it means 'Some people mistakenly fall for a bizarre myth that it denotes divorce'

What about more recent variations of 'Mx' or simply 'M'

I went and got myself a PhD to get round this debacle grin now I make everyone call me Dr!

Jins Thu 28-Feb-13 14:43:47

I'm not bothered how I'm addressed but I hate being called Mr! It happens quite often as there aren't many women in my field. I use Ms in correspondence but if someone replies with Mrs then I make sure I update my records

countrykitten Thu 28-Feb-13 14:44:24

BPT - that is what Ms is for! Surely it should be Miss/Master followed by Ms/Mr?!

There is no need for Mrs as a title - I think it's sexist and always correct people (nicely) when they assume that I am a Mrs just because I am married. I have been a Ms since I was about 18 and see this as my adult title marital status aside. If other people have silly issues over it then that's their lookout not mine.

Bugsylugs Thu 28-Feb-13 14:45:51

I wouldn't address someone as Ms as I have always found it offensive even when a young child.

TolliverGroat Thu 28-Feb-13 14:47:12

I agree, Banjo (until then I use Ms, though). That's how it is in practice in French and German these days.

OP, if you don't know I think you have to go for either "Dear Ms Jones" or "Dear Harriet Jones". Or you could address envelope to "Dr Harriet Jones" and go for "Dear Dr Jones" on the basis that although you are very likely to be incorrect you're relatively unlikely to offend someone by assuming a higher level of qualification than she actually possesses.

Nandocushion Thu 28-Feb-13 14:47:40

Ms is the correct term to use if you haven't been instructed otherwise.

WillieWaggledagger Thu 28-Feb-13 14:47:45

yy i'm not bothered whether people think i am divorced/raving feminist, i see neither as derogatory statuses (and the latter is likely true!)

aufaniae Thu 28-Feb-13 14:48:04

Would much, much rather Ms (which admittedly I do use anyway) that "Dear Sirs".

"Dear Sirs" raises my hackles and gives me a very dim view of the company writing to me. (Dinosaurs!)

HazleNutt Thu 28-Feb-13 14:49:16

How can Ms be offensive? "How rude to assume I'm not married???" kind of way?

Bugsylugs Thu 28-Feb-13 14:49:27

Also someone else lookout if they have silly issues with all the other titles available, Miss, Mrs, Dr etc

StuntGirl Thu 28-Feb-13 14:49:29

What I don't get is how people can get actually offended by it, especially when the person sending the letter doesn't know for definite one way or the other. They have a one in four chance of getting it right, statistically they're gonna get some wrong!

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