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Mrs., Miss., and Ms.
Old 03-20-2009, 12:21 PM   #1
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Mrs., Miss., and Ms.

I am composing a response to feedback I received after concerning a potential employment opportunity. The woman with whom I am corresponding is in her late 20s and I am unsure as to her marital status, although I believe her to be unmarried.

Generally, I would address her as Ms. However, a female friend of mine (mid 20s) said that Ms. can be offensive to an unmarried younger women by implying that they are old enough to be married but have been unsucessful in landing a husband. However, to address a married woman as "Miss" can actually be taken as a compliment by implying that she still appears to be in her prime and looks young enough such that Mrs./Ms. is not appropriate.

I do not pretend to understand this distinction other than the technical (Mrs=married, Miss=single, Ms.=unknown) and feel that Ms. would be appropriate. However, I don't want to offend her. Any thoughts?


For purposes of context, the woman is an educated professional who is 5-7 years my senior.


Thanks.
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:23 PM   #2
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IMO, for an adult woman, "Ms." is always appropriate unless you know the individual being referenced prefers either "Mrs." or "Miss".

For minor females, I'd probably still use "Miss" even though it is slightly presumptuous. It sounds weird to call a 10-year-old girl "Ms. Susie Jones."
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:26 PM   #3
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Thorny question. If she is an educated professional, are you sure she has not earned the credentials to be called Dr.? Do your research on that one.

Assuming not, then maybe you could begin the letter with all three:

Quote:
Mrs./Miss/Ms Jones,

Thank you for taking the time to interview me (etc etc, blah blah)

John Q. Landonew
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:30 PM   #4
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Thorny question. I know some of my friends who would be offended by Miss because you are taking account their maritial status which should not be a factor in an job related matter. I would use Ms. or Hi or Hey you.
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Want2retire View Post
Thorny question. If she is an educated professional, are you sure she has not earned the credentials to be called Dr.? Do your research on that one.

Assuming not, then maybe you could begin the letter with all three:
Good point, and that would make it so easy. She has a JD, but not a PHD.

I like the Mrs./Miss/Ms. It covers all three and sounds respectful.
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:35 PM   #6
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Thorny question. I know some of my friends who would be offended by Miss because you are taking account their maritial status which should not be a factor in an job related matter. I would use Ms. or Hi or Hey you.
Thanks for your response. I think that Hi/hey-you may be inappropriate in this situation. However, I appreciate your opinion on the maritial status assumption.
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:37 PM   #7
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Good point, and that would make it so easy. She has a JD, but not a PHD.
Since we're into titles here, someone with a JD could be referred to as "Jane Doe, Esq." just as she could be "Ms. Jane Doe" or "Miss/Mrs./Ms. Jane Doe."

In this sense, the letter could be addressed to "Jane Doe, Esq." but the greeting would be "Mrs./Miss/Ms. Doe".
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:53 PM   #8
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I just did some search on the internet and it looks like
Dear Ms. <lastname> seems to be the norm.
I live in the Silicon Valley and around here, probably Dear <firstname> especially if you have been talking to this person for a while.
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:54 PM   #9
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.... I would use Ms. or Hi or Hey you.
All I know of life I learned from Disney's "Bambi." "you can call me flower."

OTOH, just ask her (or an employee) which she prefers. BTW, I worked in an office where those modifiers were never used in letters or on envelops; no Ms., Miss, Mr., Mrs., and emphatically, no Esq. An exception was made for judges where "The Honorable" was used, but, of course, that doesn't designate sex.
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by landonew View Post
Thanks for your response. I think that Hi/hey-you may be inappropriate in this situation. However, I appreciate your opinion on the maritial status assumption.
As you can see, the rule is that there are few (if any) hard and fast rules.
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Old 03-20-2009, 01:08 PM   #11
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Wiki sez:
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Unlike Miss and Mrs., however, Ms. is used properly of married, divorced, or unmarried women and therefore does not denote marital status. In the U.S., the Emily Post Institute states that Ms. is the default form of address for business correspondence with a woman.[2]
Also, per the footnote, see http://www.emilypost.com/everyday/forms_of_address.htm
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Old 03-20-2009, 01:14 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by landonew View Post
I do not pretend to understand this distinction other than the technical (Mrs=married, Miss=single, Ms.=unknown) and feel that Ms. would be appropriate. However, I don't want to offend her. Any thoughts?
It is "Ms." until she tells you otherwise or you see something different on her business card. Marital status is not public info in the business world.

