How to Address a Married Woman

——See also related post: Mrs. vs. Ms.

Honorific for a Married Woman: Ms. or Mrs.?

I am married and took my husband’s family name. At work I use ‘Ms. Ann Wells’, but some of my married coworkers want to be ‘Mrs. (Woman’s Given Name)+(Family Name)’.

I like Ms. at work because I think it’s odd to state my marital status – since when they use Mr. the men don’t state their marital status.  But I do admit that sometimes, like when I am speaking to my kids’ teachers, it seems odd to be Ms. Wells.
—-—-—-—-– Ms./Mrs. Ann Wells

Dear Ms./Mrs. Wells:

I observe married women use various honorifics depending on the situation.

—-#1) ‘Ms. (Her Given Name)+(Family Name)’ … where their marital status is not pertinent but they want to specify an honorific. Using Ms. implies they are not to be automatically on a first-name basis and prefer to be formally addressed in conversation as ‘Ms. (Surname)’. Many women (both married and single) use this form at work. I observe more younger women use Ms. all the time – perhaps since they’ve grown up with Ms. – than do older women.

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

—-#2) ‘Mrs. (Husband’s first name) (Family Name)’ …. in formal situations or when you are involved as a spouse/part of a couple. This definitely implies that others will call you Mrs. Surname. Widows are formally addressed as ‘Mrs. (husband’s first name) (Family Name)’ (unless they remarry) for the rest of their lives if they choose to be.

—-#3) ‘Mrs. (Her Given Name)+(Family Name)’ …is often the choice of women in the context of being a Mom – dealing with schoolteachers (as you do), pediatricians, etc. This form provides the given name for those with whom they would be on a first-name basis. Part of presenting your name is giving guidance to the other person as what you want to be called in conversation.

[Another note about ‘Mrs. (Her Given Name)+(Family Name)’: Traditional etiquette references state that using ‘Mrs. + (Woman’s Given name) + (Family name)’ is the form used by a divorced woman. She wants to keep using her former husband’s family name, but can no longer use ‘Mrs. (Husband’s Given Name) (Family Name)’ because her former husband might have remarried and there would be a new ‘Mrs. (Husband’s Given Name) (Family Name)’. Thus, she uses her given name with Mrs. But some still married women don’t care what was ‘traditional’ in etiquette books and like to use Mrs. … thus stating their marital status and including their given name.]

—-#4) (Woman’s Given Name)+(Family Name) …. is casual. Not every situation is formal and there is nothing wrong with casual. You also use this form when signing your own name: One never gives oneself an honorific in a signature.

To me – you are all of those names at different times. You choose the one that’s right for the circumstance, and if someone addresses you incorrectly just correct them. It’s that easy.

One of the basics of forms of address is that your name belongs to you …. and EVERYONE is entitled to be addressed as they prefer!

– Robert Hickey

Related Forms of Address: --------Boy --------Couples: Military --------Couples: Private Citizens --------Couples: U.S. Officials --------Couple, Same Sex --------Family --------First Names --------Girl --------Man or Woman, Social --------Woman, Married --------Miss --------Mrs. vs. Ms. --------Mx. --------Retiree --------Spouse of an Official --------Widow

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

Name Order: Whose Name is First? His or Hers?

In a salutation for a married couple using just first names …. whose name is first?
——–Dear Anne and Steve
——-Dear Steve and Anne
——————————-– Anne Robinson

On a wedding program should I list my parents as:
——–Michael and Linda Swaggerty
——–Linda and Michael Swaggerty
We didn’t use Mr. and Mrs. – we prefer all the guests know my parent’s first names.

——————————– Linda Swaggerty

On shared stationery – how should we list our names? His name first? My name first? We will be married soon and I have chosen to retain my maiden name.  My fiancé honestly doesn’t care whose name is first. I think it seems like I am secondary to him if his name comes first on everything (which I agree is rather ridiculous but I cannot seem to get past the feeling). What is the ‘proper’ way to do it?
——————————– Laura

Dear Anne, Linda, and Laura:

When writing two names (typically when addressing invitations, but the rules work for other situations, too), there are two ways.

