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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?

AnnieLobeseder Wed 06-Mar-13 17:17:00

Yup, Hi Firstname is the standard greeting around here too. But we're an informal bunch.

I'd use "Dear Dr/Prof Bloggs" the first time I wrote to someone external, but if they wrote back "Hi Annie" and signed off "Regards, Jane", then my next message would start with "Hi Jane".

neunundneunzigluftballons Wed 06-Mar-13 14:59:53

I only ever use Ms, as does my sister who although married has retained her maiden name. Mrs sounds like my mother or MIL.

scoobydooagain Wed 06-Mar-13 13:59:55

I don't like the use of a title and I especially disliked Mrs when I was married but I wouldn't complain, you can't please everybody all of the time!

I would never go as far as a smiley face, but Hi is definitely standard in my line of work, both as a client myself and as a supplier of services.

With the clients the first email is Dear, follow-ups are Hi. I take my lead from them to an extent though, if they make first contact with me using Hi then I will respond with it too. I would hate it if we all just started with Firstname, it really does sound abrupt to me. I guess it would be fine from a solicitor or someone you do have formal relationships with, but our client relationshiops are as informal as our internal ones.

JessieMcJessie Wed 06-Mar-13 11:59:35

Whoknows, I absolutely HATE "hi first name" on a work email, even if it's an internal email from the colleague in the next room. Far too informal. I had a trainee who did it and, horror of horrors, sometimes signed off with a smiley face. We nipped that in the bud. I'd get in real trouble if I addressed my clients with "Hi", even the ones I know very well.

I don't like emails that just start with my first name, it seems a bit blunt in tone, especially if the sender than proceeds to ask you to do something, it definitely raises my hackles. I work in a fairly informal business and Hi WhoKnows is the standard email opening. I stick to Dear on more formal ones on the odd occasion that I need to write one.

JessieMcJessie Wed 06-Mar-13 06:54:42

I frequently start emails without the "Dear" but I do keep the person's first name, so


Thank you for your email....."

I haven't really thought through why we still use "Dear" on a formal letter, as more and more we use email for very formal advice to our clients, it's not just for things like agreeing a meeting time.

However "Dear Sirs" is just the convention for inter-partes correspondence.

"Sirs" reminds me of that covention for "Letters to the Editor" in newspapers i.e.

I read with great interest the piece by Joe Bloggs on Tuesday relating to the use of misogynistic address forms in the legal sector..."

Twattock, great that you have started the use of "Mesdames" - perhaps one day it will appear in Wikipedia as a seminal moment in the history of inter law firm communication.

poorchurchmouse Tue 05-Mar-13 09:06:01

Indeed, keep us posted.

Another thought that I don't think anyone has mentioned on this thread, which could be more widely adopted and sidesteps the whole "how to start a letter" problem. I drafted a letter for an MP to send to a minister a few months ago, and the MP kindly copied me in on the final version. I'd started it "dear XXXX". MP just deleted the whole "dear" bit from the top before sending it. I've seen that done a few times in a government/Civil Service context. It's obvious who the letter is addressed to, because the name and address are at the top, and it gets round the whole question of how formal/familiar to be.

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 04-Mar-13 22:27:58

Me, too, twattock. You started a great thread here. Keep us posted.

edam Mon 04-Mar-13 20:06:04

Hey twattock, I'll be very interested in the results of your experiment. grin

thesecretmusicteacher Mon 04-Mar-13 19:30:16

you're going to hate me for this but somehow it seems wrong...


"Sirs, Mesdames", seems better or "Dear Sirs, Mesdames"

like "Ladies and Gentlemen" is good but "Dear Ladies and Gentlemen" isn't

(solicitor here)

It's the "dear" followed by "and" that seems wrong somehow.

twattock Mon 04-Mar-13 18:49:24

the first "dear sirs and mesdames" letters went out tonight. it will be interesting to see if anyone a) notices b) comments. I shall let you all know!

AnnieLobeseder Mon 04-Mar-13 14:41:08

And my married name, for all of its 4 letters, still seems difficult for some people to grasp. I'm amazed every time.

AnnieLobeseder Mon 04-Mar-13 14:40:18

Well obviously not, seeker. My dad, brother and step-mum (though of course she's not a man) all have the same bizarre surname. Traditionally, it was just not possible for men to get rid of them on marriage. Now, thanks to feminism, they can! Hurrah!

prettybird Mon 04-Mar-13 14:39:01

I like my awkward, cumberson, hard to spell name grin

I used to like the fact that, 'cos of the way I shorten my first name and I refused to put titles on to my letters/memos/telex (before the days of email blush) in my first (and subsequent) jobs, people used to expect a German male and would get me! wink

My boss had an argument with a colleague on my behalf. he was sorting out business cards and wanted to make me put a title on "'cos otherwise people wouldn't know what sex I was" hmm. My boss pointed out that as business cards tend to get handed out in person and I was a slim, attractive graduate recruit , if they hadn't worked out what sex I was by then, they had bigger problems! grin

seeker Mon 04-Mar-13 14:35:57

No, Tolliver, you've got it wrong! Men all have lovely euphonious last names that women can't wait to change their horrid ones for. grin

TolliverGroat Mon 04-Mar-13 14:32:25

Nah, my brothers and my dad have one too... grin And my male cousins, not one of whom over the last umpty-something years has managed to give any of their children a name that I think works at all well with my surname.

I wish wish wish that I'd been given my mother's maiden name, by itself or double-barrelled. Then the DCs would have that alone or double-barrelled with DH's. In fact almost any other name from anywhere on my family tree (except for my paternal grandmother's maiden name, which would count as child cruelty if anyone double-barrelled it with DH's) would do. My mother says that she didn't realise when she married that keeping her own name, let alone passing it on to her children, was even an option -- and given that this was back when a married woman routinely needed to get her husband's permission to do almost anything I'm not surprised she thought that way.

seeker Mon 04-Mar-13 14:03:31

Absolutely, Annie.

Although you have added to the bizarrely large number of women who appear to have last names that are awkward to say, cumbersome and difficult to spell and which only women have!

AnnieLobeseder Mon 04-Mar-13 13:05:23

Jessie - indeed, my unmarried name was my dad's. And my grand-dad's etc etc and so on back through time. But I can't change how they inherited their name, only what I call myself. It's the name I was born with and grew up with. It's mine.

If it weren't such a bugger to spell/pronounce (one of the reasons I was so happy to get rid of it when I married) I'd get the DD's names changed too. But for all its awkwardness, I miss it and want it back!

Beveridge Mon 04-Mar-13 11:15:49

Jessie - he pupils up here (north-east Scotland NEVER address their teachers as just 'Miss' even if they call themselves that, the title is always followed by the surname. I recall one of my classmates from England addressing a Mrs Geography teacher as just 'Miss' and he got pretty short shrift on the grounds that she had an individual name and title and would he please have the courtesy to use it!

I know that the Sir/Miss thing is a Central Belt occurence but it doesn't extend this far north.when pupils address female teachers quickly it sometimes does all merge into a 'Misbeveridge' (Ms is usually pronounced with a soft z up here) to the untrained ear whether Mrs, Miss or Ms but the distinction is still there as you can see when they have to write your name on something.

In fact, out of the classroom they are far more likely to refer to all female teachers as 'The Wifie Beveridge'whether married or not! (It's aDoric thing [local dialect])

thing but

seeker Mon 04-Mar-13 10:52:14

Mind you, I was under the impression for ages that ds had a teacher called Miss Dunoon- I was very confused when I met Mr. Noon.....

TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 04-Mar-13 10:45:16

I loathe Sir and Miss - what's so hard about remembering the relevant surname and title? There's the obvious lack of parity between the two terms, and then the way it makes references sound so generic and impersonal: 'Miss told me to give it to Sir - not you Miss, the other Miss'.

Although it does seem to mean that children, when they do have to use a surname for a female teacher, just automatically convert all their teachers to something pronounced somewhere in between Miss and Ms, like 'Missss' which trails off as they realise they don't know whether the teacher is actually Miss, Mrs or Ms!

AudrinaAdare Mon 04-Mar-13 10:29:57

I remember asking my Mum aged five (in the early seventies) why the head teacher was known as Ms. She told me because it was nobody's business whether a woman was married or not. I thought that was a reasonable answer given that my mother is a proud hmm non-feminist.

Don't understand where these myths about Ms denoting divorce have come from.

Sir and Miss drive me demented. My male colleague gets a title which suggests social elevation whereas I get an infantile one.

BlueSkySunnyDay Mon 04-Mar-13 10:23:32

I am a Mrs but wouldnt be offended by a Ms, although I userstand historically what it inferred.

It strikes me as a bit stupid we havent done away with it and just do Master/Mr and Miss/Ms - it would simplify things massively.

Its almost like "whooohoooo I have a successful marriage, call me Mrs"

FreudiansSlipper Mon 04-Mar-13 10:15:35

when I was married I always used Ms. I was young so it was assumed I was a Miss now it is assumed I am a Mrs I always correct people

I do not belong to someone

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