Understanding when to use “Miss”, “Ms.” or “Mrs.” is an important skill. Many women have preferred titles that inform their identity and are important to their sense of self. Luckily, knowing when to use each title is fairly straightforward, as there are specific rules in place that dictate proper etiquette.
Knowing these rules will help you feel confident that you are using a woman’s proper title, both in person and when you are addressing cards and invitations. While the rules are fairly simple, keep in mind that the best title to use always comes down to the woman’s preference. Read on to learn when to use “Miss”, “Ms.” and “Mrs.” for every situation.
When to Use Miss, Ms. and Mrs.
- Miss: Use “Miss” when addressing young girls and women under 30 that are unmarried.
- Ms.: Use “Ms.” when you are not sure of a woman’s marital status, if the woman is unmarried and over 30 or if she prefers being addressed with a marital-status neutral title.
- Mrs.: Use “Mrs.” when addressing a married woman.
When to Use Miss
“Miss” should be used when addressing a young, unmarried woman. Most older women who are unmarried prefer to go by “Ms.,” though this often comes down to personal preference. If you are unsure, it never hurts to ask!
When to Use Ms.
Using “Ms.” is often the safest option, as this is a neutral title that can be used for a woman whether she is married or not. This title has become more popular and is now promoted as the female equivalent of mister. If you do not know a woman’s preferred title or marital status, this is often the best option to go with.
When to Use Mrs.
“Mrs.” is the official title to use for a married woman. Keep in mind that some women prefer to keep “Mrs.” in their title even after their spouse passes away or after divorce. When in doubt, it’s best to ask the woman how she would prefer to be addressed.
Additional Titles to Know
In addition to knowing when to use “Miss”, “Ms.” and “Mrs.,” it’s helpful to be familiar with a few additional titles for men and women, and to understand when to use them.
- Doctor: Use this title if the woman or man you are addressing is a doctor, or if he or she has a PhD.
- Mister or Mr.: This is the term that is used to address men, whether they are married or unmarried. Abbreviate the term “mister” to “Mr.” if you are using it as part of a man’s title.
- Master: This title can sometimes be used to address young boys. Once they mature, they are typically referred to as “mister,” regardless of their age or marital status.
Follow the Proper Etiquette When Addressing Cards and Letters
Understanding the proper title etiquette is especially important when you are writing cards and letters. When addressing envelopes for your wedding invitations, for your Christmas cards or for any other occasion, the most important etiquette rule to remember is to be conscientious of the recipient’s preferred title. In addition, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Style your greeting based on the occasion: Wedding invitations may call for a more formal tone, while Christmas cards and simple greetings will likely be more casual.
- Double check the recipient’s address: Misspelling the recipient’s address is the quickest way for your letter to get lost in the mail. It never hurts to double check!
- Get creative: Once you’ve got the basics down, feel free to have a little fun with the letter you are sending. Experiment with calligraphy pens, use a brightly colored envelope or add a personalized stamp to really send a message.
Addressing a woman by her proper title is a key cornerstone of proper etiquette. Keep these tips in mind so that you always know the best and most thoughtful way to address whomever you encounter. And remember, if you are ever unsure of how to address someone, the best thing you can do is ask! Whether you are addressing your wedding invitations or saying a simple hello in person, the recipient will appreciate that you took the time to inquire about their preference.