—-#1) Social etiquette says, when the guests are a couple with different surnames, women are listed first, men are listed second:

—-—-Ms. Laura Thompson and Mr. Henry Smith
—-—-Laura Thompson and Henry Smith
—-—-Laura and Henry

—-It is this way in ‘social etiquette’ because gender is a consideration in traditional social forms of address.

—-#2) Social etiquette says, when the guests are a couple with the same surname, women are listed first, men are listed second. I’ve seen this described as ‘ladies first’ or ‘keeping his name as a unit.’ Either way the result is the same:

—-—-Laura and Henry Smith
—-—-Laura and Henry

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

—-#3) This contrasts with business and official etiquette (and the rules of protocol), in which gender is not a consideration.
In the business and official arenas, if both halves of the couple are of equal precedence, they always are listed alphabetically by surname:

——–Mr. Henry Adams and Ms. Laura Wagner
——–Henry Adams and Laura Wagner
——–Henry and Laura

—-This rule is the one you follow for same sex couples:

—-—-Mr. Frank Baker and Mr. Thomas Wilson
—-—-Frank Baker and Thomas Wilson
—-—-Frank and Thomas

—-—-Ms. Amy Clifton and Ms. Maria Yeonas
—-—-Amy Clifton and Maria Yeonas
—-—-Amy and Maria

—-#4) One more note – the guest is first: When a person is invited to an official event and their spouse is invited too, the name of the invited guest is listed first, their guest is listed second. This is true even if the guest of the invitee has higher precedence in some other way. For example, if two military officers are invited, typically the higher ranking would be listed first. But if the lower ranking person is the invitee, then they are first and their higher ranking spouse is listed second.

– Robert Hickey

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

Does ‘Mrs. (Her Given + Surname)’ Mean Divorced?

What’s the distinction between Miss, Ms., and Mrs. We have a visitor coming with his spouse and we are told that we should call her either Mrs. (Husband’s first name and last name) or (Her first name and his last name). e.g. Mrs. Paul Smith or Carla Smith … but not to call her Mrs. Carla Smith as that would imply, she is divorced. What’s that about?
———————————– Wondering

Dear Wondering,
Here are some things to consider:

She’s defined she is coming as a ‘wife of” and is following the traditionally rules. When a wife uses the same surname as her husband the traditional form of address is:

—-—-Mrs. (Husband’s complete name)

—-Salutation and conversation:
—-—-Mrs. (Husband’s family name)

Many women who come a spouse are O.K. with being Mrs. (Husband’s Full Name). They are being included as a spouse, not invited on their own.

—-In an oral introduction here are two wordings:
—-—-May I introduce Mrs. (Surname)
—-—-May I introduce ‘(Woman’s first name) (Surname)

This is how traditional etiquette refences show it.  E.g., it’s how the wife of the President (POTUS) – The First Lady – is addressed. For instance, the wife of Bush-43 would be ‘Mrs. George W. Bush’, ‘Mrs. Bush’ or ‘Laura Bush’.

Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t mind ‘Mrs. Clinton’, but did not want to be addressed as ‘Mrs. William J. Clinton’ …. and requested to be addressed as ‘Mrs. Clinton’ and referred to as ‘First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton’.

Yes … Mrs. (Woman’s given name) (Husband’s Family Surname) … is the format traditionally used by divorced women. Traditional etiquette references state the form is used by a divorced woman who wants to keep using her former husband’s surname, but can no longer use Mrs. (Husband’s Given Name) (Family Name). Her former husband might have remarried and there would be a new Mrs. (Husband’s Given Name) (Family Name).

Some married women don’t care what’s ‘traditional’ and what’s not. They like ‘Mrs. (Woman’s given name) (Husband’s Family Surname)’. It states their marital status and includes their given name.

– Robert Hickey

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

Keeping My Maiden Name: Mrs. vs. Ms.?

My name is Hope Miller. My husband’s surname is James Clark but I did not change my name when we married. So, which is the correct way to address someone in this situation:
—-—-Ms. Hope Miller
—-—-Mrs. Hope Miller
Is it acceptable to address me as ‘Mrs. Hope Clark’ even though I am not legally a ‘Clark’?
————————–– Hope Miller

Dear Ms. Miller:
You need a legal name for your taxes, passports, purchasing real estate, etc. Beyond that you can pretty much use whatever name you want to socially – as long as you pay your bills. For example, an actress might have legal name, a stage name and a married name … answer to all of them … and use each in the appropriate situation.

