General Question

occ's avatar

Ms., Mrs., Miss?

Asked by occ (4179points) May 15th, 2008

I was recently surprised to hear someone say “the term Ms. is outdated – no one uses it.” Truth be told, most of the formal salutations seem outdated – we are living in an increasingly informal world, and I can’t remember the last time I called anyone “Mr.” (I don’t work in a formal business setting). But most of my friends in their 20s and 30s, if they had to pick a title before their first name, would still use the term Ms. rather than Miss. I have certainly never heard any of my unmarried adult female friends referred to as “Miss so-and-so” – it seems to refer to a young girl – not a professional woman. Personally, I would find it condescending if someone used Miss instead of Ms before my name. It’s like they are intentionally trying to emphasize my unmarried status.
What do other flutherites prefer? If you’re comfortable, it would be great if you could add your (approximate) age to your comment, since I think there may be a generational gap regarding these terms…

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14 Answers

Allie's avatar

I’m 20 and everyone I know just refers to me as Allie (duh..), but I would rather be Ms. than Miss and I’m definitely not Mrs. since I’m not married.

marinelife's avatar

I agree with everything you said about the connotations of Miss. Ugh. I prefer Ms. to Mrs. although I am married. It’s an equality thing for me. When married men have a different form of address than single men, then you can come back and talk to me about Mrs.

My husband and I have been married nearly a quarter of a century. I kept my maiden name. My mother-in-law will not use it, introducing me as Mrs. MyHusband’sLastName even after he has repeatedly corrected her. Recently, I have had people express surprise that we have different last names. I have read that the practice of women keeping their own last name is decreasing again. Although, there was a recent case (the man had to go to court to get the right) of a man taking his wife’s name. Huzzah!

I will give my age away when I tell you that I recently winced when addressed by a form you did not mention that I REALLY don’t like: Ma’am.

Allie's avatar

Marina: In the South a lot of the men call women ma’am. It’s just a respect thing, I guess. I went shopping in Nashville and even guys my own age would say things like “Hello, ma’am.” It’s kind of cute sometimes, but I would think it’s strange if a guy here (California) said that. To me, it’s definitely more of a Southern thing.

occ's avatar

Marina, I actually know someone who, when her husband pressured her to take his last name, she said as a joke, “fine- I“ll take your last name if you take my first name!” To her surprise, he thought that was a funny idea – and he officially took her first name (Rachel) – they both have the same last name and first name now! Of course, nobody actually calls him Rachel, but it does say Rachel on his drivers’ license and credit cards. Maureen Dowd actually wrote a column about this couple for the New York Times. Your mother-in-law should be thankful her son didn’t change his name to Marina!

LunaFemme's avatar

I agree, I prefer Ms. over Miss.

I’m a 40 yr old Mrs. now. If I was writing a letter to a female & did not know age or marital status, I would use Ms. in the salutation. And, this I would only do in a very formal business type letter.

marinelife's avatar

@Allie. You’re right and I ought to know it. Both the parents born and raised in Georgia. I was required to call adults Mr. X and and Mrs. (or the acceptable Southen Miz, not to be confused with Ms.) and to say “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am” throughout my childhood. Having been long in the North I had forgotten the “Ma’am” phenomenon. (Also, this is the new South and there is not a lot of Southern spoken here anymore.) It was probably my own age self-consciousness.

In my first job, I kept calling my boss Ms. LastName. It infuriated her. (In hindsight, she wasn’t much older than we were, and I suspect it made her feel old.) She insisted I use her first name and seriously yelled at me about it.

I wasn’t deliberately disobeying her, I literally could not make Caroline come out of my throat. Until I got over it (after several months), I would engage in impossible verbal contortions to avoid calling her anything at all!!!!!!!

wildflower's avatar

I prefer Ms. when people don’t know, rather than them making assumptions.

ezraglenn's avatar

While I am a man, in addressing women I reject the Mrs. title as I find it plays up gender roles, (as in Mr’s, as in a married woman belongs to a man), which is whack. I opt for the ever appropriate “Ms.” (Miz).

HaleyBob's avatar

I am 25 an and unmarried high school teacher. I am admament about being a Miss.

I’m still young and unmarried. I was always taught that Ms. referred to much older widowed/divorced woman.

Also, students are so apt to calling ALL female teachers “miss” that it’s easier that way.

When working in retail, to get a woman’s attention, however, I would use “ma’am”

galileogirl's avatar

Not Miss unless you are younger than 12 or have taken a trip back in time to 1958. I am not married so not Mrs. But calling a “mature” woman Miss is laughable.

oratio's avatar

I am a swede and we haven’t used titles for 40 years over here. We call teachers, doctors, professors, women and men by their first name. It’s only the king and his family that would be called by their title. So.. it kind of intrigues me. In many parts of europe they use titles. I kind of like it, but it would be absurd in sweden. If I were to call a woman the equivalent of miss or mrs, people would be offended. If I were to call a doctor dr. he would probably think I made fun of him. Funny how that is. I guess it was the 60’s that did it.


As a man, I like to be addressed as “Mr”. Personally, I like to address women as “Miss” and “Mrs.”. I try to avoid using “Ms.” as much as possible. The title sounds tacky, contrived, and unfeminine——-unrefined, in my opinion.

wilma's avatar

I am married and over 50, I have been a Mrs. for a very long time. I don’t care if someones uses Mrs. or Ms. (miz).
Something I do like and find very charming is the custom in the south (southeast?) of the USA, of addressing a woman older than you in an informal situation as “miss”.
My daughter moved to the south after being raised in the upper mid-west. Her friends and their children call me “Miss Wilma”. I usually tell the friends that they can just call me Wilma, but they insist that the children use the salutation.

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