The use of proper etiquette is essential for young women who are trying to excel in the adult world of employment and responsibilities.
While it may not have mattered to you as a teenage girl, once you graduate college and enter your career field, you will need to be as respectful as possible towards potential clients and customers.
Although you probably address your besties by their first names, when you initially meet a woman, you aren’t always going to be on a first-name basis with her immediately.
So, how do you address a woman if you aren’t aware of her marital status?
If a woman’s marital status is unknown, it is safest to address her as Ms., which is the most neutral way of addressing a woman.
However, if she’s unmarried and younger than thirty, she would technically be a Miss. Of course, a married woman would be addressed as Mrs.
While it may seem that it is now far past the era of the good-old-fashioned letter, businesses continue to occasionally mail out bills and statements to clients.
Even if you communicate with friends through text messages or social media and primarily use email for more formal communications, you will most likely still need to send out a letter once in a while.
The same rules apply to letter writing. If the woman’s marital status is unknown, you can address a letter to “Ms.”
Then you simply follow with her first and last name. However, it is equally appropriate to exclude Ms. when addressing a letter.
You can simply use the woman’s first and last name.
While the use of Ms. is still applicable when introducing a woman whose marital status is unknown, you should also consider the environment that you are in and the context of the introductions as the use of the woman’s first name may be more suitable in some situations.
For example, if you are introducing a woman in a social setting, you wouldn’t want to refer to her as Ms. (followed by her last name) to introduce her to a potential hook-up.
Instead, the two of you would probably approach the guy together and you would smile at him and say something like, “Hey, I want you to meet Jane.”
It would sound awkward to use Ms. in this type of situation.
You aren’t introducing the guy to your 3rd-grade teacher or trying to connect him with a good attorney or big-ticket client. Nope.
You are trying to play matchmaker, and she will likely appreciate the informal introduction.
Now, when it comes to company Christmas parties and fundraisers, the use of Ms. could technically be more appropriate depending on the person that you are introducing the woman to and the level of the company’s formality.
While you can say, “I’d like to introduce you to Jane from the accounting department,” in most scenarios, it would be safest to address her as Ms.
If you still aren’t completely sure, then you should just ask the woman how she would like to be addressed in introductions.
While many women will insist that everyone is welcome to call them by their first name, there are some women who are more reserved and insist on being addressed as Ms. or even Dr., if they have a doctorate degree.
When addressing a woman who has an unknown marital status in email communication, the same rules apply as in letter writing.
The formal way of addressing the email would be using “Ms.” followed by her first and last name. Once you have developed a rapport with her, however, it may be fine to begin the email with, “Hi Jane.”
In the end, it boils down to the level of formality that the woman is most comfortable with.
Alternatively, you could just omit Ms. and simply use her first and last name as you would do when addressing a letter.
It isn’t always necessary to begin with Ms., Miss, or Mrs. If you think about it, how many times has someone addressed you using these terms?
Most letters and emails that you receive likely only use your first and last name to address you.
Lately, it has become increasingly more politically correct to use gender-neutral terminology.
Often, it is required to use the terms “partner” or “significant other” instead of saying boyfriend, girlfriend, or husband, and many people prefer the terms “they” or “theirs” rather than he, she, his, or hers.
While gender-neutral phrases may make some people feel included and more comfortable, this only further complicates the matter of addressing someone.
In addition to not knowing a woman’s marital status, you may not even know whether she identifies herself as being a woman at all!
In most cases, if she uses a feminine first name, then she probably does identify her gender as being female, so using the term Ms. should be fine.
Many transgender people will change their name to suit their gender of choice or go by a gender-neutral version of their given name, but this isn’t always the case.
If you are concerned about possibly offending a person by using gender-specific terms, such as Ms., the best way to play it safe is to only use the woman’s first and last name.
Most of the time, it’s easy to determine how to properly address a woman when you are aware of her marital status, but if the woman is divorced, it becomes a little more complicated. Is she a Ms.? Or is she still a Mrs.?
When a woman is married, the traditional way of addressing her in a letter would be to use Mrs. followed by her husband’s first and last name, but in personal introductions, you would most likely refer to her by her own first name or else it would just seem weird.
Naturally, she wouldn’t want a person that she had been introduced to know her as Mrs. Joe Smith!
After she has been divorced, if she continues to use her ex-husband’s last name, then you will continue to address her as Mrs.
On the other hand, if she goes back to using her maiden name following the divorce, then she would once again be addressed as Ms. instead of Mrs.
Since these two terms are spelled differently but pronounced similarly, it can get a little confusing.
So, it’s understandable if you are wondering whether you could just address a woman as Miss if you don’t know her marital status.
The difference between Ms. and Miss is the woman’s age. An unmarried woman under the age of thirty would be addressed as Miss, whereas you would address a woman as Ms. if she is older and unmarried or if you aren’t aware of her marital status.
Technically, an older woman would be a Ms., so you shouldn’t use the terms interchangeably, but if you happen to slip up, most likely the woman would view the use of Miss as being a compliment.
Of course, women who are younger than thirty may still be married, so you should avoid the use of Miss when addressing younger women whose marital status is unknown.
In this scenario, the term Ms. or just her first and last name would still be the most appropriate way of addressing her.
Hopefully, this has sorted out some of the confusion about how to properly address a woman if you don’t know her marital status.
While Ms. is usually most appropriate, in the end, the safest bet is to simply ask the woman how she prefers to be addressed.