—-#1) Ms. (Your Given) + (Your Family Name) – many women who keep their maiden name, keep if for the professional part of their life. Maybe they started their career with than name and want to keep it professionally? Maybe they like it at work because their marital status is not pertinent at work?

—-#2) Mrs. (Your Given) + (Your Family Name) – To some this seems odd: To others this seems quite normal.
—-—-It’s odd if you think ‘Mrs.’ means ‘wife of’. It’s odd if you follow the tradition that this is the form used by divorced women who can no longer be ‘Mrs. (His Full Name)’. They use this form to keep his surname – perhaps the surname used by her/their children.
——–It’s not odd if you consider “Mrs.’ only to be an honorific for married women. In most parts of the world women don’t take their husband’s family name. They insert “Mrs.” in front of their birth name when they marry. Around the planet, taking your husband’s family name and not using your own family name is far, far, far from universal.

—-#3) (Your Given) + (His Family Name) – There could me times you use the go-by name ‘Hope Clark’ or ‘Mrs. Clark’. It might be easy with your children’s teachers or at a neighborhood party. This is definitely a ‘go-by name”. But it might be the name that explains who you are at some moment.

– Robert Hickey

——See also related post: Mrs. vs. Ms.

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

What’s My New Name When I Remarry?

I am about to get married and my fiancé would like me to take his name. Both for simplicity and preference, I would prefer to maintain the name by which my education and reputation are known. If I do so, could I just go by Mrs. (His Last Name) but not change my legal name? Any recommendations?
—————————– R.S.

Dear R.S.,
There are many options.

You will have a legal name and as long as you pay your taxes for all of your income made by all your ‘go-by names’. The government doesn’t care what name you use.

I heard a protocol colleague say that her university had once hosted a prominent film director and his wife –– an actress who was much more famous –– to their campus to honor the director. During the visit the actress asked to be addressed as ‘Mrs. (His Surname)’. To me that indicated she knew she had many names, and she was comfortable with choosing and using one pertinent to the situation.

If you really don’t want to change your name, many couples have different last names and simply list their names fully, one after the other. You see lots of women professionals use this form.

—-—-Mr. James Smith
—-—-and Ms. Nancy Wilson

—-—-Mr. James Smith
—-—-and Dr. Nancy Wilson

—-Salutation, Formal:
—-—-Dear Mr. Smith and Ms. Wilson:
—-—-Dear Mr. Smith and Dr. Wilson:

—-Salutation, first-name basis:
—-—-Dear James and Nancy,

Traditional etiquette books suggest putting an ‘and’ between the names means they are married. If there is no ‘and’ they are not.  No ‘and’ only notes that they present themselves as a couple.

– Robert Hickey

——See also related post: Mrs. vs. Ms.

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Introduce Married Women from The Stage?

How should I introduce members of the book committee (I am the chair) to the full club membership at a meeting? Some of the committee members use Mrs. (their husband’s full name), others Mrs. (their full name), and others avoid the issue by using just their (First and last name).

What should I do?
————————— Mrs. Michael Dillon … aka … Jane Dillon

Dear Mrs. Dillon,
I recently spoke at a meeting of the Centennial Club in Nashville, Tennessee, and noted a master of ceremonies at a luncheon using a formula that worked. She clearly thought of it as a formal social situation and wanted to include the Mrs. (Husband’s Name) form … but wanted to include their given name too since they were all on a first-name basis. What she did was to give the woman’s married name followed by her given name.

While it may seem a bit elaborate, it enabled the speaker to be both formal and casual at the same time:

—–—–Mrs. Michael Dillon …. Jane
—–—–Mrs. Thomas Franklin … Cindy
—–—–Mrs. Robert Elizer … Harriet
—–—–Mrs. Richard Montgomery … Francis

— Robert Hickey

Related Forms of Address: --------Boy --------Couples: Military --------Couples: Private Citizens --------Couples: U.S. Officials --------Couple, Same Sex --------Family --------First Names --------Girl --------Man or Woman, Social --------Woman, Married --------Miss --------Mrs. vs. Ms. --------Mx. --------Retiree --------Spouse of an Official --------Widow

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"