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Old 03-20-2009, 01:21 PM   #13
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I definitely would not use just "Miss Jones" or "Mrs. Jones", if you do not know her marital status.

I knew a female J.D. who went by "Dr. Jones" even when she was only beginning to work on her Ph.D. That was for professional reasons, though, since she was applying for grants and thought that granting herself the title would give her proposals more credibility. I suppose she had a point if J.D. stands for "Jurus Doctor".
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Old 03-20-2009, 01:25 PM   #14
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I definitely would not use just "Miss Jones" or "Mrs. Jones", if you do not know her marital status.
I'd go farther than that: even if I *did* know her marital status, I would not use those titles unless I had personal knowledge that she preferred to be addressed as "Miss Jones" or "Mrs. Jones."

My wife, for example, prefers to be addressed as "Mrs." instead of "Ms.", so those who know of her preference could address her as "Mrs. Ziggyswife." But those who don't know of her preference should err on the safe side and address her as "Ms. Ziggyswife."
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Old 03-20-2009, 01:34 PM   #15
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On a side note, one of my friends was upset because her MIL sent her a card addressed to Mrs. John Doe instead of Ms. Jane Doe (or even Mrs. Jane Doe). I reminded her that was probably how she was brought up.
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Old 03-20-2009, 01:34 PM   #16
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I'd go farther than that: even if I *did* know her marital status, I would not use those titles unless I had personal knowledge that she preferred to be addressed as "Miss Jones" or "Mrs. Jones."

My wife, for example, prefers to be addressed as "Mrs." instead of "Ms.", so those who know of her preference could address her as "Mrs. Ziggyswife." But those who don't know of her preference should err on the safe side and address her as "Ms. Ziggyswife."
That's probably very good advice. Some married women prefer "Mrs" to Ms", or vice versa, but it is hard to predict what a given woman's response would be and if Emily Post says "Ms" is correct, that is pretty much that.

Personally, I always hated "Ms" because I felt like it assumed I was a feminist of the more strident, insisting type rather than the gentle feminist that I believe that I am. Getting my Ph.D. helped! Now I just think "Ms" means the letter is from a snail mail spammer.
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Old 03-20-2009, 02:11 PM   #17
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That's probably very good advice. Some married women prefer "Mrs" to Ms", or vice versa, but it is hard to predict what a given woman's response would be and if Emily Post says "Ms" is correct, that is pretty much that.

Personally, I always hated "Ms" because I felt like it assumed I was a feminist of the more strident, insisting type rather than the gentle feminist that I believe that I am. Getting my Ph.D. helped! Now I just think "Ms" means the letter is from a snail mail spammer.
Lot of PHDs on this site. I now know to refer to you as Dr. Want2retire... just so you know I am not spamming ya
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Old 03-20-2009, 03:13 PM   #18
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I never use "esquire," too old fashioned for me. Ms. seems to be the most commonly used in legal correspondence these days. Mrs. is wrong. If someone called me Mrs. Martha's last name it would be weird, especially as I never changed my name years ago when I married. Miss is weird too, at least in the north.


Years ago when writing letters I decided that there was an easy way around all the title issues. I never put a salutation on my letters. The letter would be addressed to Jane Doe at xyz but the body of the letter would omit a salutation. I had my associates do the same thing. You can't make a mistake that way and no one ever notices the absence of a salutation.

My letter would look like:

Jane Doe
Attorney at Law
X,Y, Z firm
street address

Re: Notice of Default

I represent the United States of America. You are in default of your bailout agreement with the United States. . . . .
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Old 03-20-2009, 03:30 PM   #19
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IMO:

You'd do her a favor by always using Ms and keeping her marriage status ambiguous. Young women, married or not, are kind of in a catch-22 because some employers don't like married young women because they might get pregnant, and some employers don't like unmarried young women because they aren't tied down.
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Old 03-20-2009, 03:34 PM   #20
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some employers don't like married young women because they might get pregnant, and some employers don't like unmarried young women because they aren't tied down.
The stereotype as I've always heard it is that they prefer married men and single women -- married men because they are seen as more "responsible" and duty-bound to provide for their family (and perhaps past the young, drunk and stupid phase) and single women because they're seen as less likely to have family issues distracting her from her work.

Just more of that old "men as providers and women as nurturers" claptrap...
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