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, use Miss. The challenge is defining “young” because, as those of us over 30 know, “young” is a relative term!
My rule of thumb is college age and below for using Miss.
MRS. Pronunciation- “Mizez”
If you’re addressing a woman you know is married and has taken her husband’s last name, use Mrs., which tends to be used more often in social settings than 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 divorced woman who 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, ask her, “How do you prefer to be addressed- by Ms. or Mrs.?” I’ve never known anyone to 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 know 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) and the adult approve. 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 because it shows you have prepared your children well and they are considerate and respectful.
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, kindness, and consideration- in a fun and stress-free way.