Imagine this scenario:
You’ve just made a new acquaintance at church. Later in the parking lot, you see her again and begin to introduce your daughter to your new friend.
But you’re stumbling… do you use Miss, Ms. or Mrs.? ?
The answer is: it depends!
Below is a quick and easy guide on how to use Miss, Ms. and Mrs. correctly. These guidelines apply to verbal interactions (the rules vary slightly for written communication).
MISS Pronunciation- it’s exactly as it looks!
Let’s start with the most straightforward and easiest scenario: If you’re referring to a young unmarried woman then use Miss. The challenge is how to define “young”, because as those of us over 30 know, “young” is a relative term! My rule of thumb is college age and below for the use of Miss.
MRS. Pronunciation- “Mizez”
If you’re addressing a woman who you know is married and has taken her husband’s last name, use Mrs. Mrs. tends to be used more often in social settings rather than in business.
A widow (who had taken her husband’s last name) should continue to be addressed as Mrs.
MS. Pronunciation- “Miz”
If a woman has kept her maiden name, address her by Ms.
You may use Ms. for a married woman who uses her husband’s last name.
Ms. is always acceptable in business settings regardless of age and marital status.
Ms. is the appropriate address for a woman who is divorced and continues to use her ex’s last name.
You often don’t know which last name (her husband’s or her maiden) a woman is using, so play it safe and use Ms. Over time as you do get to know her better, you’ll learn how she prefers to be addressed and you can adjust accordingly.
- Ms. is always an acceptable option. Be mindful though that older women may not be keen to be addressed as Ms. It’s a generational difference, I believe.
- Miss applies only to a young unmarried lady.
- Mrs. should only be used if you know the woman has taken her husband’s last name.
- If you are unsure about which title to use for a woman, simply ask her, “How do you prefer to be addressed- by Ms. or Mrs.?” I’ve never had anyone be offended by this question. It just shows you care!
- For men, using the correct adult title is simple! Use Mr.
- There are other types of adult titles (sometimes referred to as an honorific). Use titles such as Doctor, Reverend, Senator, Officer, etc. if you are aware of the person’s honorific.
- Teach your children the proper use of adult titles. Children should not casually address an adult by first name unless you (her parent) has approved of doing so. Of course, extended family members and very close family friends are usually an exception!
Everyone is impressed by a young person who shows respect by addressing their elders properly. You and your family will always set yourself apart by using correct titles. It’s just the considerate and respectful thing to do!
If you’d like more help with your family’s manners, check out this free guide I’ve written for you! It’s my very best advice on how to teach your children good manners in a fun and stress-